Cub Scouts’ race speedsters for gold and glory

A Pine Box Derby racer may look like a block of wood with wheels, but see why these youngsters take pride in crafting the fastest – and most unusual- looking – gravity-powered race cars …

There’s no spinning tires – but still plenty of excitement – as this Pine Box Derby’s gatemaster, Bryan Bolster, releases the racers to run another heat.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
As the 2008 Pine Box Derby gets underway on a couple of weeks ago, there’s no smell of burning rubber or racing fuel in the Holy Family Catholic Church’s social hall.

But there is excitement in the air, as Cub Scout Pack 64’s members “race for the gold” not long ago.

At the top of a long, steeply inclined track, racemaster Bryan Bolster carefully centers each of four hand-made racers – each a carved, painted block of wood with wheels – on the track. “This track was made by Rob Freund,” says Bolster, “he owns Father & Sons Hardwood Floors on SE 13th Avenue in Sellwood. I store it where I work.”

Cub Scout Matthew Young carefully places his hand-made racer on the Pine Box Derby track before the final, deciding race. He went on to win this year’s derby.

Anticipation increases each time Bolster reaches for the large lever that releases the cars and triggers a precise, electronic timing system.

Everyone claps and cheers as cars zip down the track, picking up incredible speed before they pass under the timing gate near the bottom, and crash into a huge, soft pillow at the end of the run.

Carefully adjusting the wheels on his car in the “pits” is Mitch Bolster.

Hand-made speedsters
“This event goes way back,” says Tom Armstrong, Scoutmaster of Pack 64.  “It is one of the traditional, annual events done by Cub Scouts.”

The kids don’t just go to a store and buy a race car, we learn. “They’re all made it home,” Armstrong explains. “The kids all start with the same kit: Basically, a block of wood, and the wheels. They craft their own shapes, and come up with their own designs.”

The only restriction, he adds, is the racecar must meet certain weight requirements.

“The best thing about the event,” adds Armstrong, “is that the boys get to work with their hands. They learn basic shop skills – how to work with tools. Then, they get to see how well their car does, when they run the race.”

This year’s Cub Scout Pack 64 winners are: (back row, left to right) 1st place, Matthew Young; 2nd place, Zack Durst; 3rd place, Ben Rutter; 4th place, Peter Kurtz; (front) Grant Parsons, Best of Show; Kieran Armstrong, Most Original Car; and Ugliest Driver: Willis Schubert.

The winner is …
Heat after heat, cars with the fastest runs are pitted against one another, until there is a winner. This year, Matthew Young takes the first place trophy.

Even after the derby is over, kids continue to run their cars down the track – simply for the love of the race, not for any further hope of winning the race.

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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