Cub Scouts and parents from Sebago's Pack 82 gathered at the old Town Hall gym on Saturday, March 19, 2005 for the their annual Pinewood Derby races. This year Cubs raced 13 hand-made model cars down a long wooden track to see who was the fastest. For weeks ahead of the big race day Scouts and their parents came to Pack meetings to swap tips on ways to make their cars run faster and to compare each other's progress as the parent-son teams carefully turned blocks of wood into colorful and sleek racers.
The Pinewood Derby has been an annual Cub Scout event since 1953 when it was first held with Pack 280C of Manhattan Beach, California. Pack 280's Cubmaster Don Murphy came up with the idea of a miniature car race that Cub Scout-age boys could compete in. Murphy described developing the first Pinewood Derby in a 1999 interview with Scouting magazine. "I'd made models of airplanes, cars, boats, and any number of other structures and remembered the pleasure I got out of doing it," he said. "I also wanted to devise a wholesome, constructive activity that would foster a closer father-son relationship and promote craftsmanship and good sportsmanship through competition."
He coined the term "Pinewood Derby" and came up with a kit and the racing rules. "We put the wood, wheels, and nails into a brown paper sack with an assigned number. Some Cub Scout fathers built a 31-foot race ramp with two lanes and a battery-run finish line made from doorbells. Light bulbs identified the winner."
The event was an instant success, and soon was adopted by the national Scout Office to be offered to Cub Scout packs around the country. In its October 1954 issue, Boys' Life publicized the event and offered plans for the track and a car, which featured "four wheels, four nails, and three blocks of wood."
Over the years the rules haven't changed much from those original rules. Each model car is to be built by the Cub Scout and his parent working together, and the car can be no wider than 2 ¼ inches and no longer than 7 inches long. It must be no heavier than 5 ounces, and no wheel bearings, washers or bushings are allowed on the wheels.
Each car must pass inspection by the official inspection committee before it is allowed to compete. The inspectors have the right to disqualify those cars that do not meet these specifications.
As the crowd of parents, Scouts and siblings waited expectantly on Saturday, Pack 82 Cubmaster Michael Cain called two Cubs at a time to bring their cars to the top end of a wooden track that stretched half the length of the old Town Hall gym in Sebago. The Cubs carefully placed their cars in one of the lanes at the starting gate and stepped back, and Cain pressed a lever that released both cars. As they rolled down the ramp they gathered speed, and as they passed the finish line an electronic light flashed designating the winner of that heat. This process was repeated until all the Cubs had raced each other and the five fastest cars were identified.
Trophies were awarded to Michael Rust for Best Design and Justin Chadwick for Most Creative, as well as to the Cubs with the fastest cars. The top five finishers for Pack 82, in order, were:
These top finishers will compete with other Cub Scout Packs at the 2005 Casco Bay District Pinewood Derby Championship on Saturday, April 2 at Jordan Small Middle School in Raymond, Maine.
Pack 82 meets every Tuesday at the Sebago Elementary School at 6:00 p.m., and all Cub Scout age boys are invited to drop by and take part. Contact Cubmaster Michael Cain at 787-4016 or send an E-mail. for more information about the Pack, Cub Scouts, or joining in the fun!
This article was edited and published in the Brigton News on March 24, 2005 under the title "Pinewood Derby delights Scouts".