Chapter 5: Nice body…do you work out?

Posted: August 24, 2009 in building a go kart frame, go kart body
Tags: , , , ,

Next we’ll be tackling the overall body of the kart. As with anything that moves, the shape of the body is ever so important.

If we look at Ferraris, Porsches, as well as Bugattis, etc. they are all distinctive in their own way. They all have great visual appeal. Sporty, aggressive, each is really just a work of art. In contrast you can look at say a Prius, which one could say is a good car, but on the visual side really isn’t much to write home about. In fact I’d go so far as to say it’s nothing at all to write home about. I know, I know, environment, green, granola, blah blah blah. I’m talking strictly aesthetics. You could also say that the Prius costs a fraction of the price of cars that are much better looking. This is very true, but why should price have any bearing on how nice a car looks?

I think there is an unwritten rule that for a car to be more affordable and environmentally sound it must also be relatively unattractive, or put another way “It has a nice personality”.

I can only imagine a college intern working in Detroit comes up with a great car. It’s plenty fast, reliable, looks great, is reasonably priced and get’s 100mpg. He thinks he’s about to give his career a great kick start when he presents his project to upper management, only to be told the car he’s designed is too attractive. Hey, could happen and probably has.

So now let’s look at the go kart scene. You can definitely see the relationship to it’s larger cousins. There are a number of commercially available vehicles today that one could consider a go kart for kids. I’m not talking about racing karts, but rather ones that are just good fun for a variety of ages. You’ve got the various Power Wheels Jeeps at Toys R Us as well as some interesting stuff from Razor. Aesthetically the Jeeps are cute, but not exactly sporty. The Razor karts (if you could call them that) have received great reviews but don’t look like much. They look like the bottom of a shopping cart with an electric motor. I guess you could think of them as the Arial Atom of kids cars. Not much to look at, but one heck of a ride. As with my Detroit reference, why the rule of adding advancements to the car at the expense of looks? Of course safety is always an issue, but where possible these things should all have looks plus fun.

It just seems that kids are destined to either have a turtle made of plastic that dies a slow death in the corner of the garage, or something a bit more fun that looks like it should be driven on the moon. We already have far too many pets at my house, and if my kids are driving something that looks like it should be on the moon I sincerely hope they’ve become astronauts. Our goal here is to make something that both looks good and is fun to drive.

Back to the project at hand… our kart now has the frame all set in place.

Grill shape cut out and ready for mounting.

Grill shape cut out and ready for mounting.

According to our plans the next step is to cut out and mount the grill, and follow that up with the body panels. I cut out the overall shape, leaving approximately 1/4″ gap on both sides where the body panels will mount. I also cut a slight notch on each side so that the body panels will mount flush against the grill.

Next I placed the grill into position and attached it to the back of the upper and lower control arms with 2″ wood screws. You can see in this shot I also used some scrap 1/4″ plywood pieces to make sure I had the grill centered.

Note that before I attached it I drilled small pilot holes into the grill and into the control arms. Before setting the screws I also ran them through a bar of soap to help prevent the wood from splitting… or as I told the boys “Here, let’s give these screws a bath.”.

Both panels cut out with notches to account for the rear cross member as well as the rear wheel mounts.

Both panels cut out with notches to account for the rear cross member as well as the rear wheel mounts.

After mounting the grill I drew out the template for the body and cut one out. After I cut one side I used it as a guide, and drew and cut out the other. Once they were cut out I was starting to get an idea of the position of the rider, etc. I was a bit worried if the kart would just be too small for my oldest son. I really won’t know until I get the seat in place so for now I’ll just have to wait and see.

Before I could permanently mount the body panels I needed to consider the boat tail. This part of the body is the pièce de résistance, the icing on the cake, well you get the idea.

I’m not what one would call a woodworker by trade. So when the plans referred to steps like “Now, add the kerf lines into the panels at the following locations…” I kind of went “ummmmmmm. Now what.” I thought to myself, Hey, you’re a resourceful guy. My father-in-law has my table saw so I figured it was time to get busy with my trusty $59.00 Skil saw. I’d used it primarily for everything up to this point (except where I used a jig saw to cut corners, etc) but wasn’t sure I could use it to cut these kerf lines. To this point it has been used to cut from point A to point B and not cut any fingers in between.

Practice kerf lines cut onto some scrap.

Practice kerf lines cut onto some scrap.

To see if these types of cuts were even feasible I tried a few cuts on some scrap plywood that was the same thickness as the body panels. Surprisingly the saw blade was able to raised high enough that it cut about 50% of the way through the panel, allowing it to bend for the boat tail. Awesome.

Now to make the same cuts at the right spots on the actual body panels before I mount them onto the frame. On the inside of the panels I drew my cut locations starting at just behind the seat cut out, and every 1″ for 8″ back.

As I had with the scrap piece, I then ran my Skil saw over each line until I had cut them all. You’d think I hit the lottery I was so pleased with myself. The result was perfect. As the plans note, once these cuts are made the panels are really fragile so you need to be careful when moving them around. With my kerf lines cut I could then mount the panels to the frame.

I set the panels inside the frame, sliding them into the 1/4″ gaps I had left on both sides of the grill. The panels fit perfectly into the upper notches of the grill and the notches fit perfect in the rear as well as around the wheel mounts.

Cut body panels set in place on the frame.

Cut body panels set in place on the frame.

You can see in the shot the kerf lines and get an idea as to how the body will be bent inwards to form the rear boat tail.

With the body all cut I then drilled pilot holes about every 5″ down the length of the body on the inside, into the frame. After that I drove 1″ wood screws into the body panel and halfway into the frame rails. The nice thing about mounting the screws from the inside is that there aren’t any screws visible on the outside of the frame rail. Not a big deal, but one less thing I need to clean up prior to painting.

Now that we had a body starting to take shape one of the boys came over and wanted to sit in it. He took a seat (which amounted to sitting on the ground in the center) and I asked him what he thought.

He thought for a minute and said “Dad, what are those things called that dead people are put in the ground in? A coffin?”

I smiled at him. He then continued, “Dad, can I have an Otter Pop”.

Next we’ll give this rear end a little shape.

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