Pinewood Derby rocks Nederland

Townes Lee n Resham

Barbara Lawlor Nederland

After being inspected and weighed the cars were lined up on the counter and declared “good to go,” by Scoutmaster Terry Olsen. There were shiny bronze cars, black cars, sticker-covered cars, yellow cars with daisy’s and a couple of striped cars. The annual event was held last Saturday, March 1, at the Nederland Community Center.

All of the Pinewood Derby race cars were built by Nederland’s Pack 170 Cub Scouts or Webelos, first through fifth graders, with maybe a little help from their parents. In the spring, Cub Scouts all over the country engage in the fun, creative, skill-building championship derby.

The first derby event was held on May 15, 1953 in Manhattan Beach California by Cub Scout Pack 283C. Cubmaster Don Murphy came up with the idea and it was sponsorsd by the Management Club at North American Aviation. Because Murphy’s son was too young to participate in the Soap Box Derby, Murphy conjured up the concept of racing miniature wood cars which would be released at the top of a curved wooden track.

The event spread like wildfire through the scouting community throughout the country. Within the first year, the Boy Scouts of America adopted the derby for cub scout packs. In 1964, the plans for stock cars were formalized, featuring four wheels, four nails and three blocks of wood. In l980, the design was changed from a cutout block to a solid block block of wood and the tires were changed from narrow, hard plastic to wider ones. The Pinewood Derby became an official trademark in 2005.

Once the scouts get their kit of wood, tires and nails, it is up to them to transform the materials into a aerodynamic racing machine, or a creatively unique, if not fast, vehicle to be entered into the design contest. Coins are used to bring the cars to the required four ounces and graphite powder is used to lubricate the wheels.

Ned’s scouts lined up along the track. Although there are six racing lanes, only four cars competed at a time. Leader Ron Righi made sure the cars were lined up and then they were freed to speed down the track to the finish line. Cubmaster Terry Olson said, “These are the best batch of cars I’ve seen. They all have the right weights, individuality and polished wheels.”

In the first round Kevin Ackerman, Clark Grebes, Aric Olson and Beshal Malla raced against each other. Each car got to compete in every lane, making it fair. Clark’s red car with yellow wheels was the winner. Clark said he made the flames and put the stickers on the car and that R2D2 was the driver. When asked how he felt about winning the trophy, he just smiled and said, “I knew I’d win.”

In the Webelos race-off, Townes Bakke won the blue ribbon. His car was a streamlined yellow car with Zombie written on the side.

The first place race winners will advance to the district level. Their cars must remain in custody until then.

The Best in Show for design also advances with the fastest car. With the racers, guests and parents voting, the Best in Show ended up in a tie between Lee Winston and Elijah Weiner. Elijah’s car had a skull sticker on it that matched the shirt he was wearing and Elijah’s car was a police patrol car complete with a red light on its top.

After enjoying snacks and root beer floats and recounting the events of the day, the boys and their families went home, already planning next year’s entry in the annual derby.


Barbara is a reporter for The Mountain-Ear.

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