Chapter 18: Spring is here. Let’s grill.

Posted: March 30, 2010 in bugatti go kart, go kart body, go kart grill, painting a go kart, vintage go kart
Tags: , , ,

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…

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Comments
  1. MocaLoca says:

    Jason, this is looking very sweet. Can you build one for my boy next?
    Thanks for the plug!!

  2. syberjunkie says:

    Looking great, love the logo. Look into trophy tops to use as a radiator cap. My Dad built an old truck styled go-cart for me similar to your project and he used a silver eagle trophy topper, it looked awesome.

    for example: http://www.athleticawards.com/images/rs31451t.jpg

  3. Chris Stone says:

    Nice touch. Wanted you to know Benjamin and I made the first test drive this weekend. We went with a single back axle, pedel and rods and some great 16″ spoked wheels. Hope to shape the bonnett and boot this weekend. Since you have been such a great source, draw up what you think to want for a radiator cap and I will turn something in my shop and send it to you. Keep the otter pop stocked up and great work!

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