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Heartbreak at the Weigh-In

During the weigh-in at our race, I am often asked to give advice or assist
children and their parents with making the final weight adjustment on their
cars. I generally avoid doing the actual work, as I don't want to damage a
car, and of course the child/parent team really should do the work. But
occasionally it becomes necessary for me to 'get my hands dirty'.

I distinctly remember one occasion when a mom brought in her son's car. The
dad had to work and she was not at all comfortable with making a weight
adjustment. Unfortunately, the car was about 0.2 ounce overweight, and no
provision had been made for easily reducing the weight. The only
opportunity appeared to be to drill into a rectangular weight epoxied into a
pocket in the bottom of the car.

So, I took the drill in one hand, and used a rag to hold down the car with
the other hand. The bit was placed on the weight, the drill started and I
quickly realized that the material was not lead, but was likely the lead
substitute (basically zinc) sold at hobby stores. If you have never drilled
into this stuff, it is very hard. So, I took a firmer grip on the car,
pressed a little harder with the drill, and then disaster happened. The
drill bit caught in the weight, ripping it from the car, and at the same
time tearing the car out of my hand. The car ended up (minus a wheel) on
the floor, and I ended up at the mercy of the mother.

I am still amazed that she held her temper in check. Maybe it was the shock
of the event, or maybe she had an amazing level of self-control. All I
know is that I didn't receive the verbal lashing that I was expecting.

Another man and I assessed the damage, and then we repaired the car the best
we could. At the race I gathered enough courage to face the dad and explain
what happened. His wife had already told him, and he had either already
vented, or he also had an amazing level of self-control.

What happened to the car? It managed to stay in a few heats, but was then
eliminated somewhere in the middle of the pack. For my own sanity, I have
always assumed that it wasn't going to win a trophy anyway.

I am now even more careful if I must work on another family's car; and I
don't drill into zinc.

From Pinewood Derby Times Volume 1, Issue 8

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