Racing a Pinhole Camera

A couple of months ago I got an email from the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art telling me about a “pinewood car” race they were putting on. It seems that artists in the Northeastern US had been building and racing their “pinewood cars” for several years and now SECCA was inviting them down South to take on artists from the Southeast. Sounded like a “photo op” to me, so I began working on a design for a pinhole camera pine car racer, or a PINholE CAmeRa RACER.

I ordered a pinewood kit (block of wood and wheels) and built a pinhole camera to fit the dimensions. The camera takes a 2″ x 2.5″ negative. I’ll take both paper and film to the race, but I expect to use the film. I’m assuming the race will last just a few seconds, so I may need to use a film rated at 400 and push the processing.
2″ x 2.5″ pinhole camera, curved negative carrier

Once the camera was completed, I choose a crew and built the car.

Jane and baby, ready to race

This will be Jane’s first auto race. Her previous outing was flying a biplane in the early 80’s. Baby is happy to go anywhere.

The car is designed to travel slow in order to prolong the camera exposure and hopefully capture a sense of the faster cars in the race. We’re in no hurry in the PINholE CAmeRa racer.

Jane and baby had time for a test run before the trip to Winston-Salem via the US Postal Service.

test photo
Jane and Baby pose for camera before race

Please wish us luck in coming in last with a fine photo finish of the race. The race will be held Saturday, Sep 16th from 1-4pm, but the cars will be on exhibit July 22 through October 1, 2006. SECCA is a great museum of contemporary art, so please visit.

11 thoughts on “Racing a Pinhole Camera”

  1. Gregg,
    That is awesome! I have 2 boys that are in Cub Scouts, and every year we do the same old boring cars in the Pinewood Derby. I think I am going to have to “borrow” your idea for next years Derby (in February). Very cool and very creative. Please keep us updated.

  2. Seriously wonderful my mate. I own a Lotus Seven Replica (No Roof, No Doors, No Reason) and an Omnilux 360 degree anamorphic pinhole camera. Maybe I could mount it on the hood. Clearly we are soul brothers. Andd btw, good luck on coming in last. It’s the only way to win…
    Ciao brah


  3. You’re the man, Gregg!!!! Of course, I have a few questions about Jane and the baby??? Loved the camera design- the checkered flag motif. Please notify the VCU Alumni office.

    All the best,


  4. Thanks for the feedback!
    Jane is my favorite model. I hated to see her leave for the summer, but she deserved the break. Baby is always along for the ride with Jane. I wanted to put a crash helmet on Jane and Baby, but it would have exceeded the weight limit of 5 ounces. But yhey’re tough and can take it.

  5. Gregg,
    You made me “flash-back” to my youth with your pinewood derby car. I was in the Cub Scouts in the early 60’s and hadn’t thought of it until I saw your wonderful pinhole pinewood car. It’s great to see that the “Kid” in you hasn’t died! I think we all could use a transfusion from you! And Willie Ann is right, You’re the MAN!

    “Keep on Pinholin'”,

  6. Gregg, Loved the pinewood camera car! All big races have one. This idea could be your big break! It reminds me of a pinewood derby car that my son Gordon and I built a long time ago. It looked a little like an open wheel Bughatti from the thirties.


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