Building a Fast Pinewood Derby Car

flaming fast car

Building a fast Pinewood Derby Car involves a few basic ideas.  About 90% of it comes down to the few basic tips listed below.  There is some luck involved as well since you can't control exactly how your car is placed on the track. Keep the weight up and friction down and check with the race chairman before buying special nails as it's considered cheating by many packs. My advice is to do your best and concentrate on building a great looking car.

6 Tips for a Fast Car

1.  Make the car weigh as close to 5 ounces as possible.  The heavier the car is, the more momentum it will build as it goes down the ramp and the faster it will go.  You can usually get your car weighed at the post office.

2.  When adding weights to the car, add it as far back as possible.  This weight will be higher at the starting gate and fall further giving you more momentum.  Try to get the center of gravity (balance point) to within 1" of the back axle.

3.  Smooth and polish the nails.  Mount the nails in a drill chuck and with parental supervision file away the metal burrs from the shaft of the nail and underneath the head.  Finish sanding with fine 600 grit sandpaper and polish with 1200 grit.

4.  Smooth the wheels.  Remove any bits of excess plastic and burrs.   Spin them on the nails and time how long it takes for them to stop.  Match the nail/wheel pairs that work best together and put the best pairs in the back of the car.

5.  Properly align the wheels.  Make sure the nails are perpendicular to the body of the car and that the wheels have enough clearance so that they don't bind up and stop spinning.  Test the car on a smooth surface.  It should track in a straight line.

6.  Lubricate.  Use a graphite or teflon based lubricant to coat the wheel holes and the nail shaft and underside of the nail heads so that they turn freely.

Win or lose, be a good sport and most of all have a great time!