The Pinewood Derby™ is a racing event for unpowered, unmanned miniature cars. The Pinewood Derby™ race is an annual event run by Pack 317. With the help of adults, Cub Scouts build their own cars from kits containing a block of pine wood, plastic wheels, and metal axles. 

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History of the Derby

The first Pinewood Derby™ was held on May 15, 1953 at the Scout House in Manhattan Beach, California by Cub Scout Pack 280C (the present-day Pack 713). The concept was created by the Pack's Cubmaster Don Murphy, and sponsored by the Management Club at North American Aviation.

Murphy's son was too young to participate in the popular Soap Box Derby races, so he came up with the idea of racing miniature wood cars. The cars had the same gravity-powered concept as the full-size Soap Box Derby cars, but were much smaller and easier to build.

The Pinewood Derby™ had a sensational first year. Murphy and the Management Club of North American Aviation sent out thousands of brochures to anyone who requested more information. The idea spread rapidly, and competitions were held across the country, mainly with recreation departments and nonprofit organizations including the Los Angeles County Department of Recreation. Of all that early enthusiasm, however, only the Boy Scouts of America made it part of an official program. The National Director of Cub Scouting Service, O. W. (Bud) Bennett, wrote Murphy: "We believe you have an excellent idea, and we are most anxious to make your material available to the Cub Scouts of America." Within the year, the Boy Scouts of America adopted the Pinewood Derby™ for use in all Cub Scout packs.

In its October 1954 issue, Boys' Life (now Scouts' Life) publicized the event and offered plans for the track and a car, which featured "four wheels, four nails, and three blocks of wood."


Vehicle Construction

Pack 317 provides an official Pinewood Derby™ kit to each Cub Scout. The Scout begins with a block of wood, four plastic wheels, and four nails for axles. The finished car must meet all requirements, as set forth in the Pack 317 Official Pinewood Derby™ Rules (below).

Blocks can be whittled with a hand knife, bandsaw, or a carving tool. Following basic design rules, a Cub Scout is able to carve and decorate the car as they choose. Cars vary from unfinished blocks to whimsical objects, to accurate replicas of actual cars. Weights can be added to the final design to bring the car to the maximum allowable weight. A high-density metal weight, such as tungsten carbide which isn't toxic like lead, reduces the volume of wood, which reduces air friction and increases speed. Axle friction can be reduced by polishing the nails and applying dry graphite as a lubricant.

The Race

The Pack 317 Pinewood Derby™ Race is run on a three-lane hand-crafted wood derby track that slopes down to the ground, since the cars are powered by gravity. We use computer software to administer and officiate the results of the race. The race is run in heats, by den, and overall pack winners. 

Cub Scout Pack 317 Official Pinewood Derby™ Rules

Pinewood Derby™ Event Races

Length, Width, and Clearance:

Weight and Appearance:

Wheels and Axles:

Ground Rules and Competition:

Inspection and Registration:

Rewards and Recognition: