Pinewood Derby Car Design

By Stan Pope


Design Concepts and Priorities

Make or Break:

Top 10 in district:

A recent race between two champions, conducted on a stock Piantedosi Oars, Inc. track, produced an average advantage for one car of approximately 1/4 inch. For the 4 heats, alternating lanes, the orange car won by 1/8 inch to 3/8 inch. Here are some specifications:

Pinewood Derby Design Overview:

Fundamental equation of Pinewood Derby Car Design:

Kinetic Energy (speed) = Potential Energy - Lost Energy

Design Strategy:

1. Accelerate early and hold your speed.
2. Maximize potential energy and minimize lost energy.

Key Design Concepts:

Design your car so that it runs in the steepest, smoothest, straightest and slickest lane, no matter which lane you use.


These implementation techniques are based on the current common track design, in which the starting line is sloped about 30 degrees above horizontal, with the slope reducing to 0 degrees. Some of these techniques do not apply to other track styles.

Construction steps:

Every year:

My Book:

LBW Promo

Over the years, I have evolved a very effective Pinewood Derby Car design which a youngster can build. I call this design "The Rail," and I include it as one of several designs in my book, "Learn to Build a Winner." Important features include short steps, low-risk operations, and few (if any) steps which require fine motor control. The tools needed are, in most cases, only a phone call or two away. A donation to my BSA Council's Friends of Scouting campaign is requested for use of the Learn to Build a Winner book... honor system, of course, as is appropriate for Scouts of all ages.

Examples, Pictures of "My Boys":

The attached photos show some of "my boys" who have built their own cars. I know. I was there. Their Dad and I watched them.

Josh, his car, his District Race trophy, and his Akela's Akela.
The Car that Josh built! (fuzzy enough to protect some of his "secrets")
Brandon and his trophy at the District Race
The Car that Brandon built!
Victor and his trophy at the Council Race (This one is related to me.)
The Car that Victor built!

Latest update: 6/12/2011
Copyright 1997, 1998, 2002, 2011 © by Stan Pope. All rights reserved.