Tips For Fast Pinewood Derby Car Designs (2024)

My son has been in Cub Scouts since Kindergarten (it is for children in grades K-5). I enrolled him because I knew that he would learn lots of great skills. As it turns out, he loves Cub Scouts! He not only has fun, he also learns skills to help him do things himself, he picks up positive life messages, and has a whole group of Cub Scout friends now too. Every year, the most anticipated event is the Pinewood Derby Race and it is a great culmination of what they have been learning all year- which is new skills, to do their best, and to have fun with everyone in their Pack. Each cub scout works individually on how to make a fast pinewood derby car and then competes in a Pinewood Derby Track racing event with the whole pack.

Tips For Fast Pinewood Derby Car Designs (1)

What Are Pinewood Derby Cars?

Are wondering, “What is the pinewood derby?” It is a major Boy Scouts of America Cub Scout annual event and a 66 year old tradition. The boys learn how to build pinewood derby cars from a block of wood. They each get to make pinewood derby cars for a race day competition that happens every March. From learning how to cut pinewood derby car to how to add weight to pinewood derby car, it is an educational and empowering experience. It is also a fun way for parents and kids to get to bond as they work on creating the fastest pinewood derby car. My son was in Cub Scouts for five years and loved all the planned fun activities for boys. You can get super creative with your pinewood derby car ideas. However, most people try to make fast pinewood derby cars so they can win the race!

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Pinewood Derby Car Construction

The Pinewood Derby Car construction is half the fun. Each scout in our troop received a Pinewood Derby car kit which comes with a block of pine wood (with axel notches), four plastic wheels, and four nails. Making their boxcar is a great chance for the Cub Scouts to learn new skills. Our Cub Scout Pack has a big Pinewood Derby Workshop and Lock In every year. They bring all the tools you may need in case you don’t own them at home, which is pretty awesome. Scouts can work on Pinewood Derby Car Designs ahead of time and then cut their blocks down to size and at the workshop. The design process is a great time for them to learnSTEMlessons about aerodynamics, and physics lessons how and where to place theweightsto make it go fastest. Finishing details can be added any time before Derby Day.

7 Tips On Pinewood Derby Designs For Speed From Troy Thorne

Today, I will be sharing Pinewood Derby speed tips from Troy Thorne, author of Building the Fastest Pinewood Derby Car (affiliate link). I hope you and your child enjoy working together on this STEM-related project and trying to make the fastest pinewood derby car design.

Troy Thorne is a woodworker, artist and derby-winning dad! In his book, he shares his expert tips, techniques, and amazing design template patterns for awesome pinewood derby cars. It is a great book for parents and scouts of any skill. It will teach you how to build a jaw-dropping, prize-winning car that’s the fast out of the gate. Everyone wants to know how to win the Pinewood Derby and he shares the best pinewood derby car designs for speed.

You don’t start creating a Pinewood Derby car by jumping right in and starting to cut away wood. You must first understand the principles of speed before you can apply them. I’ve been asked many times what the secret is to building a fast car. I always reply the same way—there is no magic “one” thing you can do to make your own car faster. It is a combination of a lot of different things that all add up to a very fast car pinewood derby car. Here are a Pinewood Derby speed tips to pay attention to if you want your car to cross the finish line first!

Friction Reduction

More friction equals less speed. You might have built a car that has lots of potential energy, but not all of that energy converts into speed. Some energy changes into heat when surfaces, like the wheel and the axle, or the wheel and the track, rub against each other. This is friction. If you can cut down on this waste of the Pinewood Derby car’s potential energy, you will increase your speed. Less friction is important for building a fast pinewood derby car.

Wheel Alignment

If you maximize all the potential energy, polish the wheels and axles to reduce all the friction, and then just stick the wheels on your car, you will be very surprised how poorly your car will perform. If your Pinewood Derby car travels down the track and bounces off the guide rail a few times, it will be losing speed every time it touches the rail. Or, your alignment may be so far off that your car will get the “death wobble,” where the back of the car wobbles back and forth.

A finely aligned car will look like it’s accelerating down the flat part of the track. What’s really happening is an aligned car isn’t losing as much speed as the unaligned cars. The important thing is to ensure good alignment of the axle slots in order to have the fastest car at the Pinewood Derby Race. You can test the alignment by performing a test race and seeing if the car travels a straight line or veers as it goes.

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There are lots of options for Pinewood Derby weights. Of all the Pinewood Derby speed tips, properly adding weights to your car is one of the easiest things you can do to make your car speedy. There are many types of metal you can use to add weight to your car. I have seen all types of things used, including coins, washers, and even nuts and bolts. I get asked all the time about what is the best type of weight to use. A lot depends on the type of car you’re building. Very thin cars are easier to build with tungsten weights. Tungsten is very dense, so you can fit a lot more weight in a small space than you can with lead. Tungsten is available in many useful shapes, making weighting your car even easier. The majority of the weight should be placed at the rear of the car for the fastest pinewood derby car designs.

Axle Prep

Remove the burrs! All official BSA axles, when they first come out of the box, have a set of small burrs located underneath the head of the axle. Whenever the plastic wheels and the axle head touch, these little burrs create a large amount of friction. The burrs are almost like mini brakes, so they must be removed. This is an important step. The underside of the axle head must be polished smooth as well. Remember that friction is the enemy of speed, and these little burrs are a major source of friction for Pinewood Derby cars.

Tips For Fast Pinewood Derby Car Designs (5)

Taper the Axle Head

As the axle head and the wheel rub against each other, they create friction, which slows your car down. Another important one of these Pinewood Derby speed tips, is that you can minimize this friction by tapering the head of the axle with an electric drill and a small triangular file. This makes the area of the axle head that touches the wheel much smaller.

Polish the Axles

A great deal of friction is created when the wheel rubs against the axle while it is turning. To reduce this friction, make the surface of the axle as smooth as it can be. Believe it or not, the outcome of a race may well depend upon who does the best job polishing their Pinewood Derby car axles.

Use a Calliper

With a calliper you can measure parts of your pinewood car down to the thousands of an inch. It’s very useful to measure the diameter of your axles to help you select the roundest axles. You can use it throughout the polishing process to make sure you’re not removing too much material from the axles. It can also be used the check the outside diameter of the wheels to identify any wheels that are out of round.

For more Pinewood Derby speed tips and secrets check out Building the Fastest Pinewood Derby Car: Speed Secrets for Crossing the Finish Line First! If you are serious out building the fastest Pinewood Derby cars, you will definitely want access to all his tried and true tips and Pinewood Derby car designs.

Choosing Best Pinewood Derby Car Designs

When it comes to Pinewood Derby car designs, I suggest you review Troy Thorne’s speed tips. Be sure to work with your son so he can learn these principles.Then you can talk about car designs that won’t conflict with the speed tips. You can find free downloadable templates for for a fast car. However, I suggest you let your son show his creativity.If his design needs modifications, you can discuss why and make that part of the learning process.Each year that your son competes, you can perfect the derby car designs. It will feel amazing to have a winner of your own creation.That is sure to be a rewarding goal to work towards.

It really is fun to go from the standard block of wood to a race car designed by your son! From drawing out the car body shape, to building your car by attaching wheels and weights, to painting the boxcar, it is an experience to remember. There is so much work that goes into creating the fastest pinewood derby car design! Designing and making the derby car is a several day process. It is a great way for scouts to learn planning, preparation, execution, and follow up on the details. It is really something for them to be proud of! Young Scouts will always treasure creating their own Derby car.

Pinewood Derby Race Day

After all the preparation and anticipation, the arrival of Pinewood Derby Race Day is an exciting day. Our Pack gathers together for pizza and drinks. Then the track is set up and the cars have their final weigh in and are registered. It is a lot of fun for the scouts and the parents and is a great community building night. I love getting to see all thePinewood Derby Car designs. Some of the boys are so creative! Everyone gathers together to watch the races and see the results. They take great care in placing the cars on the track and releasing them. Then the times are electronically reported. The results are displayed on a screen for everyone to see at our event.

If you want to learn more about the Pinewood Derby Rules, visit the Boys Life website here.


Pinewood Derby car ideas encompass a wide range of creative concepts and designs for crafting Pinewood Derby cars. I hope you enjoyed learning about these seven modifications for speed. From polished axles to lubrication for reduced friction to ensuring proper wheel alignment, there are many ways to enhance performance. Have you and your son ever participated in the Pinewood Derby? Do you have any tips you would add to this list for how to build fast Pinewood Derby cars? Share a picture of your Pinewood Derby fast car on social @familyfocusblog. We’d love to see it!

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Tips For Fast Pinewood Derby Car Designs (2024)


What factors might affect the speed of a Pinewood Derby car? ›

The following parameters made pinewood derby cars faster: using graphite on the axles and wheels, using lightweight wheels and polished axles, lifting the left front wheel and bending rear axles also raised speed.

What is the fastest speed for a Pinewood Derby car? ›

The Speed of Pinewood Derby Cars

How fast do these things go, anyway? The distribution plot below shows a range of speeds from 177 mph to 229 mph, with most cars exceeding 200 mph.

Do fenders make Pinewood Derby cars faster? ›

Fenders can help efficiently direct the air around the wheels resulting in more speed. There are a few different types of fenders: Leading Edge Fenders: These fenders are placed in front of the wheels and help direct air over them, leading to a faster car.

What makes a Pinewood Derby car go faster? ›

Be sure to double-check your pack's rules before your first cut into your pine block.
  1. Put all of your weight in the back. ...
  2. Lube the car at the body/wheel friction point. ...
  3. Spend a fair amount of time on axle prep. ...
  4. Make sure your wheels are ready. ...
  5. Finally, once your wheels are mounted, check their alignment.
Feb 25, 2009

What is the most aerodynamic shape for a Pinewood Derby car? ›

Pinewood Derby Car Shape: The Wedge

The Wedge is the foundation of many cool car designs, and it is designed to be aerodynamic and is a one-cut wonder.

Does a longer wheelbase make a Pinewood Derby car faster? ›

For pinewood derby cars, extending the wheelbase provides an advantage due to the following reasons: On Ramp-flat tracks2, best speed is attained by locating the center of gravity (COG) of the car as far back as possible while still maintaining stability (typically this is about one inch in front of the rear axle).

Are heavier Pinewood Derby cars faster? ›

Assuming all other factors are equal, a heavier car will be faster than a lighter car. The Pinewood Derby rules limit the weight of each car to 5 ounces.

Can you put too much graphite on a Pinewood Derby car? ›

Applying too much lubricant will slow your car down. How to use: Put one drop of lubricant on an axle. Tip the axle so down and let the lube flow to the end of the axle.

Why is my Pinewood Derby car slow? ›

Your pine wood derby car moves from the force of gravity and is slowed down from friction. Friction acts like brakes. Reduce friction and your car goes faster. Increase friction and your car slows down.

How far to push in Pinewood Derby axles? ›

Hold the Axle Guide in place with your thumb then gently press the car body straight down on the axle. Push until the wheel touches the car body. The base is designed to leave the proper gap between the wheel and body.

What's a good Pinewood Derby time? ›

Pinewood Derby Results. The average times with just weight added was 3.288 seconds. There was 0.188 seconds between the fastest and slowest car, about 23 inches. The average time was 2.994 seconds, about 44 inches faster than without graphite (0.353 seconds).

Should you bend Pinewood Derby axles? ›

You will want to bend your front axle a PRECISE AMOUNT for maximum speed, ensuring the car is level front to back when racing.

What does graphite do for Pinewood Derby cars? ›

According to the official Pinewood Derby rules only graphite is allowed as a lubricant on the cars. The stated reason is to keep the track clean, which always makes me feel like I'm living in bizarro world, since graphite is the messiest hardest to clean lubricant ever designed.

What is the best cog for a Pinewood Derby car? ›

The closer to a 1/2″ COG (in front of the rear axle), the more potential for a faster car. From my experience, the closer the COG to the rear of the car, the more time it will take to tune it to its fastest speeds.

How to build the fastest Lego Pinewood Derby car? ›

To make your car the fastest it can be, you apply a lubricant to your axles (IF your rules allow it) to reduce friction. The best lubricants are PRO Graphite or Nyoil from Pinewood Pro. We know that "Friction is the enemy of speed" but friction is the friend of LEGO® bricks! Be careful when applying lubricants.

How to calculate Pinewood Derby car speed? ›

Taking the distance and dividing it by a car's time gives you an AVERAGE mph over length of the track. The actual speed of the car at the finish line is actually faster than the average since the car is below the average while it is accelerating down the ramp.

What is the best wheelbase for a Pinewood Derby car? ›

For example, on a smooth aluminum track, a wheelbase of 4.75” offers a good balance between speed and stability. For a rougher track where instability could be a concern, the Race Team might consider going with a 5.0” to 5.25” wheelbase. New axle holes must be made to move or extend the car's wheelbase.

Where is the best weight placement for a Pinewood Derby car? ›


Science says the heaviest part of your car should be about 1 inch in front of the rear axle. The idea is that the farther back the weight is, the more potential energy you have because your center of mass is higher up on the track.


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