How to craft the perfect Cubmobile with your Cub Scouts

Cubmobile Car RacePEANUT BUTTER AND JELLY. Batman and Robin. Boys and cars. Some things just go together naturally. 

Most boys love playing with cars, whether they’re remote-controlled racers, Hot Wheels replicas or battery-powered ride-ons. In Cub Scouting, the pinewood derby lets boys scratch their automotive itch, but it’s not the only option for racing fun. Many packs find that Cubmobile races offer a low-stress, high-octane alternative to the traditional derby. Like pinewood derby cars, Cubmobiles rely on gravity for propulsion. But unlike those pint-size racers, Cubmobiles are big enough to accommodate drivers.

To learn more about the ins and outs of Cubmobile racing, Scouting talked with two Cubmobile veterans. Ryan Coverstone coordinates races for the Lincolnway District in the Anthony Wayne Area Council (Fort Wayne, Ind.); Jeff Wieters runs races for the Live Oak District in the Los Padres Council (Santa Barbara, Calif.).

It Starts With Cars
Plans for cars appear on Page 207 of the Bear Cub Scout Handbook. A Cubmobile is little more than a seat, four wheels and two wooden axles. The rider steers with a rope connected to the front axle — safety blocks keep him from turning too much — and stops by pulling a simple friction brake that drags on the ground.

Coverstone and Wieters like the design in the Bear Handbook, although Wieters recommends adding a floorboard to force boys to use the brake. Without a floorboard, he explains, “they put their foot down, and their foot’s immediately going to be dragged under the back of the car. It scrapes their knees all up.”

One nice thing about Cubmobile cars is that parts and tools are easy to come by. You can find all the parts at a local hardware store, and you need only a few simple tools. Coverstone recommends buying wheels online for about $30 for a set of four.

Share and Share Alike
Unlike in the pinewood derby, not every boy needs his own car. Wieters’ Pack 93 has a few cars boys can use, and he encourages dens to get together and build their own. Two or three cars per den would probably suffice.

His pack has also assembled kits to cut costs and help families that don’t have a resident handyman. “It’s cheaper to do kits because you’re buying everything in bulk versus going out and buying individual pieces yourself, ” he says.

Coverstone’s pack maintains a fleet of five Cubmobiles. “We have another spare that we take with us, plus we have a couple of frames and other wheels that we use for the Bears to put together for their achievement (Elective 7),” he says.

Coverstone likes to assign cars a couple of weeks before race day so that Scouts can practice, get used to the car, paint it, sticker it, whatever they want to do to it — as long as they don’t destroy the car. “It gives them a little ownership,” he says.

Welcome, Race Fans
To run a Cubmobile race, you need little more than a gently sloping, wide and unobstructed racecourse. Coverstone uses a block-long stretch of Indiana Avenue in Warsaw, Ind.; Wieters uses a parking-garage ramp at the Santa Maria Town Center.

Of course, wherever you race, you must get permission to close the course and then make it as safe as possible. Coverstone lines the center of his two-lane course with hay bales so racers don’t run into each other. Cement curbs keep racers from veering onto sidewalks. Wieters uses borrowed landscaping timbers to slow down off-course racers. “If they’re going fast, they might go over it with one set of wheels, but the other set will never go over it,” he says.

What about the end of the course? Wieters’ course uses hay bales; Coverstone’s has extra room for boys to slow down. “We’ve got volunteers at the finish line,” he says. “As soon as boys cross that finish line, they’re hollering, ‘Brake!’ ”

Two boys race side by side, but they don’t compete against each other since they could be from different weight classes. In Coverstone’s district, boys race twice, once in each lane. “Your total time is your total time,” he says. Wieters’ district gives boys a practice run and three races that count for time. “We actually collect times for all four races, drop the slowest time and add up the other three,” he says.

How accurate is the timing? Coverstone uses an electronic timing system; Wieters relies on volunteers with stopwatches. “We’ve only ever had to redo one heat, so we think that’s pretty good,” Wieters says.

And even if you have to redo a heat, few boys would complain about taking another ride in a Cubmobile.



  1. This is a yearly district event for our area. It is usually one of the first activities Cubs will do after joining and it is a BLAST!

  2. Most of the Cubmobile plans I have seen call for 1/4″ plywood, which I think is way too flimsy. I recommend 1/2″

  3. Any advice on how to get your council to hold one? The last time they did was when my son was a Tiger and I didn’t know about it, now he’s a Webelos II, this is our last chance and the council says “the hay is too expensive.” What does your council do?

    • Don’t wait for anyone else to do anything. Find a nice safe hill in your neighborhood, and host the race yourself. We don’t use hay. We use a hill behind an elementary school – no traffic.

    • The can’t find a farmer who will donate the use of straw, not hay, bales for a day? You may need to search the area for small square bales. This may not be an option depending on your location.

  4. Can anyone build a cub/boy scout troop? If so what are the requirements? What are the requirements to become a Den Master?

    • Yes, anyone can build a Cub Scout Pack or a Boy Scout Troop. You only need enthusiasm. Contact your local council, and the district executive will help you with the particulars. You will need a chartered organization like a church or a fraternal organization. My pack is chartered by the Kiwanis. When the paperwork is in place, just spread the word: if you build it, they will come. 🙂

    • With all cub scout handbooks changing in 2015, the cubmobile is no longer a Bear requirement. But our district is holding a pushmobile race nonetheless. Here’s a site I found with basically a picture copy of the previous Bear handbook cubmobile: along with detail parts list and steps. As with pinewood derby, this isn’t the only way to build it, just depends on your local race rules. Good luck.

  5. Can you tell me more about setting up the weight classes? The pinewood derby is very competive with an equal weight, how does weight effect The cubmobile race? How do you keep it fair for smaller Scouts?

    • At my district Cubmobile race, they required the boys to register as teams – two boys per team, two teams per cubmobile. Each team had to consist of boys in the same den. It’s up to you to pair the boys up as you and they like, but I would highly recommend you have a practice race a week or so before your district’s race. Your district may have different rules so check with them about how they run it.

  6. We started doing cub mobile races a few years back. Since we live in an area that is relatively flat and do not have access to any safe hills we changed it up a bit. A local park has a figure eight walking path. We use one loop of it and the boys are teamed up and they take turns pushing each other. To even the playing field we add stations that they have to complete a task. A few of the stations involve a car wash/ fuel station (driver gets washed with a spray bottle and pusher get a glass of water) and a tire change station ( they have to take their shoes off and back on). It’s a lot of fun and we usually have 3 or 4 cars show up.

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