Pack leaders won’t be shouting, “Gentlemen, start your engines!” but plenty of auto-racing excitement will be in the air this weekend at the Mohr Community Center. Auto racing, that is, consisting of cars weighing less than five ounces, cut from pine blocks, with Boy Scouts of America (BSA) regulation wheels and axles.

Forest Park Cub Scout Pack 109’s Pinewood Derby takes place at 10 a.m., Jan. 21, at 7640 Jackson Blvd. The boys’ handmade cars – built by a child/adult team – are weighed and then shot down a 32-foot wooden track with a 30-degree slope.

Fastest cars get a trophy, but the Scouts judge cars by other criteria as well. “We have awards for the fastest car, coolest car, most creative, most colorful, best workmanship, best Scout spirit and funniest car,” said mom and Pack Leader Jill Wagner.

Thirteen members of Pack 109 attended a workshop, Jan. 7, at the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters Union woodshop in Chicago. Journeyman carpenters helped the boys – along with 16 adults and three younger siblings – to design, cut and sand their 7-inch pine blocks.

“Kids designed cars to look like everything from a Batmobile to a platypus,” said Wagner. The children sanded, painted and stickered their tiny hotrods.

Wagner is making her own car to compete in the community race after the Scouts are finished. She’s getting help from Tom Murphy, a resident at the Oak Park Arms Retirement Community in Oak Park where Wagner works. Murphy runs the Arms woodshop, and is making his own roadster for the race.

Village Commissioner Chris Harris will be present, racing a Hummer-shaped vehicle with his 9-year-old nephew. “[The car] was a three-generation project. My nephew’s grandpa helped out, so that made it fun,” says Harris, who raced his own pinewood cars as a Cub Scout. “But it is really frustrating to actually get these things to go fast. There has to be some special secret that I don’t know about,” he added.

Community race is wide open

Anyone is welcome to race their own derby car on the track after the Scouts finish their race. Entry fee is $10 per car. Cars can be purchased at Michael’s Arts and Crafts in North Riverside or at the Des Plaines Valley Scout Shop in LaGrange. Weigh-in is at 10 a.m. The community race will begin following the Pack 109 races. Pinewood car regulations can be found at For more information, contact Jill Wagner 708-771-2128.

Jean Lotus loves community journalism. She covers news, features, two school boards, village council, crime, park district and writes obits for Forest Park Review. She also covers the police beat for...