How to Make a Propeller Car


Building a propeller car is both fun and educational. Whether it's a homework requirement for a physics class, a family project for a soapbox derby or just an interesting and creative way to spend a free afternoon, designing and building a propeller car is rewarding and entertaining. A propeller car can be made out of many different materials depending on the desired effect. Experimenting with materials and recording the results is part of the fun.

Things You'll Need

  • Paper
  • Paper clips
  • 5-inch-by-8-inch note cards
  • 18 gauge wire
  • Drinking straws
  • Tape
  • Rubber bands
  • Cut a 5-inch-by-8-inch note card in half so both halves measure 5 inches by 4 inches. Fold one section in half lengthwise so it measures 2 inches by 5 inches. Fold it in half again to make a 2-inch-by-2.5-inch rectangle. Draw a line 0.2 inches from the edge of the fold line on both sides. Open the rectangle and fold one side backward on the 0.2 inch mark. Fold the other rectangle backward on the 0.2 inch mark. It should look like the letter M. This is the propeller mount.

  • Measure 0.4 inches from the paper edge on both the top and bottom sections of the folded rectangle. Draw a diagonal line along the folded edges from these two points to the bottom corner. Both lines should meet in the corner, forming the peak of a triangle. Trim the paper along the diagonal lines. Cut the remaining 4-inch-by-5-inch card in half lengthwise and pierce the center of each half. These will be the propellers.

  • Draw two circles on a note card using the compass to measure a 1.8 inch radius for the rear wheels. Make two circles with a radius of 0.8 inches for the front wheels. Cut all four circles out and pierce the center of each circle.

  • Cut the soda straw in half to form the rear axle tube. Cut one section in half again for the front axle and propeller shaft tubes. Cut a length of wire for each axle and insert in the straw tubes. The wires should be at least 0.8 inches longer than the tubes. The propeller shaft wire should be 0.4 inches longer. Bend the wire ends with pliers to a 45-degree angle, and form a hook at the end of the propeller wire to attach the rubber band. Insert the wires through the paper wheels and secure with tape.

  • Roll a sheet of paper into a narrow tube for the body of the car. A Styrofoam square or cardboard box may also be used. Affix the front and rear axles to the car body. Thread the propellers onto the propeller axle wire, and bend opposite ends of the propeller to create blades. Tape the propeller axle to the propeller mount. Attach the propeller axle mount to the body of the car. Separate a paper clip to form a 30-degree angle and insert one loop into the front opening. Attach the rubber band to both the front hook and the propeller hook. Wind up the propeller and test out the car.

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  • Photo Credit feathering propeller image by Alexey Klementiev from colored notecards image by Richard Seeney from scissor cut image by Jakub Cejpek from compass image by Sid Viswakumar from straws image by cherie from race cars image by Warren Rosenberg from
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