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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.