The history behind the Pinewood Derby’s success


The first pinewood derby was held back on May 15, 1953, by Cub Scout Pack 280C of Manhattan Beach, Calif. Who would have thought that 60 years later, the derby would be rolling on with 1 to 2 million participants a year?

The BSA’s Supply Group reports it has sold more than 100 million cars since that first derby.

What’s the secret to the event’s longevity? Mark Griffin, team leader of volunteer development, names two keys: flexibility and tradition. “It’s customizable by the Cub Scout pack,” he says.

For instance, a pack where many of the dads are engineers with tools and wood shops may want to craft beautiful cars with the exact weight and wheel dimensions. A few blocks away in the same district, a pack might have different expectations.

“I’ve seen packs where all they do is color the cars, stick on the wheels and race them,” Griffin says. “The big thing is a parent and Cub Scout working on a project together having a good time.”

Griffin expects few changes to this beloved tradition. “We’ve done a few things differently over the years, but this is a generational thing. We’ve got grandparents who did derbies. It was so cool for me as a dad of three Scouts, working on their cars and remembering my dad and me working on my car back in the ’60s.”


  1. Can anyone send me information regarding the Pine Wood Derby that was held in the mid-late 1960’s at the West Springfield Elks Lodge, Scout Pack #570? I had taken first place and my trophy never got engraved and I want to do it now. I’m looking for the exact date.
    Lenny Weiss

  2. I was in the Cub Scouts in 1973, I was only 7 but they let me in only if my gardian would become a den mother, which she did.
    I entered a pine wood derby compitition in Waterford Michigan held at my elementry school gymnasium. My car went undefeated against atleast 50 racers, the parents kept insisting that the car was illegal and kept having it weighed.
    But in the end my car went undeafeted and was at the legal weight and such. I still have the picture of me and the trophy, but since have lost track of car, bummer. Do they keepnrecord of those races, just curious.

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