How to Make a Car From a Cardboard Box

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Many parents tell stories of how after going through elaborate efforts to get their child a "special" toy, the child spends more time playing with the box than with the toy. With a little effort you can enhance that fascination by turning a couple of cardboard boxes into a race car complete with a storage trunk for other toys. For older children, cut a hole in the bottom and have them run "real" car races for a great party activity!

Racing box car!
(Debbie Williams)

Things You'll Need

  • 24 inches by 18 inches by 18 inches cardboard box, flat
  • 16 inches by 12 inches by 12 inches cardboard box, flat
  • Utility knife
  • Spray adhesive
  • Hot glue gun and glue sticks
  • Wrapping paper
  • Duct tape in assorted colors
  • 2 large paper plates
  • 2 smaller paper plates
  • 4 ribbon spools
  • 5 bolts, washers & nuts
  • Velcro
  • Frisbee
Step 1

Collect any materials that you may have on hand and use your imagination to make substitutions where possible. Although these instructions are based on specific-sized boxes, they can be easily adapted to boxes of similar sizes. Please see the last slide for an itemized list of tools and materials.

Gather supplies
Debbie Williams
Step 2

Measure down 6 inches from the top edge on the wide side of the larger cardboard box and draw a curve from the mark to the front lower edge. Cut along this line through just one thickness of the cardboard. Use this cut piece as a template to draw and cut the same curve on the opposite side of the box.

First cut
Debbie Williams
Step 3

Open out the cardboard and cut 3 inches off the upper center flap. Measure down, mark and score at 1 inch, 2 inches and 4 inches, leaving the flap fold at the 6 inch mark. Measure down another 3/4 inch and cut a slit, leaving 1 inch uncut on each side. Measure over 4 1/4 inches in each direction on the center panel and cut a straight line through to the top of the bottom flap. Measure another 8 inches and score a straight line on each side, again just to the top of the bottom flap. Cut along the fold line between the cut and the score line. These will be the doors on this main body of the car.

Cut the detail
Debbie Williams
Step 4

Make the hood from the remaining end piece. Cut 7 inches off the top flap and measure, mark and score at 1/2 inch, 1 1/2 inches, 4 1/4 inches and 6 1/4 inches down. Score vertically down the remainder of the end piece at 1-inch intervals, leaving the end flap intact. Score a line horizontally down each side of the end piece and end flap, 1 inch from the edge. Cut through to the horizontal score line at each vertical score mark. Cut off the 1 inch score line on each side of the end flap.

Cuts to bend the hood
Debbie Williams
Step 5

Spray each prepared piece of cardboard with adhesive and carefully lay down the wrapping paper. Smooth out any wrinkles and firmly press down the paper starting at the center of each piece and moving out to the edges. Attach the hood to the main body of the car using duct tape on the inside and curving at the score lines to fit the side profile.

Gently bend the hood
Debbie Williams
Step 6

Fold, glue and tape the bottom flaps in place but leave the top of the back flap loose at this point. Wrap the edges and corners with duct tape in either the same color as the body or use accent colors for a racy look. Use grey tape for the windshield and the inside of the doors. The tape adds stability to these moving parts.

First stage complete
Debbie Williams
Step 7

Draw and cut a curve for the trunk on each 12-inch side of the smaller box using the same technique as for the main body. Cut two 1-inch strips along the short side of the extra 16-inch side. Score the remaining piece at 1-inch intervals. Tape the 1-inch strips at a 90 degree angle along each curved side. These will be the edges to hold the trunk lid.

Build the trunk
Debbie Williams
Step 8

Cover the prepared pieces with wrapping paper as before and assemble the trunk by gluing and taping the bottom flaps in place. Wrap the edges with duct tape. Extend the top flap to fit under the front portion of the car and glue and tape in place.

Assemble trunk to main body
Debbie Williams
Step 9

Slide the straight flap of the trunk lid into the slot cut in the main body of the car. Glue and tape down inside the car. Fold down the flaps from the main body to form the head rest.

Trunk lid helps hold the car together
Debbie Williams
Step 10

Spray paint paper plates for tires and add ribbon spools for spokes. Use a short bolt and nut to mount the tires by poking a hole with the point of scissors through the cardboard and pushing the bolt through. Secure with the nut.

Tires add the finishing touch
Debbie Williams
Step 11

Add velcro for the trunk latch and door handles. Mount the steering wheel by driving a screw through the frisbee to make a hole. Use a bolt and nut to secure it through the front dash of the car.

Rear view of car
Debbie Williams

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