How to design a toy self propelled car

Written by grahame turner
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How to design a toy self propelled car
You can use this box as a guide for your drawing. It's a 3/4-view of a matchbox. (matches box image by photooiasson from

If you design a toy car that can move on its own, you will learn a lot about how energy works and how to transform everyday objects into something else. Before you begin to design and build your vehicle, make sure that you have all of the materials that you will need.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Pen and paper
  • Self-propelled vehicle engine: a mousetrap, rubber band, or electric motor and battery
  • Vehicle chassis: wood, cardboard, folded paper, or something else
  • Axle channels: drinking straws or eye hooks, for example
  • Axles: metal, wood, plastic
  • Wheels: CDs, toy car wheels or bottle caps, for example
  • Scissors, utility knife or small saw
  • Tape, glue, and adhesives

Show MoreHide


  1. 1

    Draw a three-dimensional box on the cube to represent the chassis of your car from a 3/4 view. At this point, you don't know what you will make it of, so there is no need to label it.

    How to design a toy self propelled car
    You can use this box as a guide for your drawing. It's a 3/4-view of a matchbox. (matches box image by photooiasson from
  2. 2

    Draw the axle channels and axles onto the bottom of the vehicle. The axle channel is a loop or hole into which the axle itself will fit, and the axle is any long rod onto which you can attach the wheels.

  3. 3

    Draw the wheels and draw how you intend to attach them to the axles. Glue is a good way to attach them.

  4. 4

    Draw the engine on the vehicle. Take stock of your materials to decide what kind of engine and how it will be attached to the vehicle and drive axle. Most engines will be placed on the top of the chassis. For rubber-band or mousetrap cars, the engine should be attached near the centre of the axle. That means you will need to draw in a small notch at the back for access to the axle. If you have a battery- or solar-powered motor, you will need to attach a gear to the axle.

  5. 5

    Look for the materials you need to build the vehicle. Make the chassis out of something sturdy enough to handle the engine. The heavier the engine, the stronger the chassis will need to be. You will also need something smooth to hold the axles in place. The axles themselves will need to be strong, but also smooth and straight, and you will need some way to attach them to the wheels. You can make the wheels out of anything, provided they are attached to at least the drive axle. As you find these materials, label them on your design.

  6. 6

    Build your car according to your design. If you use glue, give the glue time to dry before you test the vehicle.

Tips and warnings

  • Mousetraps can be dangerous, so be careful around one that is loaded or poised to strike. They are fast-moving and can cause a lot of pain.

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