Pinewood derby races are a time-honored tradition for young boys involved in the Royal Ranger program. The important bonding time spent with fathers and adult mentors is only one of the benefits of participating in a pinewood derby. As important as it is for rangers, fathers and leaders to work together to create a quality car, a thorough understanding of Royal Ranger pinewood derby rules is equally vital. While rules may vary slightly from outpost to outpost and district to district, the basic rules pertaining to size and construction of the car generally remain the same.
Participants in a Royal Ranger pinewood derby are not permitted to reuse a car that was made in a previous year. A new car must be made each year and must be made from either a Boy Scout or Royal Ranger pinewood derby car kit. This kit comes with a wood block for a body, wheels, axles and axle housings. There can be no substitutions for any of these elements. Additional items that participants may use include glue, a dry lubricant, polish, paint, weights and fixed decorative ornaments. Each ranger can make and enter no more than two cars per year.
There are specific measurements that must be observed when making a Royal Ranger pinewood derby car. The maximum width of the car should not exceed 2-3/4 inches, including the wheels. The maximum length for the car can't exceed 7-1/2 inches. This measurement must include all attachments to the car. The car should have a maximum weight of 5-1/2 ounces and a maximum height of no more than 3 inches. The minimum under-car clearance is 3/8 of and inch. The minimum distance between the wheels is 1-3/4 inches.
Wheels and Axles
Rules prohibit the use of liquid lubricants on the wheels and axles. This is to prevent slick spots from forming on the track. Powdered graphite and a graphite and molybdenum mix are allowed.
All wheels should be clearly seen from the top of the car and should not use any kind of friction-reducing device, such as bearings, washers, bushings or springs.
Making the Car
The block of wood that forms the body of the car can be cut, sanded and formed into what ever shape the ranger desires, so long as the overall rules regarding car measurements are observed. Decorative trims such as decals, spoilers, miniature driver and painted details are permissible so long as they fit within the measurement requirements and are firmly affixed to the car. Any cars presented with wet paint will be disqualified. Weights can be used to bring the car up to the allowed 5-1/2 ounces. These weights can be located inside the car body or taped on the outside.
Pinewood derby cars are a joint adult/child project. The child must do at least 50 percent of the work.
Royal Ranger pinewood derby rules dictate that cars must run on gravity alone. Additional power sources such as compressed air cartridges, magnets, jets or engines are prohibited.
The owner of the car must be present to race. There are generally four classes at an outpost level pinewood derby event. These classes are Ranger Kids, Discovery Rangers, Adventure and Expedition Rangers and an open class. Open class is for dads, commanders and others who aren't eligible in standard classes. Some events also offer a Missionettes race for girls.
First-, second- and third-place prizes are awarded in each class. A race featuring the first place winners from the Ranger Kids, Discovery Rangers, Adventure and Expedition Rangers classes determines the grand champion.
Ann Hudson is a freelance writer who began her writing career working for a small community newspaper. While there, her work as a feature writer and a weekly columnist were honored. Hudson holds a bachelor's degree in journalism. She has been writing for more than 30 years.