Last weekend was the fifth annual 2010 Adult Pinewood Derby at my buddy Rob’s house and Zoom Creates was there representing. Kris and I both made cars this year and Kris volunteered to build a web-based online scoring tool. He borrowed a projector from Justin, hung a sheet in the garage and we were all able to see the leader board, who was currently racing and who was on deck. It worked like a charm.
This year was a little different. In the past four years, there were strict traditional rules; weight limit; length limit; no propulsion, etc.. This year the rules were open to interpretation. There was no weight limit. Cars could be no longer than 8 inches—at the start of the race. Any non-flammable forms of propulsion were allowed. It was crazy. There was a remote controlled, gear-driven car, a remote controlled propeller-driven car, a rubber band propeller driven car, a wind-up spring driven car, and the winning CO2 propelled rocket car. There were also a handful of good old gravity driven cars. Mine was one of the latter.
This year, I decided to do make a model of KITT, the 1983 Pontiac Trans-Am driven by Michael Knight (David Hasselhoff) in the 1980′s TV show, Knight Rider. I got the idea when I saw a Tiny Cylon Kit at sparkfun.com back in February. Kurtis, who was allegedly too busy to build a car this year, offered to help me modify and install the lights from this kit into my car so it could be used as a functioning scanner in the front of the car. Well, before I knew it, it was July and I had not ordered the Tiny Cylon Kit or (just like every other year) started building my car. I decided to forgo the functioning lights due to the time constraints.
I modeled up the car in Illustrator then printed and cut out paper templates. I needed to add some width and height to the original block of wood. I measured and cut out wheel wells and glued pieces of wood to the original block.
I took this modified block of wood along with my templates to Tim’s house and used his mini table saw and belt sander to cut out the rough shape of the car. I then build the hood scoop and spoiler out of thin plywood and glued them into place, cut out the scanner notch and drew the hood, lights and door lines. I also hollowed out a compartment underneath to hold the weight.
Then I primed and sanded and primed and sanded.
Then spray painted him gloss black.
While the paint dried, I cut the lights out of colored paper and drew the license plate in Illustrator. For the windows, I printed out a subtle gradient that would match my diorama. I cut these out of paper and spray mounted them to clear vellum and glued them to the car.
For the diorama, I found a photo of El Mirage Dry Lake in the Mojave Desert in California, added a better sky, adjusted the colors to look like an old TV whose color is going out, printed it out and mounted it to some foam core. I left a curve in the transition from horizontal to vertical to try and create the illusion of a seamless background.
All that was left to do was prepare the wheels and axles. I cannot reveal my technique for axle prep but can reveal that it involves a file, sandpaper, steel wool and a few other secret ingredients. For the wheels, I used a silver Sharpie to draw a thin silver ring where the tire meets the rim and colored the head of the axle (nail) black. I also made an iron-on KITT HAPPENS T-shirt to wear to the derby.
After aligning the wheels I added the weight, polished it up and took it to the race where it placed 5th overall out of 24. Not too bad considering.