Introduction To CO2 Cars

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CO2 CarCO2 Cars are a fun and exciting hobby, toy, model, learning tool, and piece of art. CO2 Cars are great for all ages. With some creativity and imagination, anyone can make a CO2 car that can fly down the track at speeds up to 50 mph. There are many affordable kits available at hobby stores and online to help make building your CO2 cars – check out a cool teachers starter kit here.

  • Design and develop a prototype
  • Race your friends and colleagues
  • Track the results
  • Fine tune your racer
  • Create an unique looking racer the expresses your personality
  • Learn / teach principals of math and science (such as Newtons 2nd law of motion – LINK)
  • Have a great time.
  • Do it again!

Designing a CO2 Car can be fun and also a learning experience. Hobbyists, model makers, boy scouts, and students all over are great developers of CO2 cars. Many teachers use these cars in their classrooms to teach the principals of Newtons 2nd law of motion as well as other fundamental math and science principals. Creating a CO2 car is a great activity for father and child.  Some CO2 car designers actually compete professionally.

Fine Tuning, Tracking and Perfecting Your CO2 Car


A good looking racer that is unique and expresses the personality of designer is important, but at the end of the race it boils down to performance – the faster the better. In order to develop the fastest CO2 Car, the designer must consider aerodynamics, drag, friction and weight. The more aerodynamic the car is and the lighter it is = the faster it is. For the real serious CO2 car designers, there are actually machines designed to test the aerodynamics.

The car gets placed into a box that blows steam over the car. The eddies or steam lines that get blown over the car are used as a measurement. The fewer eddie strands going in various directions the more aerodynamic the CO2 car is. In order to make the CO2 car more aero dynamic the designer must shave and sand it so has a smooth finish and sleek figure.

Check out this fine tuned CO2 race car!

How To Create A CO2 Car

There are two parts to consider when creating CO2 Cars – appearance and speed. In addition to the overall goal of being the fastest on the track, the objective is to create a good looking unique racer at the same time. The appearance of the CO2 car can resemble a Formula 1 car, Indy car, even a great white shark. The most common CO2 cars are modeled after dragsters.

The first step in the design is putting pen to paper and beginning to sketch out some ideas. Keep in mind that the car is a dragster, steering and handling are not an issue here.  Try to keep the design as light weight and aerodynamic as possible.  After a few sketches, finalize your design and its off to the construction stage.

Open your racer kit (or get one here) and begin to create the mold.

After deciding on the shape of the body, a coating is selected. Different wood stains can be used or the racer can be painted. Decals can also enhance the look.

What Is A CO2 Car?

What is a Co2 CarCO2 Cars are miniature drag racing cars that are designed and made by hand. Essentially, they are a juiced up Pinewood Derby race car that were popular back in the day. Pinewood Derby racers are similar in that they are carved race cars carved out of a block of wood. The difference is the Pinewood cars are powered by gravity. You put two cars on a track that have a slope, let them go at the same time and see who wins.

CO2 cars are powered by CO2 cartridges (link) which add a special element – speed! Some of the CO2 Cars can reach speeds of up to 50 miles per hour. The typical track size is 60-70 feet. The optimum track length is 66 feet (20 Meters) because that is in scale with what a real drag strip length is (one quarter mile).

The CO2 Car is guided down the track by a string. The track utilizes standard fishing string that runs the length of the track from start to finish. The CO2 car itself has eye hooks that attach to the string which guides the racer down the track. The smoother the surface the faster the race. The CO2 cars race down the track and the victory goes for the fastest car. The CO2 Cartridge is punctured and it’s off to the races.

How Are CO2 Cars Similar To Pinewood Cars?

Pinewood derby cars are a fixture in Americana history. The tradition started in the 1940s with the Boy Scouts.  The derby racers were carved out of wood, shaped, filed, and sanded to get the most aerodynamic figure.  They received a cool paint job, wheels and weights were sent to the track to compete.  A pinewood racetrack has a large slope at the beginning. The racers are let go at the same time, first car across the finish line wins.

Nothing is more from then creating a race car that is unique to yourself then having the opportunity to show it off by competing with your friends and classmates. Pinewood racers were and still are a huge hit with boy scouts, and other young boys and girls. However, there is a new game in town – CO2 Cars.

CO2 Cars are similar to pinewood derby racers in that they are both hand made, designed to race against each other and have a creative design element.  The main difference is the CO2 Car is engine powered. The engine being the CO2 whereas the pinewood car is powered by gravity alone.  This allows the racers to be more like the race cars they are designed after.

Many CO2 car designers spend quality time improving and perfecting the performance and design of their racer.