The Ugliest, Most Wonderful Car

By Sara V. Olds

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(Based on experiences of the author’s family)Let every man be diligent in all things (D&C 75:29).

Peter stared at the Pinewood Derby kit he’d received at his Cub Scout meeting. It contained a block of wood, four nails, and four wheels, from which he was to make a car to race.

Peter wasn’t too excited about the derby. Last year, he and his dad worked hard to shape, sand, and paint his car. But even though they’d tried to make a good car, it hadn’t won a single race.

He remembered his dad telling him, “Peter, you did your best, and that’s what’s important. No one wins all the time.” That had made him feel a bit better.

This year Peter faced a more difficult problem. His dad was out of town on a business trip and wouldn’t be home until after the derby. How was he going to get a car ready all by himself?

That evening, Peter’s mom said that they could work on the car together. She gathered all the tools she could find: a hacksaw, a pocketknife, a screwdriver, a hammer, and a piece of sandpaper.

First, she tried to whittle away pieces of the block with the pocketknife. “I had no idea this wood was so hard!” she said through clenched teeth as she fought to chip a piece away. With a sigh, she put down the knife. “This isn’t going to work.”

Next they tried the wobbly hacksaw. Taking turns, they managed to saw a small piece off. However, once they started shaping the wood into Peter’s design—a triangle to make it have less wind resistance—the blade snapped in half partway through.

“I suppose our last chance is to use the hammer and screwdriver to chisel away some of the wood in the direction of the cut we started,” Mom said.

Peter and his mom struggled for almost an hour. Bit by bit, pieces of the wood broke away. Then, amazingly, the car he’d hoped for began to appear. Except it was covered by strange gouges made by the screwdriver blade. And there was a blob sticking out in front. Mom suggested it might be part of the engine sticking out, like on fancy race cars they’d seen on television.

Then disaster struck. Suddenly there was a loud CRACK! A chunk of wood snapped away from the rest. Gone was the triangular shape they’d worked for. Now a deep gash appeared on the car, making it look lopsided.

“Oh, Peter!” Mom exclaimed. “Look what I’ve done!” Peter could tell by her voice that she was close to tears.

He studied the sad little shape resting on the counter and smiled. “That’s OK, Mom. You did your best. I can paint this part,” he touched the mistake, “and it will look good. I bet it’ll even make it more aerodynamic.”

Over the next two days, Peter carefully sanded his funny-looking car, trying to smooth out the gouges left by the screwdriver, but they were too deep. So he painted it. And he painted it again. Instead of trying to hide the problems, he accented them to make the whole car look more interesting.

The time came to go to the church for the derby. When he got there, all the other boys had fancy cars. Some had racing wings, and others glistened like plastic models instead of painted wood blocks.

Peter’s friends came running to see his car. He held it out proudly. “My mom helped me with this car,” he said before anyone could say anything about its odd shape. “And we did our very best!”

Soon the races started. When Peter’s name was called, he handed the Cubmaster his car.

The Cubmaster took one look at it, then held it up for all to see. “Look at this unusual car. You can tell that a lot of hard work went into making it.”

Peter glanced over at his mom and smiled. The Cubmaster was right.

As the night went on, Peter won two races, but then lost the third and was out of the running for a trophy.

After it was over, the leaders passed out the awards. Each boy got a certificate and a badge for participating. Then the Cubmaster said, “Now I’d like to present a special trophy for the most unique car in the competition. It showed great effort and creativity in its design.”

Peter looked over at the cars, wondering who would receive the trophy with the golden car on it. It looked just like the first-place trophy.

“Congratulations to Peter Olds,” the Cubmaster announced.

Peter was stunned. “Me?” he asked.

His friend nudged him. “Go on,” he urged, “go get your trophy.”

Peter walked up to the stage and accepted the trophy. He looked at everyone who was clapping and cheering for him. His mom smiled up at him.

He felt warm all over. Suddenly he realized that it was great that he had received a trophy, but the real prize was his funny little car. He didn’t need a trophy to know its value. It was special because his mom had done her very best to help him, showing him how much she loved him. He couldn’t ask for more.

[Pursuing Goals]

President Thomas S. Monson

Family, friends, and leaders will cheer our courage, will applaud our determination as we rise from our stumblings and pursue our goals.”
President Thomas S. Monson, First Counselor in the First Presidency, “The Will Within,” Ensign, May 1987, 69.

Illustrated by Bryan Beach

Show References

  • Sara V. Olds is a member of the North Logan First Ward, North Logan Utah Green Canyon Stake.