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How to make a (really, really long) Pinewood Derby Track.

Watch SuperTrack set the World Record for the longest (529 feet!) Pinewood Derby Track.

Watch Pinewood Derby Racing on SuperTrack at the 2013 Grand Prix of Baltimore.

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Pinewood Derby Test Track

From time to time we receive a call wondering if we make a "test track" or if we will sell a single section or have a one lane version. The fundamental request being do we have something that will help in car development and testing?

The answer is no and yes.

We don't sell a test track or a one lane version. While we can sell a single section it is both inappropriate and probably too costly especially when you add large item shipping costs. But we do have a way to meet the fundamental request. That way, both useful and inexpensive, is outlined below.

First, the simple goals in car development.

  • We want the car to start and travel freely.
  • We want the car to travel straight (or if a "rail rider" to move one way very gently.)
  • We want the car to be stable at speed.

These goals are easily evaluated with a simple test track. Begin by going to a lumber store (e.g. Lowes), or perhaps your bedroom closet and obtaining a long closet shelf board. These are typically 3/4" by 12" and hopefully 8' long and cost about $15 (or free with your spouses' permission to raid the closet temporarily.)

Mark the shelf in the long dimension with several parallel lines using a pencil and straight edge.

Borrow a few paperback books (or several Kindles if you have them!) and activate the stopwatch on your smart phone. Stopwatch measurements make no sense with cars that are going very fast since human reaction time interferes with the required accuracy. However, with your car going very slowly down a very gentle slope the elapsed time will be quite long and reaction time errors will be minimized.

Congratulations, you now have a test track!

Place several paperback books under one short edge, place the car there and let it go. Note how straight it runs and how long it takes. Adjust - repeat. A benefit of the pencil lines is that they allow measurement without interference unlike the hard limits of a guide strip. As the car gets better, remove books until the car will run with only one thin book under the edge.

Once you have the car running freely and straight, place one end of the shelf on a chair and have the other end on a long hard surface such as a wooden floor or the garage floor. Now let the car go and see how stable it is at speed. Be sure the "chair" end is not so high that the car's front or back bumper rubs during the transition at the "floor" end of the shelf. For more information on starting ramp transitions click here.

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