if you had a fast car

I wanna go fast!

These are the dreaded words I didn’t want to hear from the Hybrid. See, his cub scout pack’s pine wood derby is coming up in a few weeks and we have to get his car ready. And by ready I mean, cut, assembled, painted, sanded, axels polished, wheels aligned, meet maximum weight, and not necessarily in that order I presume.

See, I’m not big on the handicrafts. I’m not really good with my hands when it comes to building or fixing things. This has been no point of confusion for my father-in-law, who is an engineer by trade and could put Angus MacGuyver to shame. Within the first few weeks of owning our house he built a sandbox for the boys in our back yard, as well as installed a hanging tire swing, a tradition playground swing, built a support system to hang yet a third swing from the side of one of our trees, and when our kitchen sink became clogged, rerouted the drain through some PVC piping hanging from the ceiling in our basement.

I, on the other hand, know how to use a plastic snake thing to unclog a drain, and have the basic hammer/screwdriver skillset. And I can use a handsaw. Mostly.

So when the time came around to work on the derby car this year, the Hybrid said he wasn’t concerned with winning. He wanted to build a cool looking car. Sweet, I thought. In the past, he created cars that looked like a landspeeder from Star Wars and painted some other designs on his cars. He’s used Lego mini figures as drivers and Lego window windshields from some of his Lego car sets. This time, he said he wanted to do the same thing. He’s not really into competition; he likes to participate for the excitement of the game itself but he doesn’t really care about winning. Actually, he doesn’t really care about not winning. While he doesn’t like to lose, he accepts it gracefully.

the Hydrid and his first pine wood derby car, a Star Wars landspeeder. He placed 3rd in his den. Out of three scouts.
the Hydrid and his first pine wood derby car, a Star Wars landspeeder. He placed 3rd in his den. Out of three scouts.

Until this past cub scout meeting. The scoutmaster was going over some of the rules and what was expected of the scouts to do with their cars, After this brief announcement, the Hybrid runs over to me and states, “I wanna make a fast car!”


In the past I’ve used YouTube to get ideas how to make the derby car faster. Polishing the axels with many different grades of sandpaper, baking the car in the oven for a couple of hours to “dry it out” so more weight can be added to it (huh?), where to place the added weight on the car to make it “go faster”, bend said axels so that only the edges of the wheels connect to the track for less friction and have only three of the wheels touching at any time, adjusting one of the front wheels (preferably the one touching the track) so that it rides the center rail to keep it from bouncing off the sides of the track to again keep friction down to a minimum.

I never thought I would need to put these to use. So after the pack meeting I ordered some bent axels and some powdered graphite on-line. (The graphite is a lubricant to make the wheels spin faster.) I need to bake the car this week to dry it out. Then the Hybrid will saw it to shape and help with the sanding of it. He’ll paint and decorate it as minimally as his can to keep the aerodynamics good and I’ll install the wheels and axels because those are hard as hell to install as it is.

Now, I know his chances are slim because the fathers of the other scouts take this really, really seriously, but the least I can do is give him a fighting chance. No matter how slim.