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Balloon Car Card Trick

20-30 min


Ages 8+

What Will You Learn?

Let’s make a homemade balloon-powered toy car! And then, let’s do magic with it! The story goes like this… you have someone pick a card, and it gets mixed back in the deck. The cards are then spread out in a big mess on the table. You introduce your toy balloon car, show it top and bottom. You blow the balloon up, put the car on the floor, and it zips right over the cards. Your spectator picks the car up and finds their selected card attached right to the belly of the car! 

Let’s get this project rolling!

Prepare the Materials

Step 1

Cut two matching 3 ½” x 5”  rectangles of cardboard. At least one side of each piece should be standard Kraft brown cardboard color with no markings.

Cut two 3” pieces of straw and hot glue one piece of straw along each short end of one of the cardboard rectangles.

Step 2

Remove the ink chambers from two pens.

Step 3

With your scissors, carefully puncture a hole in the center of each of the four water bottle caps. The holes should be just large enough for the ink chamber to push through.

Attach the Caps

Step 4

Push one bottle cap onto the writing end of one of the ink chambers, with the inside of the bottle cap facing outward. Repeat with the other ink chamber and another cap.

Use a small amount of hot glue to secure the ink chamber on the inside of the bottle cap, keeping the cap centered until the glue dries.

Step 5

Now, push the ink chambers through the straws on your cardboard rectangle, and attach the remaining two bottle caps to the other ends of the ink chambers, once again securing the caps in place with hot glue. Don’t forget to hold the cap centered until the glue dries. The more centered each cap is, the better our car will work!

Add the Balloon

Step 6

Take the barrel from one of your pens and carefully cut a 2” piece… depending on the type of pen casing you’re working with, you may need to substitute your scissors for a serrated knife or small saw for this step.

Attach the mouth of your balloon around one end of the pen barrel piece, and secure it in place with the rubber band.

Step 7

Turn your car over, so the wheels are on the table. Secure the non-balloon end of the pen barrel to one of the short ends of the car body with a generous amount of hot glue, letting the pen barrel stick out about 1/4” from the car.

Let’s test the car! Blow up the balloon, and release the car on a smooth surface. Watch it zip across the table or floor! 

Create a Gimmick for the Magic Trick

Step 8

Now we need to create a gimmick (secret part) for the magic trick portion of our project. Turn your car upside down, wheels up. Take three different playing cards, and lay them face down and overlapping in a row between the wheel axles on the car. The cards should be spread into a position to fit perfectly in between the axles but not tucked under the axles. Glue the cards together in this position with craft glue, but do not glue the cards to the car, just glue to cards to each other.

Step 9

Carefully peel off a thin layer of cardboard from the solid brown side of your other cardboard piece. 

Glue the thin layer of cardboard to the face side of your card gimmick, and trim the edges precisely. You should now have a gimmick that appears to be a piece of cardboard on one side and three face-down cards on the other side.

Step 10

With your permanent marker, draw an “X” on the center of the brown side of your gimmick. Draw a matching “X” on underside of your car.

Step 11

Select two matching playing cards, one from each of your packs of cards. With a tiny dab of hot glue, secure one of the cards face up on the underside of your car, covering the “X.”

Place the matching card on top of one of the decks of cards and reserve for performance. Discard the other deck of cards.

The Performance: Begin with your Cards

Step 1

Start with your toy car upside down on a table, with your gimmick in position, hiding the card that is glued to the car. But don’t bring attention to the toy until we need it. As far your audience is concerned, we’re focusing on the playing cards now.

Step 2

Fan out your prepped deck of cards, showing the faces toward the audience, and say to a spectator, “I have a deck of cards, all different! You! Please take this pack and name any number between five and 25!” 

Hand them the deck of cards, and after they name a number, have them count to that number from the top down, placing each card one by one in a pile on the table, face down.

Step 3

When they reach their number, tell them to pick up the counted pile and place it on top of the remaining pack in a criss cross, creating a plus sign.

Step 4

Now pause to reiterate what happened. You showed them a whole pack of different cards, they named any number they wanted. Now, have them pick up their counted pile and memorize the bottom card. Guess what? You just forced a card! That’s the beauty of magic. That little pause of explaining what just happened is actually a form of misdirection to make sure the audience forgets that the bottom card on their pile is actually the first card at the top of the pack! It will always be the top card of the original pack, no matter what number they chose to count to.

Step 5

They’ve memorized the bottom card on their pile. Now, have them place it anywhere in the deck. Have them shuffle the deck thoroughly.

Now, ask them to spread the cards all face down in a pile on the table or floor. Help them spread the cards into a long pile, like a messy road of cards.

The Performance: Move to your Car

Step 6

Now, introduce your homemade car to your audience, but as you pick up the car, be careful to hold the gimmick securely to the car. Tell them that your homemade toy car will actually help find the spectator’s selected card.

Step 7

Explain that the car is made from water bottle caps, pen pieces, cardboard, and hot glue! Turn your wrist to show both sides of the car. Because the gimmick is the same width as the car, you can easily hold them together as one piece, and your audience won’t realize there’s a sneaky piece at all. When showing the underside explain that “X marks the spot!” Say it more than once! We emphasize this point so the audience will remember that they saw that “X” on the bottom of the car and there wasn’t anything else there.

Step 8

Have your spectator stand at one end of the road of cards, ready to catch the toy car. You stand at the other end. 

Pinch both sides of the car as you blow the balloon up with the balloon facing the audience. Use your index finger to hold the air in the balloon.

Step 9

Place the car on the road of cards at your end and swiftly let go of the gimmick, so it lays on top of the pile of cards, blending right in. Release the balloon and let the car go!

The car will zoom across the road of cards to be caught by your spectator at the other end! Have your spectator pick up the car to reveal their selected card attached to the bottom of the car. “X” marks the spot! (In fact, if you want, you can use repositionable glue stick to secure the card to the car instead of hot glue, which will allow your spectator to peel the card off the car at the end of the trick.)

Step 10

As they examine the toy car, scoop up all the playing cards along with the gimmick and remove them from the table, thus hiding all evidence of sneakiness. And with that, you have just performed an amazing magic trick with a balloon powered cardboard car! 

See the build & trick in action!

About the Book

You don’t need to go far to become a real maker magician. To get started, you’ll need only what you can usually find in your home: items like paper, ziploc bags, index cards, coloring utensils, pencils, rubberbands, scissors, etc. The Maker Magician’s Handbook guides you through the creation, performance, and customization of an entire magic show. From there, the possibilities are endless, and by the end of the book, you’ll even be introduced to maker tools like 3D design, 3D printing, and programming, that will take your magic to a whole other level.

Mario the Maker Magician June 4, 2021
Mario "the Maker Magician" Marchese is a New York-based touring family performer with an all-ages theater show and New York Times-recommended virtual show full of homespun magic, DIY robotics, and punk rock slapstick. It's magic through the lens of the Maker Movement!   Mario has appeared on Sesame Street, NBC's Universal Kids, and live on tour with David Blaine, who calls him "the best kids magician in the world!!"   He is the author of The Maker Magician's Handbook and creator of the Chomper Bot Make: Magic kit.   Mario is also a featured maker for Maker Camp 2021!