A chunk of wood, some plastic wheels and four nails.

With a few modifications, ingenuity and a dash of creativity, Boy Scouts around the nation have been turning those simple items into race cars, year after year.

It’s the Pinewood Derby – a competition where scouts often work together with parents or guardians to build 7-inch, 5-ounce cars from a scout-approved kit and race their creations down a track.

Osakis Cub Scouts Pack 426 held its annual Pinewood Derby on Sunday, Jan. 12 at the Osakis Community Center.

After many different heats, the grand champions emerged – Miles Brouns, first place; Corbin Brouns, second place; and Levi Hanson, third place.

A lot of work goes into the competition. Scouts typically cut the wood into a design they like, sand the car, paint it and add weight to it, according to Osakis Cubmaster Karla Brouns.

Since there are no national pinewood derby rules, Pack 426 came up with its own rules to put everyone on an equal racing field.

The rules are specific. Some examples – wheel bearings, washers and bushings are prohibited; the car can’t ride on springs; only official Cub Scout Grand Prix Pinewood Derby wheels and axles are permitted; only dry lubricants are allowed; and details such as as steering wheel and driver are permissible as long as the details do not exceed the maximum length, width and height specifications.

The Pinewood Derby gave the Osakis scouts the opportunity to have some indoor fun. Cubmaster Brouns said they have other events lined up in the next few weeks as well – a sleep-over at the Osakis Community Center, going to a Blizzard hockey game, hitting the slopes at Andes Tower Hill and the Scouting for Food service project that provides items and donations for the local food shelf.

Pinewood Derby history

In some parts of the country, today’s Pinewood Derby races include precision starting gates, glow-in-the-dark cars and electronic finish lines that measure time to the thousandth of a second.

But it all started with a two-lane wooden track in California.

Cubmaster Don Murphy dreamed up the idea for the Pinewood Derby in 1953, according to the Boy Scouts of America blog for adult leaders, “Bryan on Scouting.” It provided the following information about the history of the derby:

Don Murphy’s 10-year-old Cub Scout, Donn, wanted to compete in the soap box derby run by the Management Club at North American Aviation, where his dad worked.

But this race involving kid-size, gravity-powered cars was just for those ages 12 and up.

Don Murphy had the perfect idea to cheer up his son. The pack would hold a miniature soap box derby using hoagie-size cars the Cub Scouts could build with their parents.

Don Murphy remembered how much fun he had making model cars as a child in La Porte, Indiana and thought, why not bring that same joy to his Cub Scout pack?

“I also wanted to devise a wholesome, constructive activity that would foster a closer father-son relationship and promote craftsmanship and good sportsmanship through competition,” he later told Scouting magazine.

Despite all the technological advances, the Pinewood Derby is still about Cub Scouts and their parents making custom race cars that go fast, look cool or both, the blog noted.

“But most of all,” the blog said, “it’s still about a parent and child working together to build lasting memories.”