Let's build a go kart!

2y ago


Back, about a million years ago, in 1978 I asked my father if we could build a go kart. A simple request right? I had a pile of random pipe, wood, a shopping kart and some nails. Probably some duct tape and chicken wire as well. All the fixings for what any kid knows would be the ultimate get-around-the-neighborhood ride.

At the ripe age of 7 you could see the need for speed in my eyes. Or at least the need to build a go-kart.

Hey Dad, can we build a go kart with this stuff?

Me as a kid

Well one could say that someday came and went, or never came at all. Either way, I never got that go-kart. Some lame excuse about missing parts, maybe someday or some garbage like that. All I knew was that deep down inside there was one pissed off eight year old boy. Funny how the most mundane events can help to set your earliest life's goals.

Fast forward 30 years, and now with boys of my own we set off to build ourselves a go-kart.

Oh, our go-kart won't be based on any car. Oh no, it's based on the Bugatti Type 35.

When this is done can I drive it through the drive-through at Taco Bell?

One of the boys

I ordered some plans I found referenced from an old issue of Popular Mechanics, circa 1983. The plans were old, somewhat crude, but definitely helped to kick start our project.

The goal was to build a car based on a Bugatti Type 35. I have a soft spot for these old cars, well really any old car, and since cars from this era all somewhat resembled a giant go-kart I figured this would be a great basis for ours.

We first started off with the basic rails of our car.

No, it's not a railroad track.

Before we got too far ahead of ourselves I had to mull over how in the world this thing would move. I knew that if it were a simple push car, it would turn out to be more of a 'hey Dad, come push me in this car' instead. The plans called for a pedal car, but I wanted more than that and wanted something they could get a little bit of speed with. Some ingenuity was in order.

While the boys weren't looking I commandeered their old bicycles.

I knew that if it were a simple push car, it would turn out to be more of a Hey Dad! Come, push me in this car! instead.


The boys had recently outgrown a small Spiderman bike which I thought would not only be a good donor for wheels, having four wheels that match, but also would be able to provide a sprocket to provide power.

Voila. We now have what resembles an airplane, at least according to the mail carrier walking by.

Is that an airplane?

The mail carrier walking by

With some creative use of a saw, and some good old fashioned elbow grease we were able to get our wheels attached. We even had steering! Galvanized pipe provided some impromptu spindles at the front which surprisingly worked quite well.

Some saw horses provided a good alternative to a hydraulic car lift.

What are you going to do with it when it's done?

My wife

Every go-kart has to have a steering wheel and I figured, why not make one from scratch. So with a piece of pine, and a couple of afternoons, we set off to create one. As we dug deeper into our project my wife asked "What are you going to do with it when you're done?". While she did have a point, as any cool Dad can tell you getting there is half the fun. I just pretended I didn't hear her and pressed on.

Our finished steering wheel turned out quite nice.

Of course we couldn't resist putting everything we had together at this point for a dry run.

With our wheel created and most of our car set, we then put some simple aluminum siding over the top to fill in the body. We even went so far as to put an exhaust pipe (or rather kitchen drain pipe) for full effect.

Bribery with ice pops was in order for this photo.

Dad, when this is all done we'll let you drive it.

The boys

Next a little painting came along. Young boys with a gallon of paint and brushes. What could go wrong?

As anyone who has ever painted anything with kids knows, after 5 minutes you end up taking over. I'm not sure if it was the desire for perfection, to reduce the likelihood they'd end with paint in their hair, or to hurry up since supper was ready.

Probably a little bit of all of the above.

Where did the blue hand prints on the drive-way come from?

My wife

Men's trouser belts to finish the look.

Is it a hood or a bonnet? Which is it?

Me, arguing with myself

We thought that adding a couple of leather straps across the hood would be a nice touch. After arguing with myself whether it was called a hood or a bonnet for what seemed like an eternity, I determined it was a battle that I wouldn't win. Off I went to the local discount store and purchased two mens trouser belts and affixed them over the hood with the strongest glue I could find.

Finally we managed to reach completion. A coat of paint in what color you ask? I call it Bugatti Blue. The man at the paint store had no idea what I was talking about when I asked for that color so we pointed at a close paint chip.

What good is a race car without a number? Lucky 7 it was. Our car's livery was now in full bloom.

I could tell the boys were getting really excited about our project. While our goal was to build a go-kart, I gradually realized that they had simultaneously learned to use a saw, drill, how to paint, and more.

This was definitely much more than just a go-kart.

This is the best thing ever!

One of the boys

Completion, finally. How long will it last I wonder?

Finally after what seemed like an eternity, our kart was finished.

We built a ton of memories, painted the driveway, went through a box of band-aids, a case of ice-pops and drove my wife nuts. And I wouldn't have had it any other way.

I do realize though that I still have yet to get my go-kart, but as any simple Dad can tell you sometimes one has to make sacrifices for their kids.