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Pinewood Derby Kit History

As you probably know, pinewood derby racing began in 1953, when
Cubmaster Don Murphy developed and implemented the concept. It
didn't take long for the idea to catch on, and in 1956, BSA contracted
with Beta Crafts to produce official BSA kits. Although the basic
concept of the pinewood derby race has not changed since 1953, the
kits have undergone dramatic changes.

This article will walk through the changes to the official BSA kit from
1956 to the present. I will identify the various kits that were produced;
many of which are still commonly found on eBay. (Please ignore
the red numbered dots - I used these to keep the kits organized)


Figure 1: Original Kit - 1956

The first official kit was used for over 20 years. The kits were sold in
unpackaged bulk sets, as well as individual shrink-wrapped kits. The
large nail axles were not placed directly into the block, but instead were
inserted into wooden axle supports, which were glued into notches in the
bottom of the block. Also, as be can be seen, this kit used narrow
wheels; and the block is 1-3/4 inches tall with a large 'cockpit' cutout.

Figure 2: Original Kit - Unassembled

In 1977, a new version of the kit was introduced with several fundamental
changes: (1) offset the axle positions to approximately the current
position, (2) 1-1/4 inches tall with a small cockpit, and (3) new, wider
profile wheels. This kit also introduced the current kit name of "Grand
Prix Pinewood Derby". This kit was only produced for a few years, so it
is relatively rare to find one in the original packaging. Cars built from this
kit can be identified by the wooden axle struts in the modern position.

Figure 3: First "Grand Prix Pinewood Derby Kit"
(Photo courtesy of Rick Sanner)

The next iteration eliminated the axle supports, and introduced the axle
slots on the bottom of the block. At this point the kit virtually resembled
the modern kit, except for the presence of the cockpit. Cars built from
this kit can be identified by the acronym 'CMI' as raised letters on the
wheel sidewalls. CMI stands for 'Consolidated Models Incorporated',
which is the parent company of Beta Crafts.

Figure 4: "CMI" Kit

Figure 5: "CMI" Wheel

A minor kit change occurred in 1988. Other than the packaging change,
there were subtle changes in the block and axles, while the wheels were
improved. The new wheels had blank sidewalls, and raised lettering
inside the wheels.

Figure 6: Upgraded Wheel Kit

Figure 7: New Wheel
(Photos from Don De Young at Pinewood Derby Mania)

The next iteration was only a change to the packaging, and the addition
of a bar code. Unfortunately I have not been able to ascertain the date of
introduction of this kit.

Figure 8: "Bar Code" Kit

Beta Crafts then introduced a kit with a box similar to the current box,
but with a black end flap. The kit itself was modified to eliminate (finally)
the cockpit. Again, I have not been able to ascertain the date of
introduction of this kit.

Figure 9: Modern Box - Black End Flaps


In 1998, BSA began purchasing kits from Homecrafters Manufacturing
(now known as Kahoot). The Kahoot kits used the same modern box,
but the end flaps were orange. Initially, the Kahoot kits used a unique
wheel. This was soon changed to the modern wheel design, so kits with
the unique wheel design are rare. In 1999, the kit contract was given
exclusively to Homecrafters.

Figure 10: Modern Box

Figure 11: Unique Wheel Initially Provided by Homecrafters
(Photos from Don De Young at Pinewood Derby Mania)

Figure 12: Modern Wheels
(Photos from Don De Young at Pinewood Derby Mania)

Since 1999, there have been few changes. Most noticeably, the current
box now sports sealed end flaps instead of tucked end flaps and is blue in color.
This was done to keep the nails and papers from falling out, and for "security". In
addition, the mold numbers changed year from 1-16 .

With the widespread adoption of pinewood derby style events by many
non-BSA organizations, various alternate kits flourish from many
manufacturers, ranging from vintage to modern styles. If you are
interested in trying a vintage-style kit, they are still manufactured by
Beta Crafts.

I would like to thank Art Hasselbach of Beta Crafts for his assistance
with this article. Beta Craft products can be found at:

Read More at: Pinewood Derby Times Volume 7, Issue 13

A feature article is a regular part of the Pinewood Derby Times Newsletter. To subscribe to this free e-newsletter, please visit:

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