Tussle of the miniature cars

Cub Scouts hold annual Pinewood Derby
Feb. 02, 2013 @ 05:04 PM

With hand-made model cars bearing names like “The Gator,” “Angry Birds” and “One Tusk,” Cub Scouts and their parents competed for trophies for the fastest, the most original and the most beautiful car in the annual Pinewood Derby at Northgate Mall.

Darrell Mangum II, 10, and his father took their miniature car “One Tusk” to the “pit area” at Northgate, where judges weighed it and ensured that the wheels were put on according to the rules. Derby cars must not weigh more than 5 ounces.

“One Tusk” had a carving of an elephant, and Mangum senior said most of the figure was carved by hand. His son said he had competed before, and while he wanted to take home first place in originality, he also would be happy with third place. The car reflects his son’s interest in paleontology, Mangum said.

The first Pinewood Derby, according to the Boy Scouts’ website, was in 1953 in Manhattan Beach, Calif. Boys in the first through fifth grades, with help from their parents, take a block of wood that comes in a kit, and shape it using various tools to make a model car.

The Scouts competing in the Mawat District’s derby Saturday had already competed in contests at their individual Cub Scout Packs, which chose the best cars to compete in the different categories. Adult Scout leaders were helping to put down a track that resembled a giant toy raceway for the competition for fastest car. The track is hooked up to a computer that measures the cars’ speeds, said Elaina Cossin, the chair for civic service and activities for Mawat District. The computer program also calculates the speed at which the model might be traveling if it were a real vehicle, she said.

Michael Hale Gray, who has been announcing the derby for 15 years, said he is always amazed by the work the Scouts and parents do. “It’s fun. It’s shared competition,” Gray said. “I’m always careful to thank the moms and dads who bring the boys to the meetings every week.”

Owen Tuttle, 7, of Pack 400, also was competing for most original with his car “Skateboard,” which he made with the help of his father Frank Tuttle. “He helped with the sanding and the painting,” said Owen’s mom Susan Tuttle. “I put on the stickers,” Owen said of his car that looked like a miniature skateboard. Frank Tuttle said Owen “had a lot of different ideas for it.”

Thomas Nason and his son Thomas, 7, also were seeking accolades for originality with “The Gator.” Their car used a hinge to allow the gator’s mouth to open. Nason said his son also painted the alligator’s red tongue, and made the clay head. Nason senior placed a piece of wood that held the gator’s mouth open, with the sign stating “Do Not Feed the Alligators.” “That was his idea,” Nason senior said.

Jeffrey Ellis, the Cubmaster for Pack 411 of Union Baptist Church, had a box of cars that were in competition. One was named “Angry Birds,” because the maker was angry because he did not win at last year’s competition. Ellis showed another car shaped like a screwdriver, which showed skill in shaving wood into a shape.

Learning skills is part of the process, not just competition. Nason said his son was learning how to use templates or patterns to shape wood correctly. Klay West was at the derby with his song Jake and Alex. Jake, 7, was competing for fastest car with “Lightning.” They used a hand miter saw to make “Lightning” to help Jake learn how to use that tool, his father said. Jake painted the car and picked the designs.

Mary Patterson was with her son Jeremiah Christian Patterson, 7, a Scout. They were at the derby to support Pack 137 from St. Joseph AME Church. “I think they get a sense of confidence,” from the competition, Mary Patterson said. “They’re gaining responsibility and being part of a team.”