Written by Bill Waller. Mr. Waller is a author and contributor local blog, Southwest Georgia Politics. He enjoys writing, traveling, and researching history. He currently resides in Albany, Georgia.
The season that is almost a rite of passage for nearly every young boy in the country is here. Well okay, at least those involved in Cub Scouting. It is time for the Pinewood Derby!
The Pinewood Derby was started by Don Murphy in 1953. He had a son that was too young to race in the Soap Box derby. Mr. Murphy wanted a father-son project that would allow his son to be safe but still enjoy a Soap Box derby style event. Thus, the Pinewood Derby was created!
When I was growing up, I looked forward to the Pinewood Derby every year. I won third place in design one year, but I never came close to finishing in the top three with speed. That honor always belonged to my friend Jeff. His father was an architect, and those cars would fly. I did all that I could to try to find the secret behind Jeff’s fast cars. Beating Jeff’s car became a goal in life. Jeff and I are still friends, and to this day, I still do not know how he did it.
I have been making cars with my sons for about eight years now. All of the cars start off as the same plain block of wood, four nails for axles, and four plastic wheels. It is amazing what these guys can create when they are allowed to let their imaginations run free. One year our youngest wanted a purple brain with an eyeball on a stick for a car. We planned it out and created it!
There are those parent-son teams that are focused purely on speed. I will have to admit that trophies are nice. There are all kinds of speed secrets, special wheels, weights, and axles that you can purchase from the Internet. In fact, you could spend a small fortune on a Pinewood Derby car just to win a trophy that likely cost less than the car.
I have really enjoyed the interaction with my sons in building our cars. It is nice to win a race, but the Cub Scout motto is “Do Your Best.” I hope that the memories that we have made through the years building the cars will be with my two sons forever.
As for my friend Jeff, his father is now a grandfather. It was Pinewood Derby time once again so I was curious to see if the old man still had what it takes to build a winning car with all of today’s advances in materials, theories, etc. Jeff said that when they put the car on the track and flipped the starting gate, the car didn’t move. It seems that his father glued the wheels by accident when trying to glue in the axles. I wish I had raced him that day. Such is life on the Pinewood Derby track.