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Materials and Tools

Before you build a car, you need tools and materials. Even before you design a car that you know you can build, you need tools and materials. That is part of engineering: designing based on the resources available to you, either what you have on hand or what you can afford to purchase.

Pitsco and other sources have a variety of kits, materials, and tools to help you build your dream race car.

Kits

These are the building blocks of your car. What kind of kit you choose depends on what your ultimate goal is and what tools you have available.

Easy

If you’re simply looking for the experience of building a basic car and seeing it race down the track and you have almost none of the traditional woodworking tools available, you’ll probably lean toward kits such as the Pitsco EZ Build Dragsters, laser-cut wood cars that require only white glue and a small screwdriver to assemble.

Intermediate

For those with some shaping tools such as coping saws and wood files, the Pitsco Precut Dragsters are a great solution. They offer four different rough shapes cut from basswood with predrilled cartridge holes – you fine-tune the design and add the perfect finish.

Advanced

If you have all the common shop tools such as a drill press and band saw, then you can start with a traditional dragster blank or kit.

The type of kit that would be used at the Dragster Design event at TSA and many school competitions is something like Pitsco’s Metric Dragster Kit or LSRAV Dragster Kit. Pitsco sells several complete CO2 race car kits and an exhaustive supply of wheels, paints, decals, and speed accessories.

If going for a CO2 car that looks more like a real car, go for something like the Custom Cruiser Vehicle Design Kit, which includes the larger balsa wood body blank so you can create a design more like your favorite hot rod or sports car.

All of Pitsco’s traditional kits – including the Metric Dragster Kit and LSRAV Dragster Kit – provide a balsa or basswood body blank, four wheels, washers, axle tubes, screw eyes, sandpaper, and a CO2 cartridge (there are also class-size packages available). However, students might prefer to find different wheels or make their own and add other accessories.

Choosing a Blank: Check out our expert's tips on whether to choose balsa or basswood.

Wheels

Wheels are a key point in any dragster because of the friction of the axle as it spins, as well as the friction of the tire meeting the road. There are two options: buying and using premade wheels, which come in a variety of designs and sizes, or making your own wheels from a cylinder of acetal and using a lathe.

Manufactured wheels are a good solution for those just starting out in the activity; however, more advanced dragster designers and competitors will generally make their own.

 

CO2 Cartridges

 

This is the energy source, or fuel, of the dragster. Consider quality, safety, and consistency when buying cartridges for your races. Cartridges contain a consistent amount of gas, and safety seals guard against rupture when cartridges are exposed to excessive heat.

Eight-gram cartridges are the standard for full-length tracks.

Four-gram cartridges are great for shorter tracks (50 feet or fewer) to reduce potential for car damage during the sudden deceleration at the end of the race.

Tools for Building a Dragster

An essential part of building a CO2 race car is having the right tools. Quality cars can be shaped from simple hand tools such as a coping saws, files, and a sharp knife. On the other end of the spectrum, an increasing number of classrooms are manufacturing race cars on CNC mills (a great way to experience the CAD/CAM process).

In the middle are those with access to a band saw and drill press. The building process is virtually the same when using hand tools. Note: Instructions on this site represent the middle ground in this area and assume that you have access to a band saw and a drill press.

Basic Tools

  • Band saw
  • Wood rasp
  • Half-round wood file
  • Coping saw
  • Sandpaper
  • Ruler (or other measuring device)
  • Scissors
  • Spray paint
  • 5/8" dowel (18" long)
  • Scale

Power Tools (optional)

  • Drill press
  • Belt/disc sander
  • Rotary multi-tool with accessories
  • Carving tool set