How To Build a Legal Pinewood Derby Car with LEGO® Bricks in 6 Steps
Building a Pinewood Derby compatible car adding LEGO® Bricks
Most pinewood derby race rules require you to use the wooden block, wheels and axles from the official kit that was issued for that race. This guide tells you how to build an official pinewood derby car and add LEGO® Bricks on top so you can race in a BSA Cub Scout (or similar) pinewood derby race.
If you are NOT required to use the wood block, wheels and axles from your kit, then you can build a complete, fast Derby Car made from LEGO® bricks using Pinewood Pro's new PRO Brick Wheel Assembly and Zinc Brick Weight that snaps into any LEGO® brick. Read our Guide for Building a Derby car made from LEGO® bricks .
So here is How to Build a Pinewood Derby Car using LEGO® Bricks in 6 Steps
Step 1: Drill Your Pinewood Block First
You must use the official pinewood derby block as the base of your car because all pinewood derby rules require you to use the official block from your kit.
Before doing anything else to your block, I strongly recommend drilling your axle slots. While drilling axle holes is not required, this will save you lots of time and help you avoid several problems. Consider these advantages.
- Your car will steer straight and cars that roll straight are faster because they don't lose valuable speed when they bang off the center rail.
- The axle slots in pinewood derby blocks are square and too small for the axle, it is invariably difficult to insert a round axle into a square hole. This usually forces you to use a hammer making it impossible to get your axles straight.
- If you drill the axle holes you can literally push the axles in with your finger!
- If the axle slot is not drilled, your block can crack when you force the axle in.
- If your rules allow drilling new axle holes, you can also consider drilling new axle holes closer to the edge of the block to create an extended wheelbase for better stability.
If you have a drill press (or know someone with one), you can drill the axle slot or drill new axle holes. I've found a 2.2mm drill bit to be the optimal diameter for pinewood derby axles.
If you don't have a drill press, the PRO Driller Tool from Pinewood Pro is easy to use and comes with a 2.2mm drill bit.
The perfect block to build a pinewood derby car with LEGO® bricksis a BSA block cut 1/2" high. While you can make the block even thinner, you risk developing cracks, especially if you don't drill the axle holes. 1/2" also leaves enough wood for tungsten cylinders to weight your car.
The Thin Cut pinewood derby car below features drilled axles slots and an optional axle hole in the left front to raise a wheel (a well know speed trick).
If you don't want to cut your block or drill axle holes, you might want to use the Drilled Wedge Block that features drilled axle holes with a raised wheel option. It also includes pre-drilled 3/8" weight holes for tungsten cylinders.
Step 2: Cut your pinewood derby block
Now that you have your axle slots drilled, you need to remove lots of wood from your car block so the block is lighter and you have plenty of room to add bricks.
Cut the block lengthwise ¼" above the top of the axle slot. If you choose to, you can shape the block to make the nose sharper or bring in the sides but whatever you do be sure to leave ¼" above and on both sides of the axle slot so there is enough wood to support your axles.
If you have less than ¼" of wood around your axles and you didn't drill your axle slots (step 1 above!), your axles may split the wood when you insert them.
After you cut your block, sand it to remove the rough areas. This will help your bricks adhere better to the wood.
Step 3: Paint your block
I know you are anxious to glue some LEGO® bricks onto your block, but I suggest you prepare and paint the block first. If you try to sand or paint the block after you have applied LEGO® parts, you will inevitably get paint on the bricks and ruin your cool looking car.
Sand all the sharp edges and rough areas. Next apply one or two coats of sanding sealer because pine wood is very porous and if you don't have a base coat, it will soak up the first coat of paint.
Before painting, think about what type of car you want to build and choose an appropriate color for the base. You might want a solid black base so it kind of disappears or you might want a bright red base to make your car hot or yellow or white so you can apply flames decals that will stand out.
Once you finished painting the base and applying decals, you should put a coat of clear lacquer sealer over it to protect the paint job and your decals.
Step 4: Secure brick base plates to your block
The next step is to glue base plates on the top of the car. Base plates are the thin plates that come in various sizes like 2x2, 4x4, 4x12, etc. You can use any combination of base plates.
Pinewood Derby Car Design using LEGO® bricks Hint:
The ideal width is 6 nodes wide which covers the width of a pinewood derby block with about 1/16" over hang on either side, but you must use only 5 nodes wide where your wheels are! If your plates are 6 nodes wide near your wheels, the LEGO® plate will rub on your wheels slowing your car. So, rather than mix and match, you might want to make your LEGO® plates 5 nodes wide the length on your pinewood derby block.
You can get creative with the colors of your base plates making one side one color and the other another color, or mix and match lots of colors for a rainbow effect.
To get the maximum flexibility you would want to cover the entire top of the block with base plates. But if you don't have enough base plates, you can spread them out and build your car above the base plates with bigger LEGO® bricks.
Once you have all the base plates in place, glue them down with a good epoxy glue. I've seen too many cars crash at the finish line or slam hard into the stopper and the last thing you want is your base plates to dislodge and make your car to come apart and sprawl across the floor.
Pinewood Derby Car Design using LEGO® bricks Hint:
Connect the 2nd layer of bricks onto the base plates before gluing the base plates to your pinewood derby block. This insures that your base plates are lined up perfectly. If you glue them down first and they are not aligned, your bricks won't connect!
Step 5: Add LEGO® bricks to your pinewood derby car
The last step is the fun part….making a cool derby cars made from LEGO® bricks design on top of your pinewood base. Be creative and have fun making a cool, unique car!
The only requirements are that your car should not exceed 7 inches long or be wider than the block plus the wheels, 2.5 inches.
In addition, your car should not be higher than 4 inches so it doesn't hit the bottom of the timer gate at the finish line.
Once you have your car built, I suggest that you glue the parts in place. Glue LEGO® bricks together?? Yes! For the same reasons I described above, pinewood derby cars come screaming down the track and often slam into each other at the finish gate or into the stopper. The faster your car is, the more force it exerts at the finish line and the greater chance that parts come loose.
There is another critical reason for gluing your parts together:
To make your car the fastest it can be, you apply a lubricant to your axles (IF your rules allow it) to reduce friction. The best lubricants are PRO Graphite or Nyoil from Pinewood Pro.
We know that "Friction is the enemy of speed" but friction is the friend of LEGO® bricks!
Be careful when applying lubricants. The lubricants are designed to spread! It will migrate to your LEGO® bricks (trust me, it will), then those neat little connections that are holding your bricks together will get lubricated and parts will start popping off like Cub Scout popcorn!
If you are going to use a lubricant, I suggest Nyoil because it doesn't migrate as much as powdered graphite.
Step 6: Add Weights
Like all pinewood derby cars, your brick pinewood car needs the maximum weight allowed in your rules (typically 5.0 oz) to reach maximum velocity as it speeds to the finish line. Make your car weigh as close to 5.0 oz as possible by snapping on 2x2 zinc brick weights.
Making your Brick Derby Car Fast!
All of the speed secrets in our free How to Build A Fast Pinewood Derby Car guide and my Winning Pinewoood Derby Secrets book apply to your Brick Pinewood Derby Car as well. So have fun making a cool looking brick derby car but also build it for speed using as many speed secrets as you can.
While you can find ways to insert traditional pinewood derby weights, like tungsten cylinders or tungsten putty, the easiest way to add weight to a derby car built with LEGO® bricks is with a Zinc 2x2 Brick weight.
Each zinc weight is .44oz and easily snaps onto any standard brick.
Have fun building your Brick Derby Car and don't forget to email pictures for our new picture gallery.
LEGO® is a registered trademark of LEGO Juris A/S. The LEGO Group does not endorse or sponsor Pinewood Pro or its products, and is not affiliated in any way with Pinewood Pro. .
Winning Tips and Hints
Tips & Hints
If you are using 3/8" round weights, drill your 3/8" weight holes before cutting out the rest of the car because it is easier to hold the full block. Always use a clamp to hold your block before drilling or cutting. Safety First!
Looking for a pinewood derby car design template? Select from over 30 of Pinewood Pro's award winning Pinewood Derby Car Designs. They include everything from race cars to Military cars to a Nike Sneaker!
Looking for more cool car design ideas? Our free Pinewood Derby Car Design Guide has over 100 cool pinewood derby car design ideas.