Chapter 12: Big engines need lots of ventilation.

Posted: December 18, 2009 in bugatti go kart, building a go kart, building a go kart frame, go kart body, go kart plans, Go Karts
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Anyone who has caught pictures or video of racing events from the early 20th century is probably aware that the engines in those cars were pushed to the max. Although they weren’t fast (at least as compared to today’s cars), they were driven all out as if they were. Where cars today have computer controlled modules and the like to push the horsepower up, many of these vintage cars had motors similar to typical passenger cars. One big difference was that these cars were stripped of unnecessary weight, and the motors were pushed to their limits. And with these limits came heat…and lots of it.

The inspiration for our go kart. Note the louvered hood.

During this period it was commonplace to cut louvers into the sides of the engine compartments in these cars for ventilation. I’m not sure if it made that much of a difference but regardless, it sure looked cool, almost resembling the gills of a shark.

If you’ve been following our project here you’ll know that our kart won’t be having an engine at all, however in the interest of looking like it does we will be installing some of these ventilation louvers.

I thought quite a bit about how best to go about this step. I considered cutting a rectangle out on each side and manufacturing wooden slots, or to place a hinged piece of wood that would allow access to the steering linkage. While both of the ideas are very doable, they would just be overly complex.

You too can have instant louvers for the small price of $1.49 each.

Our plans note to use a large heating type vent that I thought sounded heavy and may just look funny. One day while out running errands I dropped by the local Lowe’s. As it turned out they had tin panels, nice and thin, with louvers cut in them. These are panels that one would use say to provide ventilation in an attic or maybe on the top of a garage wall. They’re similar to what the plans noted, but since the plans were roughly twenty years old, these were probably just an updated version of what they were suggesting. The louvers were nice and light and relatively small.

The only drawback was that these had the louvers facing down, and I would have preferred them facing back but I can live with it.  Not only did these have the look I was wanting but the price was right as well. For a whopping $1.49 each our kart was going to be all set.

Before I dove into mounting the louvers I decided that I would make some changes to the top body panel. The plywood was plenty strong, and fit fine. The problem was rather that I realized that after raising the height of the dash (and steering wheel) there was a gap revealed where the boys could stick their hand inside.

Our shortened body top to prevent random objects from getting stuck.

I wasn’t so worried about getting a hand stuck but rather knew for sure that someone would drop a Hot Wheel, a baseball, or heck maybe a Popsicle in there and we couldn’t have that stuff stuck inside right? Although come to think of it wouldn’t be any different than my car. To this day there is a Hot Wheel that I can’t find in the back of my car that I’m reminded of every time I make a right hand turn as it rolls from one side to the other. When my boys grow up and have a family of their own I’ve secretly sworn to myself that I would hide various rolling toys in their cars as some sort of twisted revenge. When I ride with them I’ll then pretend to not hear a thing… it will be just fantastic.

To address this little issue I removed the body panel top, and cut it about 4 inches shorter, on the end closest to the grill. This now leave an open space so that anything that may happen to find it’s way up there will simply roll out the other side. I cut it down and refastened it to the body side rails with 4, 1.25″ wood screws.

With this piece now back in place the body now has the strength to stay rigid while the louver panels are screwed in. I measured back from the grill about 4″ and down from the body top about 3″ and held the louver panel into place. This left about 4″ of space between the bottom of the louvers and the frame rails. It’s in this space that I intend to mount the exhaust pipe so that should be fine.

The panels have six screw holes, each of which I marked with a pencil. I set the panels aside and drilled small pilot holes into the body.

Our engine compartment...now well ventilated.

Once the holes were all drilled I held our panels back up and ran each of the screws into place. I suppose using pop rivets would look better for mounting these, but I don’t happen to have a rivet gun. Besides using a screw would make it easier to remove them if I wanted or needed to later. In the end the screws, and louvers themselves, will all be painted so it won’t be too noticeable anyway.

There we go, some good eye candy for our kart. Next will either be our faux exhaust pipe, or the aluminum body top, I’m not sure which but probably the exhaust since having access from the top will make things a bit easier.

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