(LANCASTER, PA) This month marks the start of a wildly anticipated annual event for boys and girls across the United States – the Pinewood Derby – a racing competition in which children create a winning car from a block of wood and plastic wheels. For Boy Scouts, the season begins at the end of December and lasts until March. For Awana, a religious organization that hosts their own Pinewood Derby-style event called the Awana Grand Prix, the event runs from January to May. The popularity of the Pinewood Derby led it to be called a “celebrated rite of spring,” and one of “America’s 100 Best,” by Reader’s Digest in 2006. And with this event comes an opportunity for parent and child to work together toward a common goal – building a car that will get down the track.
Dash Derby Can Help Parents and Kids Troy Thorne, an Assistant Scoutmaster, father of two Pinewood Derby participants and experienced woodworker, has written a new book for first-time racers who need assistance with making a car that will get down the track, called Getting Started in Pinewood Derby: Step-By-Step Workbook to Building Your First Car (Fox Chapel Publishing, November 1, 2011). The comic-book styled guide includes a delightfully-illustrated character complete with a red and white racing-striped helmet and racing jumpsuit, named Dash Derby. Dash is the “adventure guide” to building a car, and makes the book fun, easy to read and enjoyable for kids. He chronicles each day of the building process and provides tips along the way.
Making a Pinewood Derby Car There are Official Grand Prix Pinewood Derby car specifications and local rules that must be abided to when building a car. For example, wheel bearings and bushings are prohibited. Cars can’t weigh more than 5 ounces. Only dry lubricant is permitted, etc. With those rules in mind, children receive a supplied Pinewood Derby Kit, which includes wheels, axles and a block of wood. With the help of a parent, kids cut, shape, sand and paint the car of their dreams. Adding weight and graphite to the wheels are fine tuning secrets learned with experience – or the help of someone who’s been around the Pinewood Derby block. Thorne has been around that block – with the cars he’s built with his own children and even other parents who needed help. In that respect, he is very much like the founder of the Pinewood Derby.
History of the Pinewood Derby In 1953, Don Murphy, a father from Manhatten Beach, California, wanted to “devise a wholesome, constructive activity that would foster a closer father-son relationship and promote craftsmanship and good sportsmanship through competition.” The company he worked for, North American Aviation, sponsored the miniature racing event for his son’s Cub Scout pack, and purchased the wood and other materials. The event was instantly successful and was quickly adopted by the Los Angeles County Department of Recreation. Within the year, it was being duplicated in all Cub Scout packs across the United States, and publicized in the October 1954 issue of Boy’s Life magazine. Since then, an estimated 43 millions parents and children have participated.
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