Pinewood Derby Creator Dies

Boys' Life magazine's article about the Pinewood derby, published in October 1954.

Boys’ Life magazine’s article about the Pinewood derby, published in October 1954 (Click to enlarge).

Fifty-five years have passed since Don Murphy, then Cubmaster of Pack 280C in Manhattan Beach, Calif., created an alternative to the Soap Box Derby for his young Scouts.

Murphy passed away this month at the age of 90, but his invention — the Pinewood Derby — lives on.

In 1953, the full-size Soap Box Derby was wildly popular with young people. Unfortunately, Murphy’s Cub Scouts were too young to participate. His idea of carving wooden blocks into smaller racing cars became a hit.

The first Pinewood Derby race was held at the Manhattan Beach Scout House that year, and word of the event quickly spread around the Los Angeles area, the country and eventually the world. More than 90 million Pinewood Derby car kits have been sold since.

Murphy’s favorite thing about the Derby was giving fathers and sons a chance to spend time together working on a project.

Click here to read Murphy’s full Pinewood Derby story.

Click here to read his obituary.

Click here to read a 1999 article about Murphy from Scouting magazine.


  1. Dear Editor,

    I thought the article was informative since I learned about the story of pinewood derby racing. I thought it was really sad to find out he died, but what he did in his life was pretty cool. I enjoyed reading the aricle.



  2. Dear Editor, What this great man, Don Murphy, did for the love of not only his son but for the millions of children world wide, it’s with a saddened heart to see him pass on from us in scouting and the many different clubs that follow in this event. But his wooden car will live on and will be seen in every child’s eyes and enjoyed by the smile on their faces. And his voice will be heard through the fathers cheering and saying to their sons, “You Did Your Best!”

    I appreciate your site. I like to have workshops for the kids each year and teach them about the history of this event as well as show them some items that are autographed by Don Murphy himself. We were blessed to get a phone call from him four months before he passed. Since then I’ve been blessed to help keep his memory alive.

    Sincerely, Mark

  3. Dear Editor, The Gratest Pinwood Derby Trophy Of All..Is The Car! And the time well spent makeing this memory with are Father. What a gift Don Murphy,Gave to his son.Then to Scouting! It’s truely sad to hear Donn’s stoy about his dad.And how he never took a pennie for it! And then to look back at the BSA History for 1953, were Cub Scouts donate 2,889 pennies for Korean Scouts plus the “tons” of used uniforms. But what a ride this wooden car turned out to be.((The Fastest Wooden Car On Planet Earth!)) All for the love of a small Child! No Wounder the Dad’s are crazy over it! Sincerly the Kid.

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