After much trepidation on his father’s part, David’s car raced successfully in the annual Pinewood Derby at his Cub Scout pack. “Success” is being defined as a car that stayed on the track and finished the race. I became petrified when I first saw the block of wood which was supposed to morph into a racing car. I was getting more and more worried as I heard the presenters talk about drilling the axles, removing the burrs, lessening the wheel resistance, allowable vertical clearances, and optimal strategies for adding weight to the car so it was more stable.
Transforming blocks of wood into anything is not in my skill set, so this was a major problem. Luckily, there were a couple of Dads in the pack who very much had woodworking in their skill sets. They brought in a couple of special saws and David’s wood block was magically cut into the respectable design that David had drawn. Even better, my neighbor (whose son is also in the pack) has an extensive tool shop, offered to have David and I over to work on the cars, and knew all about drilling the axles. I had had visions of picking the wrong drill bit and splitting my son’s prospective car into pieces with incompetent drilling. The offer to go next door was gratefully accepted.
We were able to work on the sander (I had helpfully brought sandpaper) and my neighbor cut out the divot in the bottom to allow for more weight. He also had some pieces that worked as weights. The last step at my neighbor’s garage was to pop the wheels on after the drill press did its work. I was able to do that. Suddenly, almost miraculously, the car was ready for painting. I knew I could handle working with David on that.
We happened to take the car to the regular Scout meeting. There was a scale there, and I got the official information that the car exceeded the 5 ounce weight limit—by .15 oz. That is correct, there was a potential disqualification situation; however, this problem was well within my abilities to solve. I simply had to remove some of the glue, take out the heaviest of the weights, and then the car was ready for painting. I took a chance and assumed I had taken out enough weight.
Fortunately, we had some arts and crafts paint in the house. I took those, gave David his smock and the chance to get to work. He had the two layer design all planned out. The first layer was green. That was easy, so he painted the car green. He actually did the painting. The next day Mommy was home, so he was able to paint the second layer of the design. This part included various (ninja) symbols of and for himself. When he paint dried, we had success! The car was painted and it ran! That is, it ran along the ground, which was no guarantee that it would run on the real track.
I knew that if I got to the hall the night before, I could discreetly test the car to make sure it ran on the actual track and passed inspection. (Pinewood Derby cars are weighed and must pass a vertical clearance check). Fortunately, the NinjaMobile weighted in at 4.65 ounces, under the legal limit. (The NinjaMobile was renamed from “David’s Car” on the advice of a friend who told me that each car needed a cool name—which David provided). I was admittedly a bit concerned about the whole vertical clearance issue. I was not sure if the car had the necessary 3/8 inch clearance. When I had measured it, I got 2/8….and 2 is less than 3, so I may have had a problem. The problem was averted when the timing crew needed a fourth car to test the timing system. The NinjaMobile ran down the track—I guess it had enough vertical clearance! Unfortunately for us, David’s car did not win any of his heats. The NinjaMobile competed well, and only lost by a matter of seconds! He was disappointed about that; I was just happy it ran all four times and got to the finish line!