Archive for the ‘Go Karts’ Category

That is a seat fit for king provided he is less than 48″ tall and has a Bugatti inspired go kart. In that case, yes this a go kart seat fit for a king.

Until now the boys have been driving the kart sans seat. That is there is obviously a place to sit, just no padding and the likes. They’re just kids, what creature comforts could they care about right? Well not only did I want them to enjoy riding the kart, but I also would prefer them not get a splinter on their backside. OK, and a seat would just look really cool as well.

A typical crowd at Denios Fleamarket.

I shopped around a bit at the local fabric stores in search of vinyl or something leather-like but kept coming up empty handed. Then it donned on me; the local flea market would surely have a vendor selling wholesale vinyl and the like! So early this past Saturday I recruited my oldest son and we headed over. I prefaced him with “Now remember we aren’t going to buy any toys, we just want to find some vinyl. OK?” He assured me he understood and off we went. We parked and began wandering the spots aimlessly for our vendor.

Of course we encountered no less than ten spots selling high quality plastic machine gun toys fresh from China (likely covered in lead based paint) to which I gently reminded him “No, remember why we are here…“. Since he got the hint on whether or not he could get one of these guns he decided to set his sights on the variety of ninja swords and switchblades that were also available. As tempting as it was to pickup a 48” sword for an eight year old to play with I figured it wasn’t a good idea so I introduced a diversion also known as a Cherry flavored Icee that seemed to settle the matter.

Cutting vinyl to fit our seat template.

We finally found a vendor that not only had a plethora of colored velour, but also the simple black vinyl we were looking for. For a mere $11.00 we had acquired exactly what we came for, and plenty of it I might add! The least they would sell me was 36″x54″ so we were plenty covered for our little seat and likely then some.

The next day I wholeheartedly dug into our project. Before I jumped though I paused for a bit to think about exactly how I would attach our vinyl, or rather what we would attach it to. You see our original plans called for an adjustable seat, that attached to what we already have. I opted not to have that additional weight and height (since we were already running out of room for the boys) but now I didn’t really have any other option except attaching the vinyl directly onto the existing seat…. or did I?

I thought about making a pattern with which to cut the vinyl thinking that cardboard would work great. As I was cutting it out, I thought “Why not just use the cardboard itself and attach the vinyl to it?” Heck, it worked for door panels in old cars right? Well actually those were more like very thin particle board but close enough. It would make the seat nice and light but also make it removable if I needed to repair it and we know all know what the odds of needing to do that are.

Gluing our sides of the vinyl around our cardboard backing.

First thing I did was to cut out some cardboard into two pieces; a shape matching that of the seat and another matching the back. Then I took these pieces and laid them onto the back of our vinyl and using a white crayon I sketched the shape that I would cut out of the vinyl. I made sure to sketch the line to cut approximately 2″ larger than the cardboard template itself. This extra vinyl would not only give us some extra to attach to the rear of the cardboard, but also enough extra to accommodate some poly fill we’ll be stuffing inside.

Filling our seat with poly-foam fill to make it nice and soft.

Once we had our shape cut out I carefully applied some fabric glue to the bottom portion of our cardboard and pulled the vinyl around, tightly holding it in place for a few minutes. This adhesive dried really quickly, but for good measure I put some weights on it for a bit and let it dry.

After about 20 minutes I then continued with the other two sides. After these were glued and dried in place I then stuffed some poly fill into the last open side, trying to evenly spread it out giving the seat a bit of a puffed up appearance. I was really surprised how firmly the cardboard was holding up. After I was satisfied with the fill I carefully applied more glue into the last edge and pulled our vinyl as snug as I could, over the edge, and onto the back. As with the other sides I held this firm by hand for a few minutes, followed by some weight for another 20-30 mins.

Both the back and the seat with our vinyl now attached.

Once the adhesive was dry I asked Luke what he thought of the seat so far. He held it in his hands and cautiously squeezed it, as if it were a package of Charmin. He smiled and said; “Ooh, it’s cozy.” I said “Yeah, I like it too.”

Next I repeated these same steps with the seat back as well, and in no time we had what appeared to be a complete go kart seat that didn’t look half bad. Really for $11.00 and a few hours work it really turned out pretty good.

With the seat back now dry enough to handle I slid them both into position on the kart. They fit like a glove. They actually fit snug enough that I may not even need to permanently attach them, though I could always place some velcro tape behind them just to be sure. Securing them with velcro would not only make them say put, but also make them easily removable for the inevitable repairs I mentioned earlier. Either way before I do anything else I’m going to go ahead and paint the interior black so the plain wood won’t be so noticeable.

A go kart seat fit for a king. OK, a rather small king.

All in all I’m very happy with this step. It was one of those things that you really don’t know how it’s going to turn out until you finish it. Come to think of it, this whole project has kind of been that way.

A real Type 35. Note the gas cap and radiator ornament.

Gas caps and radiator ornaments (or radiator caps)… form or function? Typically little of both I’d say. In our case however they’re nothing but form in that they have absolutely zero function.  Much like our exhaust, hood straps, louvers, and well you get the idea.

As with most of the rest of the vehicle, the original Bugatti Type 35 (as seen in the photo on the left) is chock full of form and function goodness. From the aluminum wheels to the boat tail.  The leather flight cap and goggles are pretty cool as well but are only along for the ride. You can also just make out the hood/radiator ornament as well as the faint image of the gas cap in the back.

PVC caps make for some decent fake car parts.

I could have gone hog wild and commissioned a billet piece of aluminum turned down to resemble these pieces but alas I don’t have an endless budget (nor time) for our little project. So my solution? Based on a recommendation from a friend I opted to go the PVC cap route.

Another suggestion I received was to use the plastic decorative cap from a sports trophy. Great idea but I wasn’t able to find something that I thought would be subtle enough, though the idea of having a soccer player in mid-execution of a bicycle kick was tempting I just thought it may be a bit much.

A simple bolt-looking 1/2″ cap for the radiator and a 1 1/2″ rounded cap for the back is what I figured we’d use. So we headed to the local Home Depot and picked them up. I think the both of them were less than a $1.00. When we got home I looked at them a bit closer. I noticed that they each had the manufacturer’s SKU embossed on the top as well as some minor imperfections. I took some sandpaper and removed the embossing and sanded them up a bit here and there. Because every other aspect of our kart was museum quality no reason these shouldn’t be either right?

All painted up and nowhere to go.

Once I was satisfied with the sanding down I went ahead and applied a couple coats of metallic silver paint. Although I didn’t go to the effort of using metal here, there wasn’t any reason to not have it appear so. Once we let the spray paint dry for a couple of hours (in the recent heat of the Sacramento valley I think it was dry in about 45 seconds) we were ready to figure out placement.

I wasn’t able to find a precise example of where to place either so I had to wing it. From what I could tell the radiator piece would typically be found directly over the center of the radiator, where the radiator chrome goes over the top. I didn’t quite make our radiator deep enough to accommodate the cap so I went ahead and just affixed it directly onto our front hood strap. That wasn’t going to go anywhere, and besides it’s not like it’s going overheat and I need to open it right? If you squint you can imagine that the cap could unscrew and the hood strap could have a hole in it. How’s that for justifying gluing the cap straight to the strap?

Our faux radiator cap. "Caution, contents under pressure." Not really.

As for the gas cap I placed it far enough behind the seat back that the boys were less likely to break it off. I say less likely because if any of you reading this have boys, you know as well as I that nothing is unbreakable. Your only hope is to reduce the likelihood.

After a few hours I removed the painters tape holding both of the PVC pieces in place to see how it all looked. Not too shabby, though I did realize that the gas cap looked like I had just taken the cap from a spray can and stuck it on. It’s pretty amazing how much adding little items like these give it so much more of a finished look.

Radiator and Gas Cap in place.

In the past as we’ve finished one step, I’ve set a goal for the next stage of our project, be it a window, seat, etc. So far I seem to get sidetracked each time so I’ll just leave a guess as to what our next step will be.

Maybe a seat, maybe a windshield, maybe brakes. Who knows. Regardless it’s an adventure.

A horrible picture of two cheap leather belts.

We’ve all seen them…men wearing both suspenders and a belt. I’ve never quite understood it. Is it a fashion statement? Or do they each, simultaneously serve some purpose? I’m a fan of suspenders with a suit and as for belts, I like to keep my pants up as much as the next guy but why both at the same time?

As much as I was on the fence for how to create the appearance of hood straps for our go kart I decided that we could fashion some out of some good old leather belts. Not because using suspenders would be a fashion faux pa, but rather because suspenders just wouldn’t look quite the same.

As with the rest of our kart I didn’t want put too much money into this addition (no sense in spending $50+ for two belts I was going to cut up) so I took to scouring the local Goodwill and garage sale looking for two black leather belts. The challenge with hitting places like this wasn’t finding two belts, it was finding two belts that matched. Finally, on a suggestion, I paid a  visit to the local Walmart.

Measuring the length for our first strap.

Now I’m not exactly a fan of Walmart and this not-so-quick trip reminded me of why. It wasn’t finding two cheap leather belts, no that was relatively painless. It was the dreaded check out. Each of the 25 registers was being commanded by a woman no less than 100 years old. To add to my adventure each of these women had their hands full since each person in line had one, sometimes two shopping carts full to the brim with the days special “Roll Back” deals. Many of the shopping carts were full of necessities such as The Varsity Snuggie, the Magic Jack, and very large bags of Cheetos.  While waiting my wife called me and asked what was taking me so long, I mentioned “Oh, I went to Walmart.”. She simply said “Why in the world did you do that?”. I was beginning to ask myself the same question.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I was headed home with our leather belts. At only $5.00 each, it may have been worth the wait, although I guess it’s debatable.

Positioning the buckle side of the front strap. Note the notch cut on the bottom.

The belts we picked up were each 36″. This would give us plenty of length to go across the hood and attach onto both sides of the body. First thing we did was measure the length we’d need, starting with the front strap. The strap would be placed right on the edge of the grill, true to the original Bugatti Type 35. Placing the strap here would also help to hide the “imperfections” in the hood a bit.

Once I measured the total length I determined exactly where I wanted the buckle. I held the buckle end against the side and made a mark on the leather where it would butt up against the frame. With this mark I then took a utility knife and cut the belt apart. The length was good, but I also had to cut notches on the end since part of the strap would sit on the upper control arm and the other portion will reach to where the body meets the frame rails. Once this was done we now had the one side ready to secure to our kart.

Painter tape and glue. Whatever it takes...

To secure it to the body I decided to go with good old Guerrilla Glue. This stuff is strong, strong as…. well strong as a guerrilla. I spread a small bead of glue onto the back of the leather belt, placed it onto the side of the kart and applied some tape to hold it secure.

Once the glue tacked up a bit I then taped whatever I could find to hold extra pressure to it, including some track from a Thomas The Train we had sitting around. The boys panicked when they saw that but I assured them it was for a good cause and wouldn’t be permanently stuck to the kart.

While this buckle side was drying I moved onto the rear buckle. I measured, cut and applied with more glue. Because this one went over the louvers and near the exhaust we trimmed a slight curve. With this piece cut to the correct length I also applied some glue and placed it against the body. It was a bit more difficult to keep it into position so as with the front I taped a few things against the body to hold pressure against the strap.

Both vintage-looking hood straps now in place.

After an hour or so for the first two to dry, I headed to the straps on the other side. As we had with the other, I cut a notch into the front piece and also cut an inch off the end where the holes were. It was just a bit too long. Once I trimmed the length I then rounded off the ends with some sandpaper so they didn’t look like I just hacked them off which of course was exactly what we just did. Here we are with one more step of progress on our kart. Next maybe a plexi-glass windscreen?

At this rate maybe I’ll finish it by the time the boys get their driver’s licenses.

Work to date.

To this point it’s hard to believe, but we’ve been working on our kart for a full year. By this time I should either have something the boys can ride, or be prepared to face the wrath of three impatient boys. And when they get impatient it’s ugly. It’s a situation that only an Otter Pop could spare me from. So I pressed on.

We were able to get our sprocket on nice and square, so I asked Nick to take ‘er for a spin. He made it all of 30’ when what I thought was yet again a simple chain derailment. Nope this time it was much more of a challenge, this time the point where the sprocket was attached to the crank had completely broken. It didn’t actually break per se but rather the mega-strong-cotter-pin (yes that’s the technical term) simply spun in it’s hole, which meant the sprocket would now turn as well.

You can see our cotter pin was totally sheered off.

Who knows what the heck I was thinking by expecting a soft cotter pin to hold that sprocket from spinning in place. Temporary insanity? Rushed by the echoes of “Dad, is it done yet?” in my head? Not sure but no matter. What was done is done. Or what’s broken is broken.

Think…think…. how could I repair this in a way that may last an hour…. a day? Heck maybe for good or all of eternity? OK, I’d settle for a few weeks. I realized that what I needed to do, and to be honest should have done all along is to mount a small jet on the back. After thinking twice in that my wife would probably notice that addition, I thought that what I probably should do instead  was to mount the sprocket with something stronger.

Drilling a larger hole through our pipe flange. We did the same to the crank.

The idea with cotter pin was good, just that we simply needed something stronger.

I went ahead and drilled the key whole in the crank, as well as the pipe flange that the sprocket mounts to, large enough that a 1/4″ screw could fit through. This hopefully would be strong enough to withstand the sheer Herculean strength that apparently the boys now clearly posses. They weren’t that strong when we started this thing! Just what the heck have we been feeding them anyway!?

With the hole drilled through both the crank and pipe flange I realized that I would need to grind off the sides of the bolt so that we could get it into the whole in the flange. Hopefully this would hold. To put all this work in up to this point and have stuff keep breaking, well to put it nicely, sucks. But alas, such as the life of a zany Dad and go kart builder right?

We drilled the hole just large enough for our bolt. Uh oh, the whole was too close to the side of the pipe flange and I can’t get the head of the bolt past it. Improvise right? Next I needed to grind own two sides of the bolt so that it would slide into the hole of the pipe flange, and then through into the crank. Par for the course really in that it didn’t fit at first so I kept grinding, checking, grinding and checking until voila. It fit like a champ.

Our ground bolt slips through our pipe flange just fine.

Next we buttoned it all back up. I slid the sprocket assembly back onto the crank, slipped our super custom bolt through the sprocket, and through the crank hole. It fit tight enough that it didn’t even need a nut on the other side, but I’ll put one on anyway. Just for fun.

I had one of the boys ride it down the street. Lo and behold, it made it all the way back without the chain falling off AND without the sprocket breaking off again. It’s a miracle. OK, maybe not a miracle but it’s a good thing nonetheless.

For the past few weeks I’ve been looking to getting stuff done like our seat, some leather straps over the hood, a horn, heck maybe even some headlights. Yet alas, here we find ourselves repairing work that we’ve already done! Arrggg.

Oh well. At least it’s now fixed. After all, it’s the journey, not the destination right? Now where was I again…

Brakes. Who needs ’em. Well, come to think of it we do…especially now that we’ve completely removed the coaster brake on our drive wheel. I know, I know, you’re thinking “Well, why did you go and do that? You had such a nice solution.“A couple of reasons.
First, as you know we needed to remount the rear wheels. The simple offset block of wood we had just wasn’t cutting it, and second was an observation I made with our coaster brake setup. You see I realized that no matter what I did, since we had move the coaster brake bracket to the opposite side of where the actual clutch mechanism for the brake itself exists, well the brake would never really work or at least work well. In fact after a few dry runs I realized that the setup we had would actually inhibit the wheel to gradually work loose each time you applied the brakes! Either that or the wheel would gradually lock up. Either way, as Luke would say “That’s bad.”.

To solve my problem with the brakes I just decided to simply gut the wheel hubs and remove the brakes altogether. By doing this I effectively made the hub a “free-wheel” (where you can pedal backwards, coasting, but engage the sprocket going forward).

After doing a fair amount of research to determine whether or not I could actually make the coaster brakes do what I wanted them to do (I even went so far as to say please) it was simply easiest to not use the coaster brake at all but rather build a hand brake system. We’ll get to actually building the brakes  on another day, first we needed to settle the wheel hubs and mount them. To solve the problem with the mounting I opted to completely eliminate the brake and axle assembly from each rear wheel. In lieu of the factory axle on each wheel we would use a single solid axle that would go through the frame, and through each wheel.

Drilling for our new rear axle.

I headed to Home Depot and picked up a 36″ length of 3/8″ steel rod. I decided I would run a single axle through the frame, and mount each wheel onto the axle. This would insure that the wheels were not only parallel but would give them that much extra strength to hold the riders weight.

First we needed to determine exactly where to put the axle. I realized after some earlier test rides that the wheels were a bit too far forward in that a heavier rider would have just enough weight behind the rear wheels that the front wheels would just barely come off the ground. Based on this I decided to move them back a good 2″. This will require we build a longer chain, but that won’t be too big of a deal.

Once we had our holes drilled we needed to determine exactly how we would hold the axle in place. I realized that the pipe floor flanges we had used earlier were perfect in that the axle would fit just right through the threaded hole.

Good ole pipe flanges. They've proven quite useful in this project.

With our axle holes drilled we positioned our pipe flanges on each side, marked the holes, and drilled mounting points.

Next with our flanges drilled and mounted we set our sights on the axle itself. We placed the rod into our bench vice and proceeded to thread approximately 5″ on one end. We used a die that was the same thread as that of our wheel axles, which will allow us to reuse all of the threaded pieces that came with the wheel. With each step I took here I constantly would ask myself “Now, why didn’t I do this to begin with ?”. The fact that I was being barraged with questions like “Dad, when is this going to be done?” and “Dad, can I ride the go kart now?” didn’t help either.

The threading process went quite smoothly with the boys chipping in here and there though they always seemed to have one ear cocked towards the street awaiting the now almost daily ice-cream-man pilgrimage.

Threading our axle to match the old ones so we can reuse the wheel hardware.

We threaded one side and slid our drive wheel into place on the axle. I intentionally only threaded the one side so that we could slide the axle into place to get a measurement of how much to cut off before we threaded the other side.

I carried the wheel and axle assembly over to our kart and slid the axle into the frame. Next I went to tighten the outer wheel nut in place and realized the outer wheel ball bearings had fallen out of the wheel somewhere during the 20′ journey I had just taken across the garage. I just had them… didn’t I? They’d turn up eventually I figured so I continued with the rough assembly to get a measurement of our axle.

Axle with one wheel mounted and one wheel hub removed.

I placed the axle into the frame, all the way through, and out the other side. We had at least 8″ of excess coming on the other side. I positioned the wheel approximately where it would be and measured how much length of axle it used. I then used that measurement on the other side and made a mark to indicate where we would cut off the excess length.

Next we pulled the axle and wheel back out of the frame and cut off the end we had just marked. With our axle now the proper length we then threaded the other side to prepare to mount this second wheel. I went ahead and repacked the wheel bearings of the second wheel since we will be assembling that wheel onto the axle next. While I was doing this I realized that my trusty assistant had disappeared into the house. I knew he had greasy hands so figured I’d try to catch him before my wife did. New couches + greasy hands =  bad news for sure.

I found him in the hall bathroom…washing the missing ball bearings in the sink. At least we found them, and now they were now clean, cleaned with hand soap no less.

Both wheels mounted with our axle through the frame.

With all of our hardware now present and accounted for we pressed on. I positioned the axle into place, reassembled the primary wheel with it’s found bearings, and attached our second wheel. The wheels looked nice and straight and strong to boot.

With the axle in place next we threaded 1/4″  bolts through each of the four holes in our pipe flanges. These not only provided a nice solid hole for the axle to go through, but also provided a bit of extra strength to hold it all in place with the four bolts. Solid wheels, solid axle, it was all looking quite good.

By this time it was about 7:00 pm. With the weather warm and longer days the boys were all playing outside. I asked one of them if he wanted to take a little test drive with the rear wheels remounted. Not only did he reply with; “Yeah!!!” but he proceeded to announce to every child on the street that their go kart was finished. Of course it wasn’t quite. I knew very well where this was headed. Within minutes a steady stream of children ranging from two to twelve were suddenly lined up in my driveway to take a spin with each screaming “I’m first! I’m first!”. Of course the chain wasn’t on yet so I found myself acting as an amusement park ride operator, pushing each child down the street only to turn around and do it again with the next in line. The smile on their faces and shouts of “This is awesome!” was well worth the lower back pain that I was later greeted with. After I was about half way through the line of children my wife opened the front door, smiled, and yelled: “Hey, is that an airplane?”.

Everyone’s a critic.

Next up our fancy new brakes…

To have reached this point has been pretty gratifying. Now that we have the paint all on, the number in place, I felt we could start putting it all back together. The front wheels went on quite easily and we also put our louvers back on. We also finally removed the last of the blue painters tape from the steering column and put the steering wheel all back in place. Now we’re cookin’ with gas as one might say.

Cutting off the end of our exhaust pipe.

Before I put the exhaust back into place I went ahead and trimmed the end that mounts into the engine compartment. If you remember back in “Chapter 13: Does an engine without an exhaust still make a noise?”, we ended up with the exhaust pipe hitting our crank pedal.
Before we had removed it I marked the spot where it would need to be trimmed with a Sharpie so all we had to do here simply was cut it. I went ahead and held it in place in a miter box (which worked surprisingly well) and cut it on the line we had drawn.

Because our exhaust is nothing but a kitchen drain pipe made of chrome plated brass it cut pretty easily. I wasn’t terribly concerned with it being a perfectly straight cut since it will be on the inside of the kart and not visible, but I tried best I could. Once the cut was through I then was sure to sand the now razor sharp edge to dull it up. Last thing I needed to do was have one of the boys slice their leg open while pedaling down the road. My wife would kill me. Once we were all done with this step it was just a matter of screwing it back onto the side of the body.

Our drive wheel mounted, showing the block that the wheel mounts to.

Onto the rear wheels. I’ve been thinking a bit about the mounting of the rear wheels. I think I’m going to go ahead and rebuild some new mounting blocks. I never had painted the original ones we had created and after putting the wheels back on I just don’t feel that they’d be strong enough or at least last very long so I don’t want to go to the effort of painting them only to have them break soon thereafter.
The alignment of blocks is also bit off, but more than that is the sheer strength. What I’ll do is rather than build a mounting block out of 1×6 as we had before, I’ll pick up a piece of 4×4 and cut it in a wedge shape to align the wheels straight, while also mounting flush to the frame. Am I really looking to rebuild these mounts to insure they’re strong enough, or am I not wanting to finish this project? Good question. I’m not sure I can answer that but probably both.

With the rear wheels now mounted, albeit temporarily, we have a rolling kart again. The kids are really excited to see it all back together. I went ahead and pulled it off the stand to get some shots when one of the boys enthusiastically asked if he could take a ride. Sure, why not. I said “It’s not ready to pedal, but I could push you around a bit.” He sat in it and wrapped his hands around the wheel and just grinned ear to ear.

All rev'd up and ready to roll.

He turned the wheel back and forth a bit and off we went down the street. It really was fun to see. I pushed him down the sidewalk and told him to go ahead and turn up the neighbor’s driveway where we would turn around and head back home. I thought I may have even heard him making some engine noises, but then I quickly realized what I heard in fact was the spokes on the front wheels scraping against the lower control arms. Ahh! Abort! Abort!

We limped ‘er back to the garage and I realized that in the haste to get some pictures of it all back together I neglected to put the spacer on the front wheels that moved them towards the outside to clear the arms. I removed the wheels, put our spacers into place, and put it them back on. And also took a mental note to not to make that mistake again.

You can see where our spokes grazed our control arm.

On closer inspection I think I can repair it aesthetically, but I’m worried that a crack may have been introduced. Even if there is I think that the strength of the upper will be strong enough to support it, but I’ll just keep my eye on it. Luckily I can remove it and replace it relatively easily from the bottom of the kart. Yet another loose end that could have me working on this a bit longer.

All in all we’re looking pretty good. The louvers, the grill, the steering wheel, the exhaust, each add that bit of detail to make this a pretty cool vintage go kart. In addition to resolving our rear wheel mounts and this new wonderfulness with the front wheel I’m looking to get a seat of some sort added. Oh, and maybe some headlights. I did a bit of looking around hoping to find a discarded bar stool with a back that I could take the upholstery off of. I thought a seat like that would be perfect but no such luck finding one (still glancing at the occasional yard sale though). As a last resort I could just head over to the local fabric store and pick up some foam and pleather I suppose.

Our seat, in desperate need for some upholstery.

For the next few steps I’m going to get going on getting the rear wheels mounted permanently with new blocks and get our chain back on and in business. I may have to make it longer with our remounted rear wheels.  If I can insure the front is solid (no cracks) then heck at that point we’d have a fully functional go kart and that would just be great.

If you happen to have any leads on some reproduction Schwinn bike headlights (chrome type) drop me a line.

Until next time…

One, two, or three, what’s in a number? Numbers on race cars…they’re just random, arbitrary digits slapped onto a shiny paint job right? Think again. Most if not all have some sort of story behind what and why they are.

Herbie the Love Bug, courtesy of HerbieMania.com

Take one of my kids favorite cars, Herbie. This race car (if you can call it that) is from one of the boys’ favorite movies of all time…. Walt Disney’s Herbie The Love Bug. No, not the more recent one, but the original from 1968 starring Dean Jones, Buddy Hackett and of course Herbie. In this film Herbie, a 1963 Volkswagen Bug, participates against all odds in random road races. Prior to entering these races he is painted up like a race car with stripes and of course his number. The number he’s donned with is good ole “53”.

Just a random number right? Nope, rumor has it that the cast/crew were fans of Baseball Hall of Fame Pitcher, Don Drysdale of the LA Dodgers. So as you see there’s always a story and with our little kart it’s no different.

“What number should we put on your kart guys?” I asked. In unison I heard: “Five!”, “Eight!”, and “Fifteen!”. At least we could all agree. I thought adding a number would make our kart really look the vintage part but I needed to settle this debate first.

White circle paper template for our outline.

I suppose I could have picked a random number myself, but I worried they would just hold a grudge against me for the rest of their lives. “Remember that time Dad built us a go kart and HE insisted on picking the number? Yeah, that was a bummer.” I can see it now. I decided I would use the number “7” since it fell right between them in age. Besides it’s a lucky number.

Now that we decided on the number, I wondered how to apply it. I had briefly thought of just taking the whole kart over to a sign shop or getting some vinyl lettering cut for it but decided against it. Not just for the cost but I figured that hand painting would continue that trend we’ve set of folk-artish-not-perfect-home-built-go-kart sorta look. Yes that’s a very technical term I know.

I decided to put our numbers onto the tail just at the point of the top body bend. I have a poster of vintage Ferrari’s in the garage and took a cue from many of their numbers in that I decided to apply a white circle and have the number within it and edge of the circle in black.

Borrowing a mixing bowl from the kitchen cupboard, I drew a circle onto a piece of paper approximately 8″ in diameter. Next I cut the circle out along the line making a template. Holding the circle up to our kart I then drew a faint line with a pencil around our paper template.

A faint sketch of our 7 and our circle starting to fill in.

Once we had the circle in place I then carefully sketched a number “7”, slightly turned up at a 45 degree angle (for sheer coolness), in the center of the circle. Once I was happy with this I went and did the same thing on the other side.

Next I took some bright white, matte, latex paint I had sitting around. I carefully painted inside our circle, but around the number “7” we sketched.

Little by little I filled in our circle getting right up to the edge of our penciled “7”. Although I knew I would coming back along the number with black paint I still wanted to get as nice clean edge as possible around the number and the perimeter of the circle itself.

As the paint began to dry I noticed the texture it was leaving. It was as if, well as if it were house paint applied with a brush, which of course it was. We had applied paint to the body of the kart in exactly the same way, which also has just a hint of brush strokes, so at least we were being consistent.

Our complete white base ready for the black fill and outline.

Once I was finished with our driver’s side I then moved over to the other. After I applied an initial coat to each I went back and applied an additional coat for good measure. I took a bit to get a good coverage over the blue base but eventually we got it all done.

Now that we had both sides complete with the white I let it dry a day or so and was next able to apply a solid outline and fill for the number. I headed over to Lowe’s and picked up a sample size can of black latex paint. You figure we don’t have much to cover so a small 10 oz. can would be more than enough for what we needed to cover.

First I filled in the number and carefully applied a 1/4″ or so outline around the circle. It was a bit tough to cover both the white and the blue base, so I found I had to go over it a few times.

Our finished race number, outlined and filled.

As I was filling it all in I realized that the screws that I previously didn’t like were growing on me. I feel they almost give the kart a bit of an industrial look, almost like a school bus. After finishing the drivers side I moved on over to the passenger side. Once I was completed there I went back and applied a second coat to the driver and returned again to the passenger side.

A bit of back and forth, but it dried quickly and as a result it was easy to get that additional coat on there. It turned out I had quite a bit left so I went ahead and also added a coat to the dash board, which to this point is just primer.

After only a couple of hours work, voila. We have our race number. Herbie the Love Bug it’s not, but it does have that vintage race car appearance. A hint of roughness to the edges but that just matches the overall roughness of the kart.

Both race numbers in place on the tail.

The look from above wasn’t too bad either, with the top of each circle just slightly curving over the top. We’re finally complete now with the painting of this project. We have our base, our numbers, and heck even a coat of black applied to our dashboard.

Finally, the complete reassembly is on the horizon.

Until next time