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.

Get ready to start your "engines" in Winter 2022!

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 four-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.

2021 Cub Scout Pack 317 Official Pinewood Derby™ Rules

Pinewood Derby™ Event Races

  • Official Race: Participation in this race requires Scouts to follow all rules and guidelines for the Pinewood Derby™, using the pinewood kit that was provided by the Pack.

  • Classic Race: This is a race that allows Scouts to use their pinewood kits from previous years to “race against themselves” and allowing the Scout to see how their car-making skills have progressed during their Cub Scouting tenure.

  • Renegade Race: This is a “no rules” competition that is open to all Scouts and their family members. Additional pinewood kits for this race can be purchased from one of the Scout Shops.

Length, Width, and Clearance:

  • The maximum overall length shall not exceed 7 inches.

  • The maximum overall width (including wheels and axles) shall not exceed 2¾ inches.

  • The minimum width between the wheels shall be 1¾ inches. This will ensure that the car will clear the center guide strip on the track.

  • The minimum clearance between the bottom of the car body and the bottom of wheels or track surface shall be 3/8-inch. This will ensure that the car will clear the center guide strip on the track.

  • The wheelbase (distance and location between the front and rear axles) may not be changed from the kit body.

Weight and Appearance:

  • Weight shall not exceed 5 ounces (142 grams). The reading of the official scale will be considered final.

    • The car may be hollowed out and built up to the maximum weight by the addition of wood or metal only - - provided the material is securely build into the body or firmly affixed to it.

    • No liquids or loose materials of any kind are permitted in or on the car.

  • Details such as steering wheel, driver, spoiler, decals, painting, and interior details are permissible as long as these details do not exceed the maximum length, width, or weight specifications.

  • Cars with wet paint and/or glue will not be accepted.

  • All attachments must be firmly attached prior to the official weigh-in.

Wheels and Axles:

  • Wheels and axles shall be only as provided in the Official Grand Prix Pinewood Derby™ Kit.

  • Wheels may be slightly sanded to smooth out molding imperfections the tread area.

    • This light sanding is the only modification allowed.

    • Beveling, tapering, thin sanding, wafering or lathe-turning or the wheels is prohibited.

  • Axles may not be altered in any way except for polishing.

  • Wheel bearings, washers, and bushings are prohibited. Dry graphite is the only lubricant allowed.

  • The car shall not ride on any type of springs.

Ground Rules and Competition:

  • The race is open to all Lions, Tigers, Wolves, Bears, Webelos, and Arrow of Light Cub Scouts that are registered with Pack 317.

  • Each Cub Scout may enter only one car in the official competition -- unlimited entries are permissible in the special event races.

  • No construction of cars can be done at site on race day or the day of registration.

  • If a car jumps the track, the race will be run again. If the same car jumps the track a second time, that car will automatically place last in that race.

  • If a car leaves its lane and interferes with the other car, the race will be run again. If the same car leaves its lane a second time, that car will automatically place last in that race.

  • Only race officials may enter the track area.

Inspection and Registration:

  • Each car must pass a technical inspection before it may compete. Technical inspection and registration of cars will be announced prior to race day.

  • The Inspection Committee shall disqualify cars, which do not meet the rules.

    • If a car does not pass inspection, the owner will be informed of the reason his car did not pass.

    • Cars which fail the initial inspection may be taken the pits and make modifications.

  • To enter the race, cars must have passed inspection and be registered by the final inspection deadline.

  • ALL CARS WILL BE IMPOUNDED AFTER INSPECTION AND WILL NOT BE RETURNED TO THE SCOUT UNTIL AFTER THE RACES HAVE COMPLETED.

  • No cars must be altered in any way after it has been registered. Damage repair shall be allowed during the Derby only if it does not delay the race, but no modifications shall be allowed.

  • After passing inspection, no car shall be re-inspected unless repaired after damage in handling or in a race.

  • All participants and spectators are expected to conduct themselves in a manner keeping with the ideals of Scouting. Failure to act appropriately will be grounds for expulsion from the competition and/or the race area.

Rewards and Recognition:

  • The most important values in Pinewood Derby™ competition are parent/son participation, good sportsmanship and learning how to follow rules.

  • Every participating Scout will receive a Pinewood Derby™ patch/segment.

  • First, Second and Third places for each Rank; Lions, Tigers, Wolves, Bears, Webelos and Arrow of Light will be awarded a ribbon.

  • First, Second and Third places for the overall Pack winners will be awarded a trophy or medallion.

  • Certificated of Recognition for multiple categories will also be awarded.