La Grange Cub Scouts get ready to roll
Vince Barcelona and his grandfather Walter Romaniak work on a Pinewood Derby car in La Grange. | Rob Hart~Sun-Times Media
Did you know…
Derby Dad: Cubmaster Donald Murphy introduced the first gravity-powered wooden car race to Cub Scout Pack 280C of Manhattan Beach, Calif., in 1953
Top speed: Nearly 20 mph for gravity power, the equivalent of 200 mph for a full-sized vehicle
Production line: Nearly 100 million racers built by Scouts since 1953
All in a row: If all cars were lined up, they would stretch 7,000 miles from Charlotte, N.C. to the North Pole
Regulation dimensions: 2 ¾ inches wide, 7 inches long, weighing 5 ounces
Updated: March 25, 2013 1:19AM
LA GRANGE — Vincent Barcelona, 7, decided to go with an entirely new design for his Pinewood Derby entry this year.
Last year’s model drew from military inspiration, a tank decked out with camouflage stickers and a turret glued on from a toy.
But this year, the Ogden Avenue School second-grader selected a sleeker, aerodynamic design and painted it silver, following hours of sanding. He looked forward to adding the finishing touches, racing stripe decals, before race day on Saturday.
“Polishing the axles was my favorite part,” Vincent explained.
He demonstrated how to insert the slender axel into a drill chuck, tighten the mechanism and then polish off bumps with a file for a smooth rotation when inserted in the car’s plastic wheel.
Dan Barcelona readily admits he’s not handy around a workbench to guide his son’s project, so he tapped his father-in-law, Walter Romaniak of La Grange. Three generations instead of two bonded to craft a car from a block of wood in the Boy Scout kit.
“I didn’t have a band saw, so I used a hack saw, and we sanded for hours,” the senior member of the design team explained.
Dan Barcelona said the derby is just one of many activities he and his son enjoy as members of Cub Scout Pack 39, sponsored by the First Baptist Church of La Grange. They also designed entries for the pack’s Raingutter Regatta and rocket launch, and enjoyed camp outs in the woods and at the Field Museum.
Cubmaster Lisa Marovec said 50 first- through fifth-graders are expected to enter the race with a series of heats that draws up to 150 spectators. Each den, or grade level, votes on the most awesome car, and awards are given to the top three finishers in each den and then overall champ among all Scouts’ cars, Marovec said.
“The Pinewood Derby is a quintessential Cub Scout event. It should be fun and not taken too seriously,” she said. “It builds relationships and good sportsmanship.”
The pack runs a Pinewood Derby Café for hungry spectators, featuring the ever-popular walking taco, comprised of meat, Fritos, sour cream and lettuce in a plastic bag, the cubmaster explained. Organizers also are holding a bake sale to benefit Sandy Hook Elementary School, where a Tiger scout was killed during the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn.
“It’s a very colorful event with NASCAR banners and racing hats. We try to make it so all the kids feel like winners,” Marovec said. “We’ll have 25 hand-made trophies.”
“I have seen a Tiger scout be upset after not winning,” she said. “But by the time they’re older as Wolves, Bears and Webelos, they’re rooting for their friends. Learning occurs.”