BSA Troop 174 in Reed City to host Pinewood Derby

Celebrating nearly 70 years

REED CITY — The annual Boy Scout Troop 174 Reed City Pinewood Derby will take place March 13 at the Scout building, 223 E. Fifth Ave. Reed City.

Registration of derby cars will begin at noon, with races starting at 1 p.m. Scouts will race after all sponsor races are completed. Scout leaders will race for bragging rights to end the day.

Winners will be awarded for first, second, and third place for each class — Tigers, Wolves, Bears, Webelos and Arrow of Light.
Reed City mayor Roger Meinert will judge the “Best in Show” derby cars in all classes. A traveling trophy will be retained by the winning sponsor until the next year’s race.

A lot has changed since Cubmaster Don Murphy dreamed up the idea for the Pinewood Derby in 1953 … 69 years ago. But a lot has stayed the same, too. 

The Pinewood Derby is still about Cub Scouts and their parents turning four plastic wheels, four nails and some wood into a custom race car. It’s still about designing a 5-ounces-or-less car that goes fast, looks cool or both. But most of all, it’s still about a parent and child working together to build lasting memories.

A 10-year-old Cub Scout named Donn Murphy of Manhattan Beach, California, wanted to compete in the soap box derby run by the Management Club at North American Aviation, where his dad worked. But this race involving kid-size, gravity-powered cars was just for those ages 12 and up. 

Donn’s dad had the perfect idea to cheer up his son. The Cub Scout Pack would hold a miniature soap box derby using hoagie-size cars the Cub Scouts could build with their parents.

Murphy remembered how much fun he had making model cars as a child in La Porte, Indiana. Why not bring that same joy to his Cub Scout Pack? That is exactly what he did. 

Murphy and the other parents in Pack 280C built a 32-foot, two-lane track. Impressively, the track had a battery-run finish line made from doorbells. Light bulbs identified the winner of each race.

Every Cub Scout got a brown paper bag containing four plastic wheels, four nails and three blocks of wood — all supplied by North American Aviation’s Management Club. 

Why three blocks of wood? One was for the car’s body, and the other two formed the axles. Today’s cars are made from a single block of wood, and each axle, or nail, goes directly into the body of the car.

The first Pinewood Derby race was held May 15, 1953, in Manhattan Beach’s Scout House. Later that year, it had spread throughout the Los Angeles area and in 1954 started going National after an article in Boys Life magazine. 

It has surely come a long way since those days. Some engineers sell these cars online for several hundred dollars with the claim that you can win in seconds flat.

“We would like to thank the wonderful community businesses that are helping to support our 2022 Annual Cub Scout Pinewood Derby marking the 69th running of this event,” Cubmaster Russ Nehmer said. “Their involvement and support ensure the continued success of the scouting program within the community.”