This was a weekend where I learned more about myself than usual… through the Cub Scout Pinewood Derby.
The wisdom I read was that your car only goes as fast as the build step you’re worst at. For me, I thought it was the wheels…turned out, it was my own perfectionism.
This is my son’s third year participating in the pinewood derby. The first year, he chose a design out of a book. Super-ambitious, super fragile, and not fast at all. The axles weren’t aligned, it wobbled down the track.
Second year, I helped him reproduce the lego car below with our pine block.
It was pretty pathetic. We carved the Leonidas character out of clay. His car won “funniest design” but none of the races. Right after the races, he said “next year I want a simple wedge with nothing on it.” I figured he was just mad, but took note in the recesses of my brain.
This year, in January, I began playing with my dremel tool. I got plans off the internet, and I built a replica of the 1955 Le Mans winner, a Jaguar D-Type. It looked pretty awesome, but I went overboard. My wife watched me lovingly smoothing it with an emery board and said “this car sickens me. Shame on you. Our son did not build this car, and every moment you spend on it you are letting him down.”
I knew she was right. My ADD took over and I chose the idol over the relationship. So, I stopped working on it. It remained painted but unfinished. One week before race day, I went back to my son and discussed the issue with him. He agreed that a wedge was the best way to proceed at this point.
So, we cut a new block, drilled axle holes, Drilled a hole for tungsten weights, filled and sanded, sanded, polished axles, primed, sanded, and then all that remained was the design. He wanted it painted a solid silver. I got out a gold leafing kit that I had never used: “I don’t have silver, but we do have real gold that we can use to gild the car instead of paint.” Once he realized that gold leaf was better than spray paint, he was agreed with gusto.
We spread a coat of adhesive, I did my best gilding the car, we spread the sealant topcoat, and drove to the location to turn it in. We lubricated the wheels one last time, and the sealant was still drying when we gave the car to the judges for weighing and impound. Maximum weight is 5oz, and the wedge came in at 4.8oz. We superglued a small tungsten weight on top of the car. 5.0 ounces. Done, high five! When they asked him the name of the car, he christened it “Money”.
Just in case, I brought the Jaguar. Its hips were too wide to pass inspection. When I ran it down the track, it was pathetically slow. My shame was complete.
Race day was yesterday, Sunday morning. I was handling the timing gate and software, so I was pretty busy and wasn’t watching my son all that much. But when his den came up to race, I noticed that there was some stiff competition. Every race that the red car ran, it won. Every race my son’s car ran, it won. They would only face off head to head three times.
Winner of Best Design (Minecraft Emerald Sword), Winner of Most Original (BART Car), “Money”, “THE (red) CAR”.
Those races were SO close! I couldn’t believe the time differential, sometimes 4/10ths of a second. But my boy won all three. He won a brass plaque for fastest car in his den, and he one a gold medal for the whole competition. I was so happy for him, and so happy that I had listened to the wisdom of my wife. Thank you, Lord, for keeping me humble and choosing relationship over my own ambitions. Even my daughter had fun. I gave her the Jaguar to play with, and after the races were over she ran it down the track during free time.