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The history behind the Pinewood Derby’s success

The first pinewood derby was held back on May 15, 1953 by Cub Scout Pack 280C ofManhattan 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.”