Boy Scouts try to break Hot Wheels world record in Stillwater

With a light breeze and a warm sun, it seemed like a perfect day to attempt to set a world record. In the end, both the breeze and the sun turned into insurmountable obstacles.

Northern Star Scouts, based in the Twin Cities, had put a lot of planning into the hope to set the world’s longest Hot Wheels run.  The current record is around 2,400 feet, which is just under half a mile. The scouts figured they could at least beat that and then some, planning a run of 3,500 feet, which is just under 7 tenths of a mile.

"It is 1,850-some pieces of track, two-foot sections are the longest we could find," said Bill Anderson-Horecka of Northern Star.  "So we have an assembly team of over 100 scouts and volunteers here today to help."

So on the Houlton Trail, a walking and bike path that leads down to the Stillwater Lift Bridge from the Wisconsin side of the river, this small army of scouts and volunteers carefully connected all those orange tracks, using boards to make sure they were straight.

"It’s a pretty big thing because it’s a world record," said Andrew Burke, a Scout from Apple Valley as he checked the track, optimistic they would end the day with the world record in hand.  "Looks like we’re going to make it," he said.  "I think we’re going to make it!"

At the bottom of the run, on the flat approach to the Stillwater Lift Bridge, a series of speed boosters were put on the tracks and tested, with hopes that once the record was matched at the bottom of the hill, hitting this final leg would help shatter it.

But as soon as the runs began, the problems that Hot Wheels engineers had warned Northern Star about began to crop up.   Run after run, the car would hit a bit of debris on the track — a small leaf, a bit of dirt or a bug — and either grind to a halt or hop a wheel off the side.

"They also told us if there’s a speck of dust, or dirt, it’s like you in a car hitting a rock on the freeway going 70 miles an hour," explained Anderson-Horecka.

As the attempts piled up, the runs got longer and gave them hope.  300 feet, then 650 feet, then 900 feet.  But the other problem they were warned about, warping tracks from the sun, became an issue that couldn’t be solved.  The tracks either bulged up or warped over, both impossible to fix.

After several dozen tries, the longest they got was 1,200 feet, half the current record and about a third of their goal.  But it was a great learning experience, they said, and helped kick off their fall recruiting campaign called "Race into Scouts."

They hope to try again sometime, possibly earlier in the morning or at a cooler time of year.

"I think it was really fun," said Alexander Anderson, a 16-year-old Scout from Blaine.  "Really long and hot, but yeah, definitely fun!"