THERE ARE NEW BSA KITS THIS YEAR!
In December of 1998, there were several reports of "different" Pinewood Derby kits being sold by the BSA (see this thread on rec.scouting.usa). Kit re-sellers, like Hugh Hodges of Hodges Hobby house were also noticing that some kits they were receiving were packaged differently and contained different contents than others.
(Images of all wheels, front and rear, can be reviewed here.)
Seeing the 'possible' differences between these kits as a having a potential impact on the relative "fairness" in races where all three kits are used to build the competing cars, an ad-hoc Team of Pinewood Derby enthusiasts joined forces to perform evaluations of the kits in question. The following information summarizes the findings of this Team:
For the past 43 years the BSA has used a single supplier for the "Grand Prix Pinewood Derby® Kit" (#17006). This year however, the BSA National Distribution Center in Charlotte, NC is delivering three (3) "Official" kits from two (2) manufacturers.
THE 'EXTERNAL' KIT DIFFERENCES
The traditional kit supplied by the BSA is packaged in a box with 'black-ends.' These kits are virtually the same as the kits that were available last year (1997-1998.) They are also very similar to kits supplied the year previous (1996-1997) except that the cockpit 'cutout' had been removed, and, less obvious, the wheel mold had been very slightly revised by the manufacturer to facilitate production.
The 'new' kits that are showing up this year in BSA distribution centers and Trading Posts were being delivered with 'orange/gold' ends.
THREE DIFFERENT WHEEL DESIGNS
Once you open the boxes, the most obvious difference is in the wheel design. The traditional kit contained wheels that had a noticeably sunken hub and 14 spokes.(see image) What was really surprising though, was that the 'orange-ended' kits contain one of two additional wheel designs that both differ from the original wheel! One of the new wheel designs has a hub that is almost flush with the sidewall (see image), and the other wheel design has a similarly flush hub, but with 'raised letters' saying "PINEWOOD DERBY - BSA." (see image) Both of the new wheel designs only contain 12 spokes, as opposed to the 14 spoke 'original' design.
When all three wheels were accurately measured and weighed we found that the two new wheels differed significantly from the original wheel design. Some of the observed differences indicated that there may also be associated differences in the way that the wheels performed on a Pinewood Derby racecar. The specifics of these differences can be found on Hugh's New Scout Wheels and Axles page.
NEW AXLES TOO !
While there are now three wheel designs, there are only two axle designs. They are very similar in length, and have very similar heads and chisel points, but the newer axles are smaller in diameter. In the past a #43 drill bit was used to drill holes for the original kit axles. The new axles require a slightly smaller #44 bit. Again, the specifics of the axle differences and be found on Hugh's New Scout Wheels and Axles page.
TESTING THE NEW Vs. ORIGINAL KITS
When we discovered that the wheels and axles had differences in their respective designs that might have an effect on a car's performance, Cory Young went to work! Cory assembled two test track configurations in his home, and began building cars with two sets of axle holes each. He polished axles and wheels, and added or subtracted weight when lighter or heavier wheels were used. He utilized a timer with .001 accuracy, and ran the cars in eight heats per test for four days! Testing is not completed yet, but Cory's current test results are a MUST READ!
WHAT ABOUT THE WOOD BLOCKS?
The wood blocks contained in the new kits are cut to the same specifications as the original blocks. While some of you may have noticed some irregularities with axle slots not being square and/or parallel in the original kits in the past, wait'll you get one of the new blocks! We looked at over 15 new blocks, and found problems with almost all of them. Some of them were from 1/32" to 3/32" out of parallel, and they all had varying axle slot depths. When your Cub is preparing his block, make sure and give him a lesson on the importance of parallelism in wheel alignment. The new kit rule sheet instructs you to:
"Check the grooves to ensure that each is at a perfect 90-degree angle to the car body. A car with untrue axles tends to steer to one side or the other, causing it to rub up against the side of the lane strip, slowing it down. You can check the groove angles by using a square, a protractor, or even a piece of paper. Lay square on block to check for squareness and alignment of slot. Use two hacksaw blades side by side to redress the slots. Use the edge of the square as a guide."
ARE THE RULES SHEETS DIFFERENT?
The "RULES" sheets contained in both of the new kits are the same, but they differ from the original kit "RULES" sheet. While the 'rules and car specifications' are verbatim the same in all kits, the construction hints sections are slightly different. The original 'rules sheet' has a section on "Gravity and Friction" that new 'rule sheet' does not. The new 'rule sheet' has a section on squaring mis-aligned axle slots (pay heed!!) that original 'rule sheet' does not. (Click here to review the new Rule Sheet.)
SUMMARY OF FINDINGS
- None of the three "kit / wheel / axle" combinations offer a distinct advantage or disadvantage.
- Pay close attention to axle slot squareness on your wood block when using the new kits.
- The wheels with the "raised letters" seemed to have consistently smooth treads, without the 'saddle-like' deformations seen on the other two wheels.
- While preparing test wheels, Cory discovered that the commercially available 'wheel-turning-mandrels' do not fit either of the new wheels. Lets see how long it takes someone to get a replacement into the marketplace!
- For the foreseeable future, when the "Replacement Wheel Sets" (BSA No. W17007) and the "EZ Eliminator" kit (BSA No. W7610) are purchased from the BSA, they will contain the original wheels.
- The new wheel without the "raised letters" will disappear after this year. If you are inclined to collect such things, you better find some NOW!
- At this time, it looks like both kit manufacturers will continue to produce Pinewood Derby kits.
The 'Kit Evaluation Team' consists of a group of individuals from all corners of the USA. These individuals all share a passion for the Pinewood Derby, and its fine traditions. The Team members are:
- Stan Pope
From the W.D. Boyce Council in Peoria, IL, Stan has a long list of achievements as a Scouter including: Cub Roundtable Commissioner and District Commissioner, as well as having been honored with the Silver Beaver. He is the author of "Pope's Pinewood Pages," Ringmaster of the "Pinewood Derby Racing Webring," author of "Learn To Build A Winner," and a Derby enthusiast specializing car design, race organization, and the theories and accuracy of differing racing methods.
- Hugh Hodges
From San Carlos, CA, Hugh is the owner/proprietor of Hodges Hobby House specializing in Pinewood and Space Derby products and accessories. He is the author of two popular books "Pinewood & Space Derbies - How to Build Cars and Rockets that Win!" and "Organizing Pinewood and Space Derbies." Being so close to the commercial end of the Pinewood Derby market, Hugh was the first Team member to notice a difference between the kits. Hugh's role was to reverse-engineer' the new (and old) kits. See the new kit specifications on his Kit Differences pages.
- Cory Young
- Don De Young
From Mt. Diablo Silverado's Pack 215 in Walnut Creek, CA, Don is his Pack's Cubmaster and Co-Pinewood Derby Chairperson. He is also the author of his Council's International Committee website, the Pinewood Mania Website site, and The Virtual Cub Leader's Handbook. Don's role was to compare the kit rules / specifications / construction hints, and to gather information from each of the kit manufacturers. He was also responsible for the photographs of kit components that were used by the Team to make visual comparisons from our geographically diverse locations.