Pinewood Derby Racing


  5KidsRacing's Proxy Shipping Procedure


I have tried a number of different shipping packaging techniques over the past 2 years of racing and I have found some methods work better than others.  During his "Oil Secrets" workshop DerbyDad4Hire showed us this method for shipping proxy cars.  If you want your cars to arrive safe and sound this is the only method that will work.  With this method I can pack up to 6 cars in one USPS large flat rate box.  I will walk through how I send cars safely every month to any pinewood derby league race.

Before You Start Packaging:

  • Make sure all paint & glue are completely dry
  • Make sure your car is lubed
  • Make sure you car weight is 5.045 oz's or under
  • Make sure the overall sizes of your car meets the rule requirements for the appropriate division
  • Label the bottom of your car with the car name and the builder name i.e. OSM4 - 5KidsRacing.  You can write these directly on the car or place a label on the underside of the car.
  • Mark the location with a black sharpie where the front of you car will rest on the starting pin.  If you have the luxury of a test track you can play around with the car positioning at the starting gate and find the position the results in the fastest time.  Mark this location with a single short black sharpie mark.  It doesn't have to be big, just visible.  If you do not have a test track I would mark the center location.  Marking this location will give you more consistent runs.

  • Mark the location with a black sharpie where the rear of your car will sit over the rails. If you have the luxury of a test track you can play around with the car positioning at the starting gate and find the position the results in the fastest time. Mark this location with two short black sharpie marks on the rear of the car. The marks don't have to be big, just visible. If you do not have a test track I would mark the locations where the car is centered on the rails. Marking these locations will give you more consistent runs.

Packaging Materials:

Boxes: 3" or 4" Wide x 8" Long x 2" Tall Corrugated Mailing Packing Boxes.

Foam: 3" Wide or 4" Wide x 8" Long x 1-1/2" Tall Stiff Foam. Foam should be a dense foam that doesn't compress real easy. You want your car to be held tight in position and be cushioned, but you don't want it bouncing around in a foam that is too soft. I recycle foam from shipments we receive at my work.

You can also find cheap supplies here at DerbyDad4Hire or Derby Evolution.  For $5 you can't go wrong.


Cutting the Foam:

First I cut the foam with my bandsaw into 3" wide x 8" long x 1-1/2" tall pieces.  I then cut the foam in half lengthwise down the 8" dimension and then tape it back together.  Now I have two 1-1/2" x 1-1/2" x 8" long pieces.  I do this so I can cut the depth (where the bottom of the car sits) easily without trying to dig at foam out with a utility blade.  You could skip this step of cutting the foam in half if you were to use a router to create the pocket for the car.


I tape the foam together and then cut out the pockets for my wheels first.  Leave the same amount of foam in front of the car and in the rear of the car.  Cut the wheel pockets all the way through the foam and make sure after the cuts are made the wheels don't touch any foam.  Next I place my car on the top of the foam and carefully trace around it with a utility blade.  Trace it so the car will fit very tight into the foam.  You can always remove a little later if it is too tight, but you can't put back material.  I usually trace on side and then move my car 1/16"- 1/8" towards that traced line and then trace the other side.  That way the line I traced is a little smaller than the car.


I remove the car and the cut the outline I just traced to about 3/4" deep or halfway through the foam.  I remove the tape and split the foam in half and then I cut the foam where the bottom of the car will sit.  I make sure to just meet the cut coming down from the top.  After I am finished I hot glue the two pieces of foam back together.


Next I cut a knotch in the end of the foam where the back of the car is located.  This knotch is where you reach in your finger to remove the car from the packaging.  You will find if you skip this step it is hard to remove the car.


Foam into the Box:

I now hot glue the foam into the 3" x 8" x 2" box.

I check the fit of the car in the box and make any slight adjustments if needed. The car should be nice and tight and the wheels should be free spinning and be away from any surface.


I cut a small piece of foam to act as a keeper when the box lid is shut. I put some hot glue on the box lid where I think the keeper should be located and then I place the keeper on the car where I want it. You want to hold the rear end of the car which carries most of the cars weight. I carefully close the lid so the keeper gets positioned into the glue and then I open the lid and let it dry.


Closing the Box:

When I am ready to ship I close the box.  The keeper should place firm pressure on the car when the lid is totally shut.  I then hold the box closed with packing tape.



Packing Multiple Cars:

I can fit up to 6 cars in a standard large flat rate USPS shipping box.  If I am only shipping 4 or 5 cars I will use an empty 2" x 3" x 8" mailing box as a spacer.  I use a soft foam all around the cars to further protect them from shipping damage.

Return Shipment Payment & Registration Form:

I created an account at USPS where I store all the league address and my payment information.  When you create an account you are able to create shipping labels, print shipping labels, pay for shipping and order free supplies.  All of the return address labels, small, medium & large flat rate boxes are totally free, no shipping or anything and the post office will bring them to your door.  The boxes come in quantities of 10 or 25 and the shipping labels can be ordered form 10 to 500.  Through the website you can schedule the post office to pick up your package or you can do like me and just put your package in your work or home outgoing mail. 

Below are the links for the USPS (http://www.usps.com/)  free supplies:

Large Flat Rate Boxes - Fits up to 6 Cars - $14.20 shipping cost each way paid online

Medium Flat Rate Boxes - Fits up to 2 Cars - $10.50 shipping cost each way paid online

I pay USPS in advance and print my own pre-paid label.

Pay USPS and print out my own Return Shipment Pre-Paid Label

On the day I am going to ship I go http://www.usps.com/ and create a shipping label.  I print the label on a full sheet of shipping label paper that has a peel off sticky side and a print side.  To save some money you could just print it on a sheet of paper and tape it to the box with clear packing tape.  At the same time I create another label for the return shipment and I print it on the same shipping label paper.  I select the latest return date shipment that USPS allows which is only 3 days in advance.  The return shipment is actually probably 7 days in the future, but I have not heard any complaints that this method does not work.  I place the pre-paid return shipment shipping label, the league registration form and my payment for the number of cars being raced times $10 in the box and seal the box with packing tape.  I place the box in the outgoing mail at work and that's it.


Package Complete & Ready to Ship!



Lessons Learned:

Lesson #1:

I learned early on that holding the rear of the car where all of the weight is at is crutial for a safe shipment.  My first shipping box utilized a clamp technique where I clamped the car lengthwise using piece of padded wood and a bolt & nut on either end of the car.  This didn't work very well...  Sooner or later the rear end of the car would work loose in shipping and the rear wheels or axles would get damaged.  You not only need to hold the car from the top, but you need to hold it on the sides of the body to keep it from shifting.


Lesson #2:

Make sure the car is tight in the foam.  Cut the foam slightly undersize of your car outline so it is very tight when you push it in the box.  If the rear of the car has a little wiggle room then over time it will become alot of wiggle room and eventually the rear of the car will bang into the sides of the box.  Correct material selection of a dense foam will help this problem.  If you use a foam that can be easily crushed it will crush over repeated bouncing on its journey to its final destination.


Lesson #3:

Make your keeper piece of foam just thick enough to create a nice firm clamp on the car.  If you have to use alot of force to get the lid closed and then the lid is rounded and not flat the keeper is too thick.  If the keeper is too thick you can push the car down and the wheels can contact the bottom (or top) of the box.  If the wheels are in contact with the box they could possibly be damaged when the car is in transit.  I have even had the keeper so thick that I broke wheels when closing the box.


Lesson #4:

If you are shipping a headless axle car, then cut out a 1" diameter circles on the box where your axlescould possibly hit the box.  During shipping everything happens and if you box gets dropped you car an shift and the axle may hit the inside of the box.  If this happens and you use headless axles/retainers then the retainer will clamp your wheel tight.  A simple hole in the box at this location will fix this issue.