Pinewood Derby® Design Tips

17th January, 2011

Car Designs are Only Limited by Your Imagination. (via Flickr)

Pinewood Derby season is upon us and we wanted to share some helpful blog posts to get you and your car ready for the big race. In the first post of our 4 part Pinewood Derby series, we discussed how to build your car for maximum speed. Here, we would like to offer some design tips to help you create a great-looking car you’ll want to cherish for years to come.

While parents play a major role in the construction of Pinewood Derby cars, it is our belief that the theme and initial design for the car should come from the Scout’s imagination and plan. If you are the assisting parent ask your Scout to come up with a “theme” or overall artistic idea for the car’s design. Popular themes include: classic cars, stock cars, race cars, object cars (like a pencil car), superhero vehicles, cars representing food, animal cars, cartoon cars, and just about anything else a person can dream up and build. Finding a theme will bring focus to your design and save time when assembling materials and tools.

Before discussing details or materials, it would be helpful to have the Scout sketch out on paper how the car should look. Ask them to add some color to the sketch, so you can anticipate what paints you will need.

Once you have the sketch representing the car’s theme it is time to consider if this design is something that can be built using your tools and experience level. A design should not be too complicated. Some of the best-looking Pinewood Derby cars are actually very simple designs that are well-built and carefully painted.

via Flickr

The next step is to draw a scaled plan of the car’s top and sides that will be used to cut the wood block. Pre-made car patterns are also available online and in books, such as Pinewood Derby Designs & Patterns by Troy Thorne.

via Flickr

Once the wood is cut into the pattern, you are ready to paint your car. Automotive-quality spray paint can be purchased at most hardware stores. This paint will give your car’s body a professional coat and shine-just like a real car. Remember to only use spray paints in well-ventilated areas. Allow plenty of time to dry before painting anything else. For detailing, use painter’s tape to block off small areas and use scissors to cut it to outline the exact shape you need. Use a modeling paint, like Testors®, to paint small areas (don’t forget to paint the hubcaps on the wheels).

via Flickr

Once everything is painted and dry, attach any component pieces to the body with a wood glue or epoxy. Always follow manufacturer’s guidelines when working with adhesives. Decals can be purchased in packs from licensed dealers to add elements like flames, numbers, and stripes.

By now, you should have a professional-looking car that closely resembles the Scout’s initial sketch. Don’t forget to take some pictures of your completed car from various angles and have fun showing it off at the Derby!

via Flickr

Do you have a Pinewood Derby car that you are proud of? Leave a comment with a link to where we can see it. Also, for a chance to win a $100 Gift Card, enter your car in our photo contest, by posting it on Flickr with the tag: ClassBPhoto2011. We’ll be awarding a new winner every month.

Check out the blog later this week for Part 3 of our Pinewood Derby Series:  The History of the Derby.

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