The History of the Pinewood Derby

The Pinewood Derby is a hugely successful racing event that attracts the interest of millions of fans from all over the world. The concept behind the race is very straightforward and allows families to come together and create a car for the son to race. The racing event is organized by the Cub Scouts, and the cars are traditionally constructed from ultra basic kits containing wood, plastic wheels and axles. Some extremely creative families are able to construct their cars from materials that they have found.

The concept of the Pinewood Derby originated in 1952 from the clubmaster Don Murphy. This innovative idea was based on wanting to create a closer father son relationship within families. The idea of constructing the racing cars would bring craftsmanship and sportsmanship together through one united competition.

Don Murphy had a 10 year old son who was too young to race in the traditional soap box derby. Therefore, he wanted to create a unique event that the younger Cub Scouts could be involved within and still show their creative side. Don Murphy had exceedingly high family values, and his dedication to the Cub scouts was incredible.

Over a year, Don Murphy began to work out the overall plans of the new Pinewood Derby, and his model making skills allowed him to create the perfect concept. The idea of racing smaller cars down a track for the younger Cub Scouts seemed a truly natural thing for the boys to do. The event would be a very fun and safe event for the young boys to participate within, and for their fathers to be a part of. Don Murphy approached the Management Club at North American aviation where he was employed to try to raise sponsorship for his new event.

The Management Club loved the idea and the event was soon being organized for the first ever race for May 15th 1953. Not only did the Management Club sponsor the event, but they also funded the kits to build the Pinewood Derby cars. The kits that were provided for the Cub Scouts, to construct their Pinewood Derby cars were very basic. However, the design has changed very little over the years, and many believe this is what has continued to make the event such a monumental success. Every Cub Scout was provided with a 7 3/8 block of wood, small wooden struts, axles and wheels. These items were placed within a brown paper bag and allocated to every Cub Scout.

On the day of the first event, the club house was packed with eager Cub Scouts and supportive parents who had helped to build the cars. Don Murphy looked around the room and saw excited faces and looks of awe and pleasure. From that moment, he knew he had created something extremely distinctive and an event that would last. After the huge success of the first race, the Los Angeles County Department of Recreation asked Don's permission to copy the event. Since that first race in 1953 the Pinewood Derby has grown from strength to strength and is still as popular today. The Pinewood Derby races are premier events within many organizations, and it is believed that over 50 million children have built their very own Derby car.