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Pinewood Derby Car Design: The How-to of Several Types

There are Pinewood Derby Car Designs like the Wedge Turbo, the Wing, Formula One or the Dragster - or more ‘advanced’ designs like The Rocket, the Interceptor or the Arrow.




Pinewood Derby Car Design

by Peter Sylvester

Pinewood Derby Car Design is moving towards a more sophisticated racer. Gone are the hit-and-miss efforts of before and welcomed are the new ‘sophisticated’ cars.

There are Pinewood derby Car Designs like the Wedge Turbo, the Wing, Formula One or the Dragster - or more ‘advanced’ designs like The Rocket, the Interceptor or the Arrow.

And when they win - especially in a prestigious well set-out meeting - well, what a magnificent way to bring home the bacon. Your Pinewood derby car design has ensured you’ve won.

Pinewood Derby Car design- Some Basics

But before that there are some glorious, obvious rules to follow if you want your Pinewood Derby Car Design to be fast and efficient. These may seem pretty self-evident - but good heavens how important!

First your district's rules. “If you can't pass inspection, you can't race. If you can't race, you can't win! “ Stan Pope

That means everything has to be precise - failure is just not what you want.

For instance, you must make absolutely certain that your wheels are balanced and moving freely. Getting that wrong could cost your place in the race. And make certain the weight distribution is correct - with the center of gravity about an inch or so ahead of the rear axle - all should be well.

Pinewood Derby Car design- How To

The basic equation is Speed (Kinetic energy) = Potential energy minus Lost energy.

What that means is you have to accelerate quickly and avoid losing speed. But how do you do this? That depends firstly on the track the average of which shows the track sloping about 30 degrees from the start.

Then you need the car:

1. To be as long as allowed
2. The rear wheels as far back as possible
3. Then the longest wheelbase allowed
4. The cars centre of mass as low and as far back as gives stability
5. As heavy as allowed

All this - together with a careful construction of the car should give you a decent chance of success. But - where champions are often made by fractions of an inch - any advantage you can get is worthwhile.

Pinewood Derby Car design- To Build or not to Build

You can, of course, buy a ready made derby car - but you lose out on the fun. (And watch out for Dads who start as advisers and end up as solo engineers).

Several reputable firms offer cheap kits (for instance one simply demands a scout ‘honor’ contribution) and what you get depends on your seriousness and your ingenuity. Though the faster your car - the more likely you are to win on a longer 46 foot track - rather than the standard 32 foot one.

The main thing is that you enjoy it. Get your Pinewood Derby Car Design right and who knows - you may not only have fun and success but have built one of those ‘tomorrow’s antiques - today’.

Have fun - winning or not.


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