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A picture of the apparatus for an experiment about bell curves.

Customizable pinewood derby car template

PDF template to help you plan your car. You can use the free drawing editor Inkscape (or the commercial program Adobe Illustrator if you have it) to modify the template if you would like a different design. A more complex template is included with the video that helps explains our wheel alignment technique.


A picture of the apparatus for an experiment about bell curves.

Racing without a timer

In 2005, at the Arapahoe District’s annual Pinewood Derby race, the track timer malfunctioned. The finish line could read out the finishing place of each car, but no run times could be recorded. I developed this lane rotation strategy that correctly identifies the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd plane winners, with about 90% accuracy. Download a PDF file that you can use for your race by clicking the icon below.


A picture of the apparatus for an experiment about bell curves.

Pinewood Derby Test Track Instructions

One of our video customers noticed that we didn't have a parts list or a set of instructions for the test track included with the video purchase. He kindly took the instructions given in the video and put them in a document form. This helps racers not have to keep going back and forth between the shop and the video to get a test track built.


Success Stories

A list of a few of the emails and reviews we have received from parents whose children had a good experience with our pinewood derby video. Please send us your experiences, so we can keep it up to date.

Dave L.

Last year I found your video while looking for a way to teach my son the science behind building a fast car. Last year he took first place in the pack. When I asked what kind of car he wanted to build this year he said “one like last year”. So we pulled out the video and started it again. At 8 years old I see some of the concepts beginning to take hold – I’ve stressed how important doing your homework and the design is what leads to a fast car. I really enjoyed your tests to prove the theories.We were both super excited when Josh took first place in the pack this year. To make it a little more interesting I’m almost certain the second place car was one bought on Ebay from the ‘Physics Teacher’ (I haven’t let my son in on the secret source of that car). Josh really enjoys the axle prep and watching me pour the lead. We’ve already started looking toward making next year’s design a little different. So if you have any suggestions they would be greatly appreciated. In closing, thanks for your work in putting together the video and helping this father son team to build a fast car loaded with learning.

Michael B.

Dr. Acton, All I can say is thank you. After about 6 years of trying to win, a number of books and never getting beyond 2nd overall, your DVD pushed us to the top. Even better was our youngest son was in his last derby event prior entering Boy Scouts next year. Even though I didn't use all your techniques (I used bent axle rail rider instead of your allen screws for steering) your education was enlightening! So much so, that I recognized that certain people were sanding tires to reduce wheel mass and keeping it to themselves even though our vague rules prohibited it. Our pack inspection process didn't look for it and I have asked that the rules and inspection process be changed. After all the drama of this years event, I am confident that they will be. After the race, my son and I sat down and shared what we learned with the Dad's of younger scouts that had an interest. I pointed them toward you. Once again, thank you. Job well done.

Edward S.

YEAR1 --Scott: Back in February I told you about my son winning 1st place in the Tigers and 3rd overall at our Pack Pinewood Derby. That was done (with your help) by the car on the left. My son and I wanted to fine tune your concepts for the District race, so we built another car. It is the one on the right in the photo. Today was the district race and I am pleased to tell you that we won 1st place in the Tigers and Overall Grand Champion for the Eastern District of the Andrew Jackson Council. Just like you mentioned in the video, as the other cars would poop out toward the finish, my son's car would cross the line first. Thank you so much. My first grader was telling all the Scouts about the center of mass on his car! He really got into this, and his physics teacher/electrical engineer grandfather did so as well. Scott, thanks again for making this a fun and educational exercise for us.

YEAR 2 -- Scott: thanks to your physics lessons my son won 1st place Wolf and Overall Champion at our District Race today. It's all about the science!!! Using your physics principles my son is the Grand Champion 2 year running. Just as you teach in video, the other cars poop out towards the finish line and my son's car scoots ahead to win. Thanks for making the PWD a great educational tool.

YEAR 3 -- Scott: my son and I watched our video again, and worked the science to win 1st place Bear and 1st place overall in our Pack today. Our fastest time was 2.3481 seconds. 2nd place was 2.3886. Thank you so much. This is our 3rd year and each time my son does more of the construction on his own. Next year I believe he can do it all except melt the lead. It has been a wonderful educational tool for us. Thanks again.

Mark H.

Thank you for an awesome video. We loved watching it over and over in the garage while making our 6 test cars. (4 completed) We did everything in the video including the dynamic wheel alignment tool and test track. We picked the fastest car to enter the race. The only thing we did not do was tap the plastic wheel hubs. This was not clear in the video if this was going to make any difference. Also our rules only allowed for a slight sanding of the wheel surface so we reduced the wheel size to the legal limit and polished the surface to a shine. Tonight was the race. We did great! There were 38 cars and we placed 6th. 1st through 4th place cars were all made in the garage of the guy who owns the derby track. All 4 of these cars were very fast. All 4 cars had the wheel axle locations moved to the back of the car creating a longer wheel base. The back of the car and the back of the wheels were parallel. This was legal at our competition. I have 4 boys of my own so we will be making these cars for the next 10 years. My question is, next year, would extending the wheel base offer more stability? Should we have tapped the hubs, and is it possible we sanded and buffed the nails too much making the radius too small and created a wheel wobble. The wheels seemed very very loose on the nails.

Lupita C.

Dear Dr. Acton, THANK YOU! We won!!! Juan Luis’ car came in first place in every single race… 3.13 sec. It was our first year … As a surprise Juan Luis also got the most creative car award. THANK YOU SO MUCH for all your help!!!! Tell your daughter this is “definitely a mom thing!”. I didn’t know but I think the next step is regional… I’m waiting to hear back from our troop leader to see what is next. I’ll keep you post it… Any advice???? Thank you soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo much again!!!

Tony D.

PACK RACES -- Well Scott, we did well, finishing 1st among the Wolves, and 2nd overall in the Pack. We were beat by a wedge with an average speed of 0.7mph faster. The wedge builder is a Grandpa with two grandsons. Last year, they finished 1st and 2nd; nobody was really even close to his runs. When Graham's car ran it's first heat and set a new track record, the MC joked over the PA that there would be a post-race inspection. I retorted with, "Bring it on, baby!", because I know our car is 100% legal; we have nothing to hide. After it was all over, one of the officials approached and congratulated me, pointing out that nobody had ever taken down Grandpa before. I got numerous questions about how our car was weighted, because there is no visible evidence beyond the smooth hump near the aft end. You should have seen the looks I got when I told them I made a custom shaped lead casting with a sand mold... that in itself was priceless... :-) We had a great time, and Graham came away pretty happy... so that is all that matters. We did qualify for the District Derby; it will be interesting so see if Grandpa's cars make a showing there, and if they scrutinize the cars any closer... :-) I really enjoyed the whole activity this year, beginning with the day I stumbled across your website and purchased the video; it was a real inspiration, and provided us with allot of fun!

REGIONAL RACES -- Had a great time; really close heads up races in the finals; the prelims were even closer in times. Prelims decided by 12 milliseconds (total) across 4 heats; Finals by 15 milliseconds over 4 heats. That's even closer than the 18 milliseconds from the Open Division. In summary; we SWEPT it CLEAN! : ) Graham's car was nearly perfect; one wheel up, and it rolled straight as an arrow - no exaggeration. I told a few of the other Dad's (afterwards) that after next years race (my son's last year for PWD), that I would share ALL of my secrets with them. Little do they know that will come in the form of a single URL... LOL.

Glenn D.

Hi, My son and I would like to express our thanks. Hunter won the Council second grade wolf finals today. We used many of your tips to make this a reality. Note our council allows for extended wheel base and we also tapered the underside of the nail heads. We did not run a tap through the wheels nor did we use your axle adjustment with set screws. We used a drill guide fixture available on many pinewood websites for drilling the axles. We used your shape and tips for removing as much wood as possible, slightly modified as we needed to acomidate the extended wheel base. In order to keep the height down and thus reduce wind resistance we opted to use a store bought 3.5 oz tungsten weight and then added weight as needed using tungsten putty pushed into holes we drilled in the bottom, we sealed the putty in the bottom using 2 part 5 min epoxy. The car with wheels and nails no paint or weight was less than an oz and the wood is .25 thick. This car has not lost a race from pack through the 2 days of council racing. None of the races were even close. Thank you so much.

Jeff R.

I wanted to email you to say thanks for creating the Pinewood Derby video and sharing your knowledge of physics in this way. I called your house yesterday to tell you this over the phone, but you were out at the time. Our son, Caleb, experienced his first Pinewood Derby yesterday at Rocky Mountain Christian Church and it was a real joy for our family. Weeks ago, when we prepared to build his car, I remembered that you had a Derby website. So, I found the site, downloaded the video, and followed your instructions throughout our project. Scott, I was really impressed by the quality of the video you put together! You're a great teacher and you made the information very interesting and easy to understand. Caleb and I had a great time with this project and I know we'll never forget our time in the shop together over the last few weeks. And, to make a long story short, Caleb won first place in the entire competition. He now goes on to the district competition in Boulder next weekend. Scott, thanks again, and blessings to you and your family! We couldn't have done it without you.

John G.

Dr. Acton- I ordered your physics video and just wanted to say the video was incredible!!! I have two sons (age 7 -Luke and age 9- Caleb) so the older one actually learned a lot from your "at home" projects presented on the video. You guys did an excellent job putting the video together!!!! I had purchased a few books from a "scouts" store but was having difficulty conveying some of the principles (friction, center of gravity, mass, etc.) to my sons as I believe this is an extremely part of the pinewood derby ....your video simplified it immensely. THANK YOU!!! I have watched hundreds of videos on YouTube and other internet sites.......I can't believe the low cost of your product!! Well worth the money!!! I have purchased a 42 foot Best Track (2 lanes) and received it in the mail today but I still have to put it have saved me SO MUCH TIME in testing all of the theories for myself as you did all the work for me!!!! YEAH!!!

Tammy H. (from reviews)

This is the best movie ever for teaching kids some basic physics concepts, and it had the added bonus of the great how-to section on building the fastest pinewood derby car possible. I learned some physics concepts, even! This movie is appropriate for kids or adults and kept my scout's attention through to the end. This was the best money spent on scouting or movies in a long time! We popped popcorn and watched this as our family movie one Friday night about six weeks before the big race. Our nine-year-old scout absolutely loved it, and actually learned some physics. He was explaining physics concepts to the older boys and the scout leaders, and was able to apply these concepts to his car. I am a physician, loved physics and math in college, and I was enthralled! Some formulas I don't even remember learning, and there was a review of the formulas I actually remembered. There were really fabulous explanations of the concepts, all presented in a child (and adult) friendly manner. My teen girls watched and learned, as well as my husband. We will watch this several times again before we make next year's cars. This video also helped our children make some FAST cars! This was our first year in scouts. Our son placed second in his division and is heading to districts in a few weeks. One daughter placed first and the other daughter tied for second in the adult and siblings division. We had our children do much of the hands-on work (we bought coping saws so they could cut and sand on their own), but Dad still had to help with some of the more dangerous parts (power tools). We spent the extra money on titanium putty and did not melt the lead as demonstrated in the DVD, but appreciate the demonstration of mold making that was included in the DVD. The DVD also included a template for the design shown in the movie. We simply popped the DVD into the computer and printed out the design templates. This did simplify the process somewhat. The author's car-making process was very complicated, but we were able to use most of the ideas he demonstrated and still make some very, very fast cars. Next year we're planning to start even earlier and use all of his ideas that he presented. Don't get overwhelmed, though! Even just using some of the key components of his recommendations will still make your child happy with how fast his car is. And he'll be the smartest scout in the pack!

stevem (from reviews)

really excellent product. We found this after our very first tiger pinewood derby experience. My 6yr old son loved watching the DVD and really did learn and has been able to apply some physics. We then had a ball planning and then making our own 24 ft track in our crowded basement, so that too was a great project together. the step by step instructions were clear and worked! I suppose we are ready for next year and we now understand how we can make that car go fast! Thankyou for a terific product.

Abraham P. (from reviews)

This is a very useful product! Our 7 and 8 year olds learned about the physics of car design just as the description says - for instance: center of gravity; why running on 3 wheels can be better. They were also very methodical about the build - Tallying up the weight of each part to decide how much to add to get up to 5 ounces. - They chose the wheels to use based on how cleanly they roll. - They made design decisions (one chose to have all 4 wheels touch and came in a few hundredthes of a second behind the other, and knew why after the fact). They could even comment on what made other "good looking cars" seem like bad designs from a speed perspective (they were correct!). And while winning was by no means the main goal for me as compared to learning, they HANDILY took 1st and 2nd place overall. So the derby turned into far more than a simple wood working project. You will spend the same $$ on lots of things that get far less value to you

J.M. (from reviews)

The Dr is the man! his design won the best design in my son's pack. the process to build the best car is involved. and takes some tools to get done properly. but if you follow his system to the T your pinewood car will be the fastest in your pack.( make sure to follow the rules of your race n some steps) our car came in second place. now this may sound like a not so good finish, but we had a rule change half way thru the week before the race which forced us to run 4 wheels on the track and with totally unmodifid wheels. others only ran 3 wheels on the track and had modofed/lathe wheels and we beat all of them by a foot or more except for one that only finished .0016 of a second ahead of us on average of 3 runs.

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Pinewood Physics, LLC is a limited liability corporation located in Niwot, Colorado.