David Wong/Daily Journal
Nick Newton weighs a Pinewood Derby contestant's car that will be raced this Saturday at the Hillsdale Shopping Center.
An exhibition of creativity and skill will be on display as pinewood cars will be raced at the Hillsdale Shopping Center in the center court Saturday, April 13.
The center court is in front of Macy’s (where Christmas and Easter events take place), said Jim Newton, chairman of the event and a volunteer who helped to organize the derby.
“The whole purpose of the Pinewood Derby is to allow the parents and the child to bond through a physical, hands-on, do-it-yourself kind of project, because most kids today don’t have shop class and they don’t have an opportunity to use any tools and materials and work with their hands,” Newton said.
This second annual pinewood car derby is hosted by the Pacific Skyline Council of the Boy Scouts of America, and helped in large part by volunteers such as Newton and his sons, Greg and Nick.
From 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., everyone can compete in the Outlaw division to win prizes.
“(The Outlaw division) is for siblings and parents who want to make their own cars, it’s sort of to discourage parents from building a car completely by themselves, instead of letting their kid do it … also we can put cars (with machined wheels) into the Outlaw division, so the kids can still race, even if they don’t have a car for the (standard) race,” Greg Newton said.
A free Pinewood Derby car or kit will be given to the first 25 boys who sign up for Cub Scouts, according to Brian Curtis, scout executive and CEO of the Pacific Skyline Council. Membership into the Cub Scouts is open to boys from grades one to five.
Afterwards, the top cars from the local Cub Scout packs (approximately the fastest 10 percent of the field) will compete in the district finals for a trophy from noon to 3 p.m.
“What’s great about the Pinewood Derby is that it is one the most memorable activities that a young boy will have … of all the trips and campouts and hikes, and things that they get to do in Cub Scouting, this one will always stand out and a lot of kids will keep their cars for years,” Curtis said.
For the cars built by Cub Scouts, there are several ironclad rules that each derby participant must adhere to: a mass no more than 5 ounces, a length no longer than 7 inches and unaltered wheels.
“If you have a heavier weight than other cars, then you will have a speed advantage … I’m looking to see that the wheels haven’t been machined down or modified at all, because sometimes, what they’ll do is ground down the wheels, so there’s less contact between the wheels and the track … also there’s this (hollowed-out woodblock) to make sure the cars adhere to the dimensions (in the rules),” Greg Newton said.
During the entrant registration process, if the car is too long and/or heavy, the participants are allowed to make impromptu adjustments to the car — with pliers, hot-glue guns and whatever resourcefulness they have.
Even with the methodical attention to detail that characterizes pinewood cars, there are many factors and bits of conventional wisdom that foster skepticism.
“There’s enormous amounts of junk science (in pinewood car culture) — ‘Should you put the weight on the back (of the car) or the front? ‘Should you make it so one wheel is off the deck a little bit?’ ‘Should it be aerodynamic, or does that really matter?’ … nobody quite knows what the truth is, because no one’s really done empirical tests on it or that I’m aware of,” Jim Newton said.