This next step in our project involves the hands of a surgeon and nerves of steel. OK, it’s not quite that bad, but was rather nerve racking. You see at this point I needed to carefully bend the rear panels towards one another, and screw them together. Doing this will create the very vintage boat tail rear look to our kart, plus it will just look cool.

Just what exactly is this boat tail design anyway? It’s all the rage, all the cool kids are doing it! This body design in automotive carriage building has been around for quite some time, beginning in the early 20th century. The main attraction was for aerodynamics, making the car generally more sleek and faster. Of course the end result also was that the rear of the car ends up having a general shape that resembled that of an old boat.

A great overhead shot of a 1925 Bugatti Type 35

A great overhead shot of a 1924 Bugatti Type 35

Some great examples in this time period include the 1933 Duesenberg, the 1936 Auburn Boat Tail Speedster, the 1934 Packard 12 Boat Tail Speedster and of course the Bugatti Type 35 that we’re loosely basing our project on.

There were also more recent (and questionable) examples including the 1971 Buick Riviera. Nothing however could replace the original art deco era cars, they really are just priceless.

On our project we had the body mounted on both sides with the rear waiting for the final assembly. In order to secure the rear panels to one another in the back I needed to first create the boat tail “base” that both sides will attach to.

This base is a triangle that mounts to the rear of the frame, and the body panels are bent inward to attach to the triangle itself. I set a line down the center of both the rear cross member, as well as the tail brace, drilled pilot holes through the rear cross member, into the brace and followed up with 1 1/4″ wood screws.

Boat tail support base that both panels mount to.

Boat tail support base that both panels mount to.

After I mounted the boat tail brace to the frame, I then had to cut what amounted to a long triangle block that mounts vertically at the absolute rearmost point in this boat tail.

This vertical brace effectively acts as the edge of the tail, and adds some strength and rigidness to the whole structure. Cutting this piece was a bit of a challenge, since as before, I still didn’t have my table saw. Again creative cutting with the Skil saw would be in order.

I basically needed to cut a 9″ deep triangle out of a 2×4. It took me a few tries to get the angle correct, but I finally got it right. Once I cut this piece out completely I mounted it vertically onto the rear point of the tail base.

Cutting this piece to be used vertically in the boat tail was a bit of a challenge.

Cutting this piece to be used vertically in the boat tail was a bit of a challenge.

Next I very carefully bent the left panel against the triangle brace, drilled pilot holes through the panel into the brace, and followed up with 1″ wood screws. As I bent it over and set the screws I heard the very distinct sound of wood slightly cracking. Eeek. The plywood, very slightly, began to crack right where our kerf lines were cut. Nothing too significant, just a very slight hint. I think I can file it down and fill it with wood putty and you’ll never know. Well, I’ll know but I’ll never tell.

After attaching the left panel, I carefully bent the right panel over and did the same, drilling pilot holes and inserting soaped up wood screws.

The meeting of both panels to the rear against this vertical board will need some smoothing over and likely some filler as well, but the end result is quite sturdy.

After mounting things up I realized that the vertical brace actually extends about 1.5″ higher than the body panels. Hmm. I wasn’t quite sure why but I did confirm it was the correct size based on the plans. On closer look there is another piece that will be mounted on top of the boat tail at a later point, so I think we’re all good here.

Both panels attached to rear vertical beam and boat tail bottom.

Both panels attached to rear vertical beam and boat tail bottom.

After assembling the tail I realized it is probably strong enough, and has enough space, to house a small engine or electric motor in the future. I could easily see a small gas engine, or even some of the small electric motors readily available for the various Razor products fitting right in here. The vicinity of a motor here to the rear wheel sprocket would be pretty easy to work with as well. The boys are a bit too young, and my wife won’t even let me consider it, so I’ll leave this for another day. Though maybe if I sprang for a weekend getaway for her, she’d never notice if I dropped one in while she was gone?? Couldn’t take more than an afternoon right??

Since I was making some great progress, and it had been a whole 15 minutes since someone asked me if I was done yet, I figured I’d keep going while I had the opportunity.

Next I’ll add the seat. In preparation of this I mounted the cleats, or mounting braces, on the inside of the body panels. I mounted these a half inch lower on the body to account for my older son. I wanted the boys to be able to fit into this as long as possible, so where I could I tried to account for dimensions with that in mind. I also placed them a bit further back from the original mounting spots since I’ll be adding a crank with pedals.

Next I cut out the base of the seat and the seat back. The base has a slightly narrowed shape to account for the portion of the tail where the bend begins. The seat back will be mounted vertically and has braces attached to the top, left and right sides. The plans call for a brace on the bottom as well. I opted not to use a bottom mount since I felt it a bit redundant, not to mention risky with regards to running the screws into it. When cutting the seat back I followed the plan in making it rounded on the top, but opted to make it a bit taller than the plans called for. Again, accounting for longevity of use (or at least hoping to).

Seat base and back mounted into the body.

Seat base and back mounted into the body.

I placed the seat bottom onto the seat braces. I then drilled guide holes through the bottom and into the seat braces I previously mounted to the body panels. At this point we actually had something to sit in and it was getting pretty exciting.

Right about now I was wishing I was 6 or 7 years old. Then again if I were I wouldn’t be using a Skil saw and my Dad would be putting this off to another time, so never mind.

Once the seat bottom was mounted I slid the vertical seat back into place. This was a tight fit, which is good. I wanted to get it as close as I could to the panels, but also didn’t want to force the panels outward. Once this seat back was in place I then drilled guide holes and ran wood screws into the side braces of the seat back from the OUTSIDE of the body panels. This was one of the cases where at a later point prior to painting I’ll fill these screws and with any luck they won’t be visible in the least.

The seat back braces are clearly visible in this shot. The upper brace will be used for mounting another piece later.

The seat back braces are clearly visible in this shot. The upper brace will be used for mounting another piece later.

We now have the tail and seat in place. Next up will be getting the dashboard and steering mechanism cut and put in. All in all a very productive day for sure.

The neighbors are beginning to ask questions so that should be a good sign right? Only I wish they weren’t asking “What is that?”.

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