Steve Lodefink's finished pinewood derby racer

Last month, I posted some photos of Steve Lodefink's unfinished pinewood racer bodies. Today, he sent me photos of one of the finished racers. I love the sparkle paint job.

Steve and I have started talking about holding an all ages pinewood derby race at Maker Faire. Why should Cub Scouts (or, more likely, their dads) have all the fun?
Pinewood Derby 2011


  1. Oh, man. Just hearing “pinewood derby” fills me with bitterness.

    I was one of those kids who didn’t get any help from Dad building his racer. My mom tried, but model building isn’t a Mom forte, you know?

    My racer turned out looking shameful, and dragged along.

    I don’t think I’d build & finish an adult-class racer, because I’d feel I was doing it out of spite rather than the joy of creation.

    1. I had to make mine myself, also. It was functional, and at least somewhat aerodynamic.

      HOWEVER…there needs to be some quality control amongst the track assemblers.
      The reason for the Great Pinewood Derby Tragedy of ’76 was that the depth of the guide rail on one side of the track was gauged too thick, and rubbed on the bottom of almost half the cars that raced that day. It was a matter whether you could beat the other kid to the track first that added another variable into whether your car could beat his. Somebody’s dad finally pulled out his pocket ruler and figured out the problem, but the judges wouldn’t allow anyone to redo.

    2. As a Tiger Cub, I made my pinewood derby racer with no parental help at all. Mostly because I was hugely hostile towards it.

      I showed up and creamed everyone with my shitty block of wood. And then the big kids complained I had help and my dad was like “Look at that horrible thing, seriously?”

    1. Well, it’s not a model of any particular car, but it has strong influence from Lola t-70, Lotus 40, Mclaren M1, and Chaparral cars of the early 60’s

  2. My son’s pack does host an adult and sibling race so that the dad’s don’t interfere with the son’s cars as much. seems to work too. You can definitely see the difference in the cars.

  3. Looks like it’s supposed to be Bud Morley’s McLaren Elva Mark II (chassis #M1B-30-05  constructed by Trojan cars )  1967 Can Am car , but I don’t think he ever ran it as #26 .  The individual exhaust pipes  and left hand drive are kind of wrong come to think of it.

    1. Hugh, I got the decals from a place called Patto’s Place that sells slot car supplies.  They were supposed to be for an M1A.  I mixed and matched sponsors and numbers from 3 different cars / drivers.  The driver figure is a COX slot car driver.

  4. As a Cub Scout I had a friend in a different Troop. Rumor was that his dad, a lawyer, represented some dude who threw in an unbeatable pinewood derby racer design as part of a payment for a case. My friend would enter variations on this theme year after year and piss us off as he progressed through the stages to an eventual grand champion trophy time and time again.

    My dad helped me a lot with my racers. However, the year he let me design my own was the one I managed to clinch third place!

  5. An all-ages pinewood derby sounds like a really fun idea!  If anyone is interested in a similar event at the California State Fair in Sacramento (July 12-29, 2012), please contact me, Michelle Johnson, at

  6. my dad and i (mostly dad) built a sweet racer that had the best look but not the best race time. We won design the first couple years and kept tweaking on it. added weight to the side skirts and used lubricating powder on the axles. by th third year we had the champion.  Then some kid sent his ’56 Ford sailing down the track after a race and smashed the rear end. We can rebuild it!

    P.S. I can’t wait to see Lodefink’s Talbot all painted and pretty.

  7. I think you are sentimentalizing the pinewood derby experience.

    The car I built was disqualified. Why? It was too heavy. Why? Because the organizer’s scale was improperly calibrated. I had used a very good balance from the local university chemistry department, removed 5%, and created the heaviest possible car.

    It turned out one of the tracks was the fastest. Cars with lower numbers won, because they were in the right hand tracks.

    Winning a pinewood derby depends almost entirely on axle design. The amount of shake and the rolling friction is key. According to rules, you can use any lubricant, but you must use a certain kind of nail. You must also use the lousy stamped plastic tires, but some kits had better made tires.

    The pinewood derby was, for me, an anti-maker experience. Instead of debating nail torsion, I saw a car with a low number win when it was a simple block of wood with no paint. A lesson that technology did not win; instead, luck.

    My advice: create a new effort or category. Don’t reuse a mythical sentimental experience.

    1. It’s not about the destination but instead the journey.  I spend quality time with my son (and now daughter as her Girl Scout troop is building and racing) in the build of and on race day.  No matter how we come out in the end, all the kids are winners for having that experience.

    2. The track our Pack uses has four lanes and each car runs one heat on each lane to eliminate track bias. We also mandate that each car be made new each year, no reusing/tweaking cars from years past. The only lubricant allowed was dry graphite. WE also use three scales and cross check them anytime a car is over the limit to ensure the scale hasn’t drifted.

      For our Webelos last year we had a workshop and made all the boys make their own cars themselves with minimal parental involvement. You wouldn’t believe how many parents complained that wasn’t fair and that their kids car wouldn’t be competitive that way. There is a bigger push for kids to be ‘winners’ than for them to learn how to make things on their own.

  8. My buddy busted out his pinewood derby race cars from childhood last week at a get-together.  One of them got number 2 in Maryland, it was a pretty slick car.

  9. As a Cub Scout I had a car that won both 3rd place speed and first place design, I was so proud! 

    As an adult I entered a pinewood derby in Williamsburg about oh 12 years ago? It was awful. All these funbusters became so anal about winning the speed contest, it got pretty embarrassing to watch. 

  10. You forgot the miniature tennis balls you have to remove from the Weber intakes just before starting it.

    1. I seem to recall I used ping-pong balls and orange juice cans to tune multiple webers, back when dinosaurs still roamed the earth.

  11. Not sure if they’re still doing it, but the Bigfoot Lodge in Los Angeles does a monthly Pinewood Derby for boys and girls of legal drinking age. You race for glory and drinks. It is a blast. The cars are well-designed and usually pretty well-made, adding to an exciting and boozey evening. I believe the Bigfoot’s “Knotty Pine Derby” (The BSA are a litigious group) was the last Tuesday of every month, last time I checked.

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