Archive for the ‘vintage go kart’ Category

That is a seat fit for king provided he is less than 48″ tall and has a Bugatti inspired go kart. In that case, yes this a go kart seat fit for a king.

Until now the boys have been driving the kart sans seat. That is there is obviously a place to sit, just no padding and the likes. They’re just kids, what creature comforts could they care about right? Well not only did I want them to enjoy riding the kart, but I also would prefer them not get a splinter on their backside. OK, and a seat would just look really cool as well.

A typical crowd at Denios Fleamarket.

I shopped around a bit at the local fabric stores in search of vinyl or something leather-like but kept coming up empty handed. Then it donned on me; the local flea market would surely have a vendor selling wholesale vinyl and the like! So early this past Saturday I recruited my oldest son and we headed over. I prefaced him with “Now remember we aren’t going to buy any toys, we just want to find some vinyl. OK?” He assured me he understood and off we went. We parked and began wandering the spots aimlessly for our vendor.

Of course we encountered no less than ten spots selling high quality plastic machine gun toys fresh from China (likely covered in lead based paint) to which I gently reminded him “No, remember why we are here…“. Since he got the hint on whether or not he could get one of these guns he decided to set his sights on the variety of ninja swords and switchblades that were also available. As tempting as it was to pickup a 48″ sword for an eight year old to play with I figured it wasn’t a good idea so I introduced a diversion also known as a Cherry flavored Icee that seemed to settle the matter.

Cutting vinyl to fit our seat template.

We finally found a vendor that not only had a plethora of colored velour, but also the simple black vinyl we were looking for. For a mere $11.00 we had acquired exactly what we came for, and plenty of it I might add! The least they would sell me was 36″x54″ so we were plenty covered for our little seat and likely then some.

The next day I wholeheartedly dug into our project. Before I jumped though I paused for a bit to think about exactly how I would attach our vinyl, or rather what we would attach it to. You see our original plans called for an adjustable seat, that attached to what we already have. I opted not to have that additional weight and height (since we were already running out of room for the boys) but now I didn’t really have any other option except attaching the vinyl directly onto the existing seat…. or did I?

I thought about making a pattern with which to cut the vinyl thinking that cardboard would work great. As I was cutting it out, I thought “Why not just use the cardboard itself and attach the vinyl to it?” Heck, it worked for door panels in old cars right? Well actually those were more like very thin particle board but close enough. It would make the seat nice and light but also make it removable if I needed to repair it and we know all know what the odds of needing to do that are.

Gluing our sides of the vinyl around our cardboard backing.

First thing I did was to cut out some cardboard into two pieces; a shape matching that of the seat and another matching the back. Then I took these pieces and laid them onto the back of our vinyl and using a white crayon I sketched the shape that I would cut out of the vinyl. I made sure to sketch the line to cut approximately 2″ larger than the cardboard template itself. This extra vinyl would not only give us some extra to attach to the rear of the cardboard, but also enough extra to accommodate some poly fill we’ll be stuffing inside.

Filling our seat with poly-foam fill to make it nice and soft.

Once we had our shape cut out I carefully applied some fabric glue to the bottom portion of our cardboard and pulled the vinyl around, tightly holding it in place for a few minutes. This adhesive dried really quickly, but for good measure I put some weights on it for a bit and let it dry.

After about 20 minutes I then continued with the other two sides. After these were glued and dried in place I then stuffed some poly fill into the last open side, trying to evenly spread it out giving the seat a bit of a puffed up appearance. I was really surprised how firmly the cardboard was holding up. After I was satisfied with the fill I carefully applied more glue into the last edge and pulled our vinyl as snug as I could, over the edge, and onto the back. As with the other sides I held this firm by hand for a few minutes, followed by some weight for another 20-30 mins.

Both the back and the seat with our vinyl now attached.

Once the adhesive was dry I asked Luke what he thought of the seat so far. He held it in his hands and cautiously squeezed it, as if it were a package of Charmin. He smiled and said; “Ooh, it’s cozy.” I said “Yeah, I like it too.”

Next I repeated these same steps with the seat back as well, and in no time we had what appeared to be a complete go kart seat that didn’t look half bad. Really for $11.00 and a few hours work it really turned out pretty good.

With the seat back now dry enough to handle I slid them both into position on the kart. They fit like a glove. They actually fit snug enough that I may not even need to permanently attach them, though I could always place some velcro tape behind them just to be sure. Securing them with velcro would not only make them say put, but also make them easily removable for the inevitable repairs I mentioned earlier. Either way before I do anything else I’m going to go ahead and paint the interior black so the plain wood won’t be so noticeable.

A go kart seat fit for a king. OK, a rather small king.

All in all I’m very happy with this step. It was one of those things that you really don’t know how it’s going to turn out until you finish it. Come to think of it, this whole project has kind of been that way.

A horrible picture of two cheap leather belts.

We’ve all seen them…men wearing both suspenders and a belt. I’ve never quite understood it. Is it a fashion statement? Or do they each, simultaneously serve some purpose? I’m a fan of suspenders with a suit and as for belts, I like to keep my pants up as much as the next guy but why both at the same time?

As much as I was on the fence for how to create the appearance of hood straps for our go kart I decided that we could fashion some out of some good old leather belts. Not because using suspenders would be a fashion faux pa, but rather because suspenders just wouldn’t look quite the same.

As with the rest of our kart I didn’t want put too much money into this addition (no sense in spending $50+ for two belts I was going to cut up) so I took to scouring the local Goodwill and garage sale looking for two black leather belts. The challenge with hitting places like this wasn’t finding two belts, it was finding two belts that matched. Finally, on a suggestion, I paid a  visit to the local Walmart.

Measuring the length for our first strap.

Now I’m not exactly a fan of Walmart and this not-so-quick trip reminded me of why. It wasn’t finding two cheap leather belts, no that was relatively painless. It was the dreaded check out. Each of the 25 registers was being commanded by a woman no less than 100 years old. To add to my adventure each of these women had their hands full since each person in line had one, sometimes two shopping carts full to the brim with the days special “Roll Back” deals. Many of the shopping carts were full of necessities such as The Varsity Snuggie, the Magic Jack, and very large bags of Cheetos.  While waiting my wife called me and asked what was taking me so long, I mentioned “Oh, I went to Walmart.”. She simply said “Why in the world did you do that?”. I was beginning to ask myself the same question.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I was headed home with our leather belts. At only $5.00 each, it may have been worth the wait, although I guess it’s debatable.

Positioning the buckle side of the front strap. Note the notch cut on the bottom.

The belts we picked up were each 36″. This would give us plenty of length to go across the hood and attach onto both sides of the body. First thing we did was measure the length we’d need, starting with the front strap. The strap would be placed right on the edge of the grill, true to the original Bugatti Type 35. Placing the strap here would also help to hide the “imperfections” in the hood a bit.

Once I measured the total length I determined exactly where I wanted the buckle. I held the buckle end against the side and made a mark on the leather where it would butt up against the frame. With this mark I then took a utility knife and cut the belt apart. The length was good, but I also had to cut notches on the end since part of the strap would sit on the upper control arm and the other portion will reach to where the body meets the frame rails. Once this was done we now had the one side ready to secure to our kart.

Painter tape and glue. Whatever it takes...

To secure it to the body I decided to go with good old Guerrilla Glue. This stuff is strong, strong as…. well strong as a guerrilla. I spread a small bead of glue onto the back of the leather belt, placed it onto the side of the kart and applied some tape to hold it secure.

Once the glue tacked up a bit I then taped whatever I could find to hold extra pressure to it, including some track from a Thomas The Train we had sitting around. The boys panicked when they saw that but I assured them it was for a good cause and wouldn’t be permanently stuck to the kart.

While this buckle side was drying I moved onto the rear buckle. I measured, cut and applied with more glue. Because this one went over the louvers and near the exhaust we trimmed a slight curve. With this piece cut to the correct length I also applied some glue and placed it against the body. It was a bit more difficult to keep it into position so as with the front I taped a few things against the body to hold pressure against the strap.

Both vintage-looking hood straps now in place.

After an hour or so for the first two to dry, I headed to the straps on the other side. As we had with the other, I cut a notch into the front piece and also cut an inch off the end where the holes were. It was just a bit too long. Once I trimmed the length I then rounded off the ends with some sandpaper so they didn’t look like I just hacked them off which of course was exactly what we just did. Here we are with one more step of progress on our kart. Next maybe a plexi-glass windscreen?

At this rate maybe I’ll finish it by the time the boys get their driver’s licenses.

Brakes. Who needs ‘em. Well, come to think of it we do…especially now that we’ve completely removed the coaster brake on our drive wheel. I know, I know, you’re thinking “Well, why did you go and do that? You had such a nice solution.“A couple of reasons.
First, as you know we needed to remount the rear wheels. The simple offset block of wood we had just wasn’t cutting it, and second was an observation I made with our coaster brake setup. You see I realized that no matter what I did, since we had move the coaster brake bracket to the opposite side of where the actual clutch mechanism for the brake itself exists, well the brake would never really work or at least work well. In fact after a few dry runs I realized that the setup we had would actually inhibit the wheel to gradually work loose each time you applied the brakes! Either that or the wheel would gradually lock up. Either way, as Luke would say “That’s bad.”.

To solve my problem with the brakes I just decided to simply gut the wheel hubs and remove the brakes altogether. By doing this I effectively made the hub a “free-wheel” (where you can pedal backwards, coasting, but engage the sprocket going forward).

After doing a fair amount of research to determine whether or not I could actually make the coaster brakes do what I wanted them to do (I even went so far as to say please) it was simply easiest to not use the coaster brake at all but rather build a hand brake system. We’ll get to actually building the brakes  on another day, first we needed to settle the wheel hubs and mount them. To solve the problem with the mounting I opted to completely eliminate the brake and axle assembly from each rear wheel. In lieu of the factory axle on each wheel we would use a single solid axle that would go through the frame, and through each wheel.

Drilling for our new rear axle.

I headed to Home Depot and picked up a 36″ length of 3/8″ steel rod. I decided I would run a single axle through the frame, and mount each wheel onto the axle. This would insure that the wheels were not only parallel but would give them that much extra strength to hold the riders weight.

First we needed to determine exactly where to put the axle. I realized after some earlier test rides that the wheels were a bit too far forward in that a heavier rider would have just enough weight behind the rear wheels that the front wheels would just barely come off the ground. Based on this I decided to move them back a good 2″. This will require we build a longer chain, but that won’t be too big of a deal.

Once we had our holes drilled we needed to determine exactly how we would hold the axle in place. I realized that the pipe floor flanges we had used earlier were perfect in that the axle would fit just right through the threaded hole.

Good ole pipe flanges. They've proven quite useful in this project.

With our axle holes drilled we positioned our pipe flanges on each side, marked the holes, and drilled mounting points.

Next with our flanges drilled and mounted we set our sights on the axle itself. We placed the rod into our bench vice and proceeded to thread approximately 5″ on one end. We used a die that was the same thread as that of our wheel axles, which will allow us to reuse all of the threaded pieces that came with the wheel. With each step I took here I constantly would ask myself “Now, why didn’t I do this to begin with ?”. The fact that I was being barraged with questions like “Dad, when is this going to be done?” and “Dad, can I ride the go kart now?” didn’t help either.

The threading process went quite smoothly with the boys chipping in here and there though they always seemed to have one ear cocked towards the street awaiting the now almost daily ice-cream-man pilgrimage.

Threading our axle to match the old ones so we can reuse the wheel hardware.

We threaded one side and slid our drive wheel into place on the axle. I intentionally only threaded the one side so that we could slide the axle into place to get a measurement of how much to cut off before we threaded the other side.

I carried the wheel and axle assembly over to our kart and slid the axle into the frame. Next I went to tighten the outer wheel nut in place and realized the outer wheel ball bearings had fallen out of the wheel somewhere during the 20′ journey I had just taken across the garage. I just had them… didn’t I? They’d turn up eventually I figured so I continued with the rough assembly to get a measurement of our axle.

Axle with one wheel mounted and one wheel hub removed.

I placed the axle into the frame, all the way through, and out the other side. We had at least 8″ of excess coming on the other side. I positioned the wheel approximately where it would be and measured how much length of axle it used. I then used that measurement on the other side and made a mark to indicate where we would cut off the excess length.

Next we pulled the axle and wheel back out of the frame and cut off the end we had just marked. With our axle now the proper length we then threaded the other side to prepare to mount this second wheel. I went ahead and repacked the wheel bearings of the second wheel since we will be assembling that wheel onto the axle next. While I was doing this I realized that my trusty assistant had disappeared into the house. I knew he had greasy hands so figured I’d try to catch him before my wife did. New couches + greasy hands =  bad news for sure.

I found him in the hall bathroom…washing the missing ball bearings in the sink. At least we found them, and now they were now clean, cleaned with hand soap no less.

Both wheels mounted with our axle through the frame.

With all of our hardware now present and accounted for we pressed on. I positioned the axle into place, reassembled the primary wheel with it’s found bearings, and attached our second wheel. The wheels looked nice and straight and strong to boot.

With the axle in place next we threaded 1/4″  bolts through each of the four holes in our pipe flanges. These not only provided a nice solid hole for the axle to go through, but also provided a bit of extra strength to hold it all in place with the four bolts. Solid wheels, solid axle, it was all looking quite good.

By this time it was about 7:00 pm. With the weather warm and longer days the boys were all playing outside. I asked one of them if he wanted to take a little test drive with the rear wheels remounted. Not only did he reply with; “Yeah!!!” but he proceeded to announce to every child on the street that their go kart was finished. Of course it wasn’t quite. I knew very well where this was headed. Within minutes a steady stream of children ranging from two to twelve were suddenly lined up in my driveway to take a spin with each screaming “I’m first! I’m first!”. Of course the chain wasn’t on yet so I found myself acting as an amusement park ride operator, pushing each child down the street only to turn around and do it again with the next in line. The smile on their faces and shouts of “This is awesome!” was well worth the lower back pain that I was later greeted with. After I was about half way through the line of children my wife opened the front door, smiled, and yelled: “Hey, is that an airplane?”.

Everyone’s a critic.

Next up our fancy new brakes…

One, two, or three, what’s in a number? Numbers on race cars…they’re just random, arbitrary digits slapped onto a shiny paint job right? Think again. Most if not all have some sort of story behind what and why they are.

Herbie the Love Bug, courtesy of HerbieMania.com

Take one of my kids favorite cars, Herbie. This race car (if you can call it that) is from one of the boys’ favorite movies of all time…. Walt Disney’s Herbie The Love Bug. No, not the more recent one, but the original from 1968 starring Dean Jones, Buddy Hackett and of course Herbie. In this film Herbie, a 1963 Volkswagen Bug, participates against all odds in random road races. Prior to entering these races he is painted up like a race car with stripes and of course his number. The number he’s donned with is good ole “53”.

Just a random number right? Nope, rumor has it that the cast/crew were fans of Baseball Hall of Fame Pitcher, Don Drysdale of the LA Dodgers. So as you see there’s always a story and with our little kart it’s no different.

“What number should we put on your kart guys?” I asked. In unison I heard: “Five!”, “Eight!”, and “Fifteen!”. At least we could all agree. I thought adding a number would make our kart really look the vintage part but I needed to settle this debate first.

White circle paper template for our outline.

I suppose I could have picked a random number myself, but I worried they would just hold a grudge against me for the rest of their lives. “Remember that time Dad built us a go kart and HE insisted on picking the number? Yeah, that was a bummer.” I can see it now. I decided I would use the number “7” since it fell right between them in age. Besides it’s a lucky number.

Now that we decided on the number, I wondered how to apply it. I had briefly thought of just taking the whole kart over to a sign shop or getting some vinyl lettering cut for it but decided against it. Not just for the cost but I figured that hand painting would continue that trend we’ve set of folk-artish-not-perfect-home-built-go-kart sorta look. Yes that’s a very technical term I know.

I decided to put our numbers onto the tail just at the point of the top body bend. I have a poster of vintage Ferrari’s in the garage and took a cue from many of their numbers in that I decided to apply a white circle and have the number within it and edge of the circle in black.

Borrowing a mixing bowl from the kitchen cupboard, I drew a circle onto a piece of paper approximately 8″ in diameter. Next I cut the circle out along the line making a template. Holding the circle up to our kart I then drew a faint line with a pencil around our paper template.

A faint sketch of our 7 and our circle starting to fill in.

Once we had the circle in place I then carefully sketched a number “7”, slightly turned up at a 45 degree angle (for sheer coolness), in the center of the circle. Once I was happy with this I went and did the same thing on the other side.

Next I took some bright white, matte, latex paint I had sitting around. I carefully painted inside our circle, but around the number “7” we sketched.

Little by little I filled in our circle getting right up to the edge of our penciled “7”. Although I knew I would coming back along the number with black paint I still wanted to get as nice clean edge as possible around the number and the perimeter of the circle itself.

As the paint began to dry I noticed the texture it was leaving. It was as if, well as if it were house paint applied with a brush, which of course it was. We had applied paint to the body of the kart in exactly the same way, which also has just a hint of brush strokes, so at least we were being consistent.

Our complete white base ready for the black fill and outline.

Once I was finished with our driver’s side I then moved over to the other. After I applied an initial coat to each I went back and applied an additional coat for good measure. I took a bit to get a good coverage over the blue base but eventually we got it all done.

Now that we had both sides complete with the white I let it dry a day or so and was next able to apply a solid outline and fill for the number. I headed over to Lowe’s and picked up a sample size can of black latex paint. You figure we don’t have much to cover so a small 10 oz. can would be more than enough for what we needed to cover.

First I filled in the number and carefully applied a 1/4″ or so outline around the circle. It was a bit tough to cover both the white and the blue base, so I found I had to go over it a few times.

Our finished race number, outlined and filled.

As I was filling it all in I realized that the screws that I previously didn’t like were growing on me. I feel they almost give the kart a bit of an industrial look, almost like a school bus. After finishing the drivers side I moved on over to the passenger side. Once I was completed there I went back and applied a second coat to the driver and returned again to the passenger side.

A bit of back and forth, but it dried quickly and as a result it was easy to get that additional coat on there. It turned out I had quite a bit left so I went ahead and also added a coat to the dash board, which to this point is just primer.

After only a couple of hours work, voila. We have our race number. Herbie the Love Bug it’s not, but it does have that vintage race car appearance. A hint of roughness to the edges but that just matches the overall roughness of the kart.

Both race numbers in place on the tail.

The look from above wasn’t too bad either, with the top of each circle just slightly curving over the top. We’re finally complete now with the painting of this project. We have our base, our numbers, and heck even a coat of black applied to our dashboard.

Finally, the complete reassembly is on the horizon.

Until next time

Ahh, you thought I meant that grill. No, I’m talking about the grill of our kart… you know that part in the front that covers the radiator, etc. I took a fair amount of time to study my options here, mulling them over and over. This longer update I think will really reflect the thought we put into it.

An original, Type 35 grill.

If you’ve been following our progress, you know our kart is based on the Bugatti Type 35, whose unmistakable grill is… well, unmistakable. While keeping true to the original,  I also wanted to add a bit of our own unique flair. I just wasn’t quite sure how.

A friend commented that “You know, that car needs it’s own badge or logo…”. Little did I know just how much inspiration a bit of input from a good ole designer from down under would do me. The resulting logo was perfectly suited to find itself on our grill. Not to mention also perfect for maybe a t-shirt or two in the future.

The first thing I did was take a good look at our logo to determine exactly how it would be incorporated into the grill. Would I just stick it on? I could I suppose. Or would I incorporate it into the shell? I decided on the latter. Let’s see how clean we could include it. Worst case I figured was it would be disastrous and I’d start over.

A logo for our grill, courtesy of Moca Loca.

As you can see with our new logo, clearly we’re inspired by fellow Italians, Ferrari. And of course we had to include the boys in it…. after all they’ve put away a case of Otter Pops to this point in our project alone.

To house the logo I decided I would cut a shell that would surround our faux radiator. The shell will sit atop a piece of 1/4″ plywood that after painting black, we’ll then cover with window screen to give it that radiator slot appearance.

First I outlined the perimeter shape we wanted, onto some extra 1/2″ pine stock we had left over from earlier work. It took a bit of sketching to get the shape just right, so that we could have enough of a gap around the logo to be able to see it completely.

Our basic grill shape ready to get cut out.

After I was happy with the grill shape I then drilled a number of starter holes into the corners to make it easier to get our jig saw around.

I figured cutting this out was going to be a bit tricky since I would be cutting around the perimeter, as well as cutting out the interior. The goal here was to leave a shell that would have a large exposed area in the center, as well as a hole where the logo would be placed. And I wanted to do this preferably without splitting the wood.

First I cut the perimeter, then slowly cut the interior away, followed by the small area where the logo would be placed. My fear was that the vibration would cause the wood to split, but luckily this never happened. After some very cautious cutting we finally ended up with our shell.

Our shell cut out and ready to be finished off.

Next I spent some considerable time with some 80 grit sand paper and worked my way around the inside and outside of our shell smoothing out all the rough edges. I even went ahead and rounded off the corners to give it just a bit of a more finished appearance.

Cleaning up the area where the logo will appear through was kind of tough in that the area was so tight. As luck would have it I had a 1/2″ wide file that was perfect to get in there and smooth the edges out. After I was able to smooth out the whole thing I went back over it with some 220 grit sand paper. It was nice and smooooooth.

Next I turned to the simulated radiator itself. That piece will sit directly behind this shell. We’ll be painting the shell silver (or as close to chrome as I can get it), so sitting on top of the black radiator it should really have a nice contrast, not to mention it will break up all that blue paint.

Our shell and the backing for it.

I placed our shell onto a scrap of 1/4″ plywood and drew the shape we needed. Next I cut out the shape and placed our shell over it to see how it all will all sit together. A pretty nice fit.

Before we painted this piece I wanted to get our window screen cut to fit.  Once mounted the screen will give the appearance of the edges of a genuine radiator, adding just enough texture.

I placed the backing on the ground and placed a large section of window screen over it. Using scissors I then cut around the edge, generously leaving about a 1/4″ excess around the edge. We’ll come back and trim a bit closer later.

I then put our shell over that screen, and borrowing a white crayon from the boys, I then made some marks to indicate the shape of where the logo will go. You see I only want the screened portion to be in the larger area, and the area the logo will be affixed to will simply be only black.  Once I was happy with the screen I then trimmed it to be exact size.

Our shell and backing all painted with the screen trimmed to fit.

With the screen all trimmed, we next covered both pieces with some primer to prepare them for some paint.  After the primer was dry we then hit our radiator plywood portion with a coat of flat black lacquer.  While that was drying we turned our attention to the shell. We shot the shell with a coat of silver lacquer, then after an hour hit it with a second. We then let both pieces dry for a full 24 hours. When we came back we now had to figure out how to put it all together.

Now which should go first? Should I mount it all together and then put it the kart? I thought about this for a bit. I thought about the target audience (the three boys) who were bound to ram this thing into a curb (or similar obstacle) and break the upper and/or lower control arms. With that in mind I needed to be able to remove and replace them. Since this radiator/grill would be sandwiching the upper control arm between it and the frame rails I decided I would screw it onto the kart. This way I could remove it if I needed to later.

With this decided I then put the logo into place. Given a high quantity run of go karts, I’d go for a silk screened logo or sticker directly onto our radiator or something like that. Since I’m putting this together with essentially what I have around I simply printed the logo onto high quality UV resistant photo paper.

Affixed logo and counter sunken screw holes, ready for mounting.

Not very high tech, but sometimes you gotta work with what you got. With this printed out, I cut it cleanly along the edge, and brought out the crazy glue and glued it into position on the “radiator”. I trimmed it so that it would slightly reveal the black color of the radiator around it.

With the decision to screw the entire structure onto the kart next I drilled pilot holes, counter sinking the holes so I can have the screws flush.

Remember we’re going to assemble the pieces onto the kart, one at a time. First we’ll screw the “radiator” (or black plywood) into place, mount the cut screen over it, and finally we’ll glue the shell into place. As I noted above, assembling it in this order will allow us to simply unscrew the three mounting screws and the entire assembly will come off the kart allowing access to the upper control arm.

I placed the backing onto the kart, holding it into position, and ran the three mounting screws into place. Next I carefully drove the screws in a bit below the surface so that they set flush on the plywood. Once they were in tight I then used a black Sharpie pen to color the screws black. They’ll be covered by the screen, but this will help to make them a bit more inconspicuous.

Shell glued into place over our screened radiator.

With this step completed next I glued the pre-cut screen onto our black plywood radiator. The screen covered our screws and ran right up to the edge of the black wood backing, sitting flush all the way around.

Once this was dry I then did the same with our silver shell. With the shell I ran a generous amount of adhesive onto the back of the shell, and then carefully pushed it against the radiator and screen already mounted on the kart.

Nothing with our project has been perfect to this point, so why should this step be any different? You can see some of the rough edges that we missed, the paint on the shell isn’t quite perfect, but so what. It’s got character.

Overall the silver of it really provides a nice break-up from the large areas of Blue that we have. A little contrast is really nice to see here.

Holding it all together while the adhesive dried.

To hold all of our assembly in place I went ahead and wrapped the front end generously in painters tape to hold pressure against the grill, effectively pulling towards the back of the kart.

After a few hours of dry time I carefully removed the tape holding it all in place. I half expected it to simply fall onto the floor, but luckily that didn’t happen. I was really happy to see it all held and didn’t look half bad. The window screen really worked out well to provide a hint of a radiator grill. It has just enough texture.

I’m half tempted to wrap some chrome duct tape over the gap that remains between the radiator and the front of the kart, but I may just leave it.  Adding it would help to hide some of the imperfections from where we mounted the aluminum hood, but I don’t think I could get the tape to lay flat enough to look better than what it does now. I think I’ll just leave it. I could always place a leather strap near this gap as well. We’ll revisit some of these steps later.

As I mentioned to someone I went with to the Good Guy’s All American car show this weekend while looking at a customized early Ford… “Sometimes enough is enough.”.

Our custom grill and radiator all in place.

This step took a fair amount of time and creativity and I’m really happy with the way it turned out. Not perfect, but just right.

I’ll have to keep my eyes open for something that resembles a radiator cap that I can stick on top. I’ve seen cases where people have used lids from jam jars, etc. If you have any suggestions drop me a comment.

Until our next update…

When I was in high school I took an automotive bodywork class. The course included repairing dents, painting cars, welding, playing with a plasma cutter, etc.  Great stuff.  It was a good class and I learned a lot, but one of the most vivid things I remember is the teacher telling us that painting anything, cars or otherwise, is 80% prep work. You can have the most expensive paint, the best gun, a great environment to paint with, but if you don’t prepare it’s all worthless. I remember this as well as the fact that the teacher inexplicably drove his truck through the gate of the body shop yard, but that’s a different story.

A quick break before we dive into our prepwork.

With our kart clearly we’re not painting a full size car, but I did feel we needed to do a fair amount of prep work before we even could consider applying any color to our kart. The first thing we needed to do was remove the wheels, exhaust, etc. It was a bit sad in a way, to have put so much effort to getting the exhaust just right, the wheels in place, the steering linkage, etc. only to say “OK guys, now let’s take it all apart.” Amazingly the boys were not only fine with this, but they really dug in and helped… no really… seriously… what you don’t believe me?

Before we began they asked if they could sit in it one more time before we took most of the pieces off. Oh, and of course, they asked if they could have an Otter Pop as well.

With our Otter Pop break out of the way they got out their tools and went to work. First we put the kart up on our saw horses. The height was just perfect for the boys with the work right at eye level. You could almost say it was their car lift of sorts.  Next I told them we first needed to remove the front wheels.

We started with removal of the front wheels.

I had them each remove one wheel, pull it off and set it aside.  With the front wheels off we then moved to the back. With the wheels off I asked them to place the washer and nut back onto the wheel axle so we wouldn’t lose them. One of the boy’s asked me “What did you call that Dad?”, I replied “What, you mean this washer?”.

He then asked me in a very matter-of-fact way “Why do they call it a washer, it’s not cleaning anything?”. You know he did have a good point. Leave it to a six year old to point out the obvious.

The rear wheels were somewhat of a two-man, or rather two-boy, job in that one of them had to hold a nut that ran through the frame while the other loosened it from the outside.

While they were doing this I was reminded of working in various repair shops years ago, and being under a car that was on the lift at roughly the same level. I was working at a local Montgomery Wards Auto Center.

I had just started working at this shop a day or so before and hadn’t had a chance to bring my own tools into the shop, so my boss graciously let me borrow his. He had a brand new Snap On roll-away. This was the big-daddy of tool boxes. Now things of this level tool box are commonplace, but this was roughly 25 years ago. This tool box had everything, including a built in stereo.

I had a small, front-wheel drive, car on a hoist in front of this tool box. I lifted the hoist, raising the car where the wheels were at my eye level. I then proceeded to remove the wheels, starting with the rear. Let me remind you we had a front wheel drive car,  in the air… with no rear wheels. You can probably guess where this is headed.

Once I removed the second rear wheel I immediately realized I had the car a bit too far forward on the hoist… and it began to take a nose dive into my boss’ tool box. Yes, I soiled my pants, but only after I jumped on the rear bumper as it shot into the air to level the car.

Luckily it didn’t slide off the hoist, and my boss was never to the wiser. For at least a week after that experience I never lifted a car higher than 12″ off the ground on the hoist.  Word of advice… don’t do that.

A bit of wood putty here and there never hurt anyone.

With our wheels all removed from the kart we then removed the exhaust. With this stuff out of the way we could sand all our rough spots and fill in the screw holes with a bit of wood putty. I say a “bit” but one could go so far as to say I applied it quite liberally.

Where we used the most putty was where I wanted to make as smooth a transition as possible to our moulding on the tail. This process required adding putty, drying, sanding, and repeating for what seemed like days. The weather was a bit cool so the putty didn’t want to dry as fast as it otherwise would have.

After some time sanding we were all covered in saw dust and powder from the dried wood putty. Without any suggestion the boys ran off and found some safety goggles to help them with the dust in their eyes. I was really surprised to see how much they were into our progress, it was great to see.

Once we sanded off all the rough edges we took some 3M painters tape and covered the steering spindles and the top of the steering column.  Had I had the room and flexibility I would have preferred to use spray paint, but we went ahead with a foam brush and applied a nice couple of light coats of Kilz exterior primer/sealer to the entire kart.

A white ghost of a go kart. Thank you iPhone for the lackluster lighting.

The wood was all ready to have the primer applied. As for the steel part I wasn’t sure if it would stick. To be sure I went ahead and roughed it up with some really fine sand paper. The kart was really looking ugly at this point, but I knew it would work out in the end. Or at least I hoped so.

We let the primer dry for a day or so, then applied a second coat just for good measure. I’m beginning to see the result of our hard work.  At this point I realized that in pretty short order I’d have to decide on a color for this thing.

Since day one I’ve been on the fence as to whether I should go traditional, “Bugatti Blue”, or something a bit different but with the same vintage feel.  Decisions, decisions.

Until the next afternoon I can squeeze in some progress…

Is it a trunk or a boot? Who really cares, I’m talking about the back. As we did with the front portion, this step of our Bugatti kart involved trimming a sheet of galvanized steel to size and carefully wrapping it around the wooden framing we’ve previously put in place.

Using two quarter round mouldings to finish off the tail.

But, before we were able to sit down and get to business with the steel sheet I needed to consider the point or tail edge itself. You see where the left and right sides of the body meet in the tail, we ended up with an edge that was approximately one and a half inches wide.

Had I been more careful with the body and tail assembly I probably could have significantly reduced this to the point that all it needed was a bit of good filing and some elbow grease. But alas, I didn’t think that far ahead and here we are… with a bit of a challenge. Nothing insurmountable, just something else to keep me on my toes with this project.

I figured that I could probably use some simple wood moulding/trim to finish this off so I headed to my second home (Home Depot that is). I wasn’t able to find a single half-round that was the right size, so I settled on quarter round pieces that I figured we could just glue together.

Our custom moulding glued and held in place to dry.

I roughed up the pieces, applied a generous amount of wood glue, and held them together with rubber bands for a few hours.

After gluing the two pieces of moulding together, I then glued the entire single piece onto the back of the kart. To hold this all nice and firm against the kart I then wrapped a few lengths of painters tape around the tail which applied constant pressure to the glued surfaces.

After a few hours of drying, leaving the tape in place, I next drilled a few pilot holes through the moulding into the kart body. Since I knew I would be filing this down and generally putting some elbow grease into it, I wanted to make sure it wasn’t going to go anywhere.

Once the pilot holes were complete I set a few 2″ finishing nails through the moulding, attaching it securely to the kart. This piece wasn’t going anywhere that’s for sure.

Creating a template with newspaper for our sheet metal.

Now… to think about exactly how the steel sheet would mount. I knew it would be wrapped around the shape much like we had done in the front, but I wasn’t quite sure how I would finish of the very edge where we have our moulding.

After some serious consultation with the boys (“Oh yeah sure Dad, whatever you say.”) I figured I would first put a rough layout together with newspaper.

One of the challenges we had with the front was that I didn’t use a template, but rather just measured and cut it out. I shot from the hip you might say.

In doing this I did a fair amount of trimming as we were mounting it and that was something I wanted to try to avoid here if I could. The final result there was fine, but I think in retrospect I could have made it fit better had I taken a slightly different approach. Live and learn as they say. Anyway…

Our sheet cut out just sitting in place for the moment.

With the newspaper taped in place I sketched the perimeter lines with a Sharpie to indicate the final shape that I wanted our sheet metal. I then removed the newspaper and trimmed it along the lines we just placed on it thus creating my template.

With our newspaper template now complete I placed it onto the sheet metal and once again using our Sharpie, outlined the shape. I was sure to give myself an extra half inch or so all around just to be safe.

It was about this time that one of the neighborhood kids (a girl in fact) came by and said “I wish my Dad would build me one of these.” Awesome. I must be doing something right here.

Once we outlined our template I then picked up our cheap Harbor Freight cutting shears and cut it out. The shape of our panel once mounted will follow along the seat back, along the sides following the top of the tail, and will meet at the new tail piece we put in place.

Most of our screws set revealing the final gap on the end to consider.

At the top of the tail I decided to shape the steel to match that of the half-round moulding and bend the sides around to meet it. Once it was all cut, the next step we took was to place marks at 3″ intervals around the edge of our steel and drill pilot holes through the steel. Every 3″ may seem a bit extreme, but it’s mainly to keep the steel snug against the wood.

With our pilot holes in place we next set the steel into position, with the back of it sitting nice and snug onto the seat back. Once I was happy with the side to side positioning I then set this first screw into the back center.

To try to avoid the buckling we experienced with the front, I then worked outward from this center screw along the length. After setting a couple of more screws I went ahead and set the center of the rear (this is right on the moulding we mounted) to insure the steel stayed put.

Little by little the stability and strength of our sheet increased until we had all the screws set except the final two on both sides of the rear point.

Scrap piece we'll wrap around and mount over the moulding.

I had intentionally left these loose while I considered how best to get the final bit of moulding covered. I suppose I could have done it as one complete piece but the thought of cutting segments out, with the intention that they would miraculously meet perfectly in the middle was a gamble I didn’t think I’d win. I figured working with two separate pieces just be easier to deal with.

Since we had the very top of our moulding covered (we cut a slight half circle) we only had to consider wrapping around and meeting with the already set steel on the sides. No sweat right?

I secretly borrowed my wife’s sewing measuring tape (shhhh!) and wrapped it around our moulding and measured the distance from our steel on side to the steel on the other.

The final wrap piece in place and some sanding to remove the sharp edges.

The amount of scrap we had sitting around was perfect for a piece this small. It was easy to work with in that it was only roughly 6″ wide at the bottom and 3 1/2″ wide at the top.  I cut it out and was careful to hit with some 100 grit sand paper I had sitting around. This removed the sharp edges that were left behind when cutting it up.

Next I went ahead and drew a line down the center, so that I could align it with the center of our moulding. We will then carefully bend it around to meet up with the partially mounted sheet… well that’s the idea anyway.

I positioned our scrap onto the moulding and carefully bent it, sliding it underneath our already mounted piece.  This way we will end up with a relatively clean line of our steel and the larger piece will effectively clamp down our smaller piece nice and tight. It worked perfectly and didn’t look half bad.

As I mentioned before, so far we’ve had relatively little buckling which is great to see. The steel is bent to the curve of the wooden body and there aren’t anywhere near the bends and dents we ended up with on the front. With this final piece in place I think it will all be nice and tidy.

Once I had the sides of our scrap slid in place underneath the already mounted main piece, I then ran a screw through each side to hold it all together.

Close up revealing our installation with relatively little buckling. You can see where both pieces were screwed together near the tail.

Next with the corners screwed in, I then ran an additional screw about midway up our scrap piece, securing it firmly in place.  We now had the moulding completely covered, or wrapped around.

I discovered that in the top of the tail section, where the pieces met, a little tap here and there with a ball peen hammer did a world of good. These little taps just ever so slightly bent these raised points inward, towards the wood body making for a smoother overall finish.

After mounting this piece we still have just a hair of wood visible through the gap where the pieces meet, but it’s relatively little and isn’t really a big deal. Once we’re all painted I think it won’t be all that noticeable.

Our kart is resembling a Bugatti more and more all the time.

With this step we’ve completed all of our steel work for the body. I have some things in mind with regards to the grill but I think that will fall into place after we do some priming of the body and wood.

To prepare for priming the next step will be removing all of the exhaust, the wheels, and taping off anything with the steering components we don’t want painted.

Stay tuned, with Spring just around the corner I don’t expect our next step to be too far off.

Is it a bonnet or a hood? I suppose it may depend on which side of the Atlantic you’re from. In either case I’m speaking of the portion of the body that would cover the engine. Or in our case, the top portion of the body that will cover the riders feet and pedals.

Measuring the curvature of the dash.

This part of the body will be fashioned out of a sheet of galvanized steel. The sheet will attach over the oval top of our grill, on both sides just above the louvers, and finally to the top of our dashboard.

I thought that my local Home Depot carried some materials like this, but I wasn’t sure. Before I headed over I took all of the necessary measurements. This included the curve of the grill, the distance from the grill to the dash and the curvature of the dash as well. I jotted down my measurements, recruited a helper and then headed over. My assistant insisted we take a tour of the pre-built storage sheds in the parking lot, so after that little diversion we headed in.

The size I needed was at least 24″ long and about the same in width. It wasn’t so much that what I was going to cut was a perfect square, but rather the width was wider at the dash end than the grill end. As luck would have it I found a 24″x36″ galvanized sheet that would suit the task just fine. But how would I cut it?

Nice and new 24x36 galvanized steel sheet.

When I was a kid my dad was always welding and working with metal projects all the time. He had an industrial grade set of shears in our garage. These were seriously of the heavy grade variety and were literally bolted to the garage floor. I could sure use those now.

I can remember using those shears for the first time. I had just received my first roll-away toolbox and I wanted to line the drawers before I put my tools in. I only had extra card board to use and wasn’t sure how best to trim it.

My Dad looked at me and pointed to the shears and said “Use that… if it can cut .10 gauge steel it should have no problem with cardboard!” Sure enough he was right. Not much good it does me now but they sure were handy at the time.

The freshly cut hood mounted at each end, to the grill and the dash.

Although I have a fairly extensive collection of tools I have no shears, handheld or otherwise. I was hesitant to buy tools that I’d likely never (or at least seldom) use again so I figured I’d try out the local Harbor Freight. They’re not exactly known for professional grade quality, but they are known for inexpensive stuff.

It turned out that Harbor Freight did have some decent looking shears for $5 that I figured would be fine for cutting straight lines, which is all we need to do. Armed with our aluminum and snips I headed home to get started.

First I double and triple checked the measurements and drew out the lines on the steel. I then took our high end scissors and started cutting out our hood. I was pleasantly surprised how easy it was to cut. Not quite as easy as say paper, but in about 15 minutes I had the entire shape cut. So the cheap shears worked out just fine.

Trimming a bit extra off so that the the hood doesn't overlap with the louvers.

Once I had the shape cut I placed it onto the kart and started to determine exactly where to center it, where it would mount on the grill and where it would mount on the dash. I started by placing a center line on the newly cut hood and mounting each end at this line with a single screw. I also removed our steering wheel at this point to make mounting a bit easier.

With the piece sitting now somewhat mounted, albeit loosely, it looks like either my measurements were off or something else was amiss here. I realized that the dash wasn’t sitting perfectly vertical which caused my measurements to be slightly off. Not terribly so, but just a bit.

In addition to the length I also had a hair too much on the width. It could have been resolved by unscrewing our single screws, moving it over slightly, and resetting it. Since I had already drilled a number of pilot holes, and the steel was easy to trim, I went ahead and cut a bit off rather than try to reposition the whole thing.

Curving around the dashboard and setting the screw.

Now that the fit is a bit more accurate I started to set the remaining screws, working my all the way around. Once the curve was set I was surprised how much strength the entire hood had. I mean you could still dent it with a fist, but it still was quite sturdy.

As I worked around the perimeter, drilling pilot holes, then running the screws the edges started to slightly buckle. It’s not quite like say smoothing a piece of linen… it really didn’t want to lie flat.

I worked my way from the grill towards the dash, tightening and slightly buckling, my way along the edge of the steel. Once I reached the dash I had to push down to hold it as flat as possible to keep the curve nice and tight.

If I had to guess I’d say that when race cars of this vintage were brand new, automotive technology being what it was in the 1920s, I’d guess that these came “brand new” with their share of dings and dents so I’ll just chalk this buckling up to realism. Yeah, that’s it….realism.

I think resetting some of the screws will resolve some of the buckling.

I finally set all the remaining screws in place. As I fastened them I also hit the edge of the steel sheeting with some sand paper. This stuff can really have a razor edge to it, especially places where I have cut it.

It’s nice to see what previously looked like a go kart missing some critical pieces, is now starting to really resemble a vintage race car.

Aside from the trip to Home Depot I didn’t have the assistance I’ve had with the earlier steps, the boys were busy riding their bikes up and down the street.

Birds eye view of our hood. Starting to look similar to our overhead Bugatti shot in Chapter 6.

The boys took a break from dragging everything they own down the street and came up to the garage. They glanced my way and commented how good it looked. They really looked thrilled to see this in place, so I must be doing something right. I do have to admit that immediately after the comment they asked for something to eat. I’d like to think they came up to check on my progress and the request for food was simply an afterthought.

With it all now set in place I pulled the car out to see where we stood and get some pictures. The car and the hood will all be painted so after a bit of playing around I think it will all look fine.

The overhead view also shows the hood as it meets the dash. This will give us plenty of opportunity to mount a frame for a windscreen later. The view from the riders perspective isn’t so bad either.

Our next step will be applying a sheet of steel to the rear deck (boot? trunk?) and going through similar steps we have here.