Big Sally, the Pinewood Derby Workshop Bus

In an age of mp3s, Air Jordans and video games, some things persevere over time – such as vinyl records, Chuck Taylors and pinewood derby cars. The pinewood derby was the brainchild of Cub Scout Cubmaster Don Murphy in Manhattan Beach, California. The first race was held on May 15, 1953, and it has been a staple of American culture ever since.

The car starts out as a small block of wood. The Boy Scouts of America Cub Scout Leader How-To-Book states that all cars must pass the following inspection to qualify for racing: width shall not exceed 2-3/4 inches, length shall not exceed 7 inches and weight shall not exceed 5 ounces.

Pat Hardage with the before and after or a pinewood derby car // photos Jeff Campbell

Pat Hardage first got involved with pinewood derby cars in 1954 as a Cub Scout. According to Pat, he built his first car with a hammer, a saw and bloody fingernails. His passion for building the cars followed him throughout his life. As an adult he held workshops in his home garage in Carrollton, sometimes helping people build up to 700 cars over the three summer months.

Pat’s rules inside Big Sally

Three years ago Pat took his passion even further by creating a mobile workshop. He bought an old Greyhound bus off eBay, flew to California to pick it up and drove the bus back to Texas. Then he converted the bus into a mobile pinewood derby workshop named Big Sally. The bus contains workbenches, saws, sanders, paint, decals and screwdrivers – everything needed to make a pinewood derby car.

Big Sally will be parked outside Plano’s Dark Hour Haunted House on various days in January

Pat says he can help you build a race-ready car in three hours. He does not guarantee that your car will be the winner, but he does guarantee that it will be competitive. According to Pat, most of the winners are those who maintain their car, right up until race day, by applying graphite to the wheels. The graphite reduces friction, allowing the car to go faster. Pat states, “Consistent effort over time will yield a measurable improved result.”

Inside Big Sally, the pinewood derby workshop bus

Pat travels with Big Sally from city to city helping kids make cars. On various days throughout the month of January, the bus will be parked at Plano’s Dark Hour Haunted House. A three-hour workshop costs $40. Workshops can be reserved at 214-789-0359 or or at the link below.

Pinewood Derby Bus Website >
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