Archive for the ‘painting a go kart’ Category

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

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…

Hard to believe we started this kart on Father’s Day 2009, but as they say, getting there is half the fun. In our last weekend we were able to get the body all taped off and primered. Since then our ghost of a kart has just been taunting me from the garage. I’d walk by and think “Man is that ugly…” but luckily this stage is only temporary.

This most recent weekend I was bound and determined to get some color on our kart. My wife asked me if we had anything planned, but before I could respond she reminded me that we had cub scouts, baseball opening day, and two birthday parties to contend with. But I want to paint the go kart? I found that it was best to not let on just how much time I was willing to spend on this little project, often going so far as to pretend I forgot all about it. But I think she knows.

We needed a fluorescent lightbulb so I had the perfect excuse to find myself at Lowes. Conveniently I found myself in the paint aisle so I started looking at one color after another wondering just what we should paint our kart. Granted, the house paint aisle at the local hardware store isn’t typically where one would go to find paint for a car of sorts, what with the selection of Disney and Ralph Lauren crackle paint to choose from. As tempting as a faux leather wash would be, I just wanted to find a vintage color that was reminiscent of those vintage cars. A red, the given Bugatti blue, black, or even a vanilla or off white would look great.

I pulled out my iPhone (where I just happened to have a Bugatti picture) and realized that I just had to go with the old stand by. It was decided. I found myself leaving Lowe’s with a gallon of  Lowe’s Olympic brand paint, color A52-2 Magical Merlin, or as we would call it Bugatti Blue, semi-gloss. And of course my fluorescent lightbulb.

Think of it as a really big canvas...

We had our kart all taped up from the previous work so there really wasn’t much left to do except dig in and start painting. The paint went on as you would expect, like house paint.

Since we were covering with a fairly dark color (vs say eggshell on a wall) I was a bit surprised how much it took to cover the white primer. Not the whole gallon, but a few coats for sure. We started at the tail and worked our way down the frame and around the front.

The front upper and lower control arms were a bit tedious to get the brush into the nooks and crannies, and clearly a spray can would have done the trick just fine. But again, I just didn’t want to deal with the overspray and all that fun stuff.

One of the boys started off helping but I sensed he could recognize my apprehensiveness when he painted. I had this vision that the paint was all splashed on and was just a mess, and when he started painting in all directions I’d find myself saying “Ahhh, here let me help you…” only to stop myself from yanking brush out of his hand. I kept reminding myself, he’s having a good time here as well, so I let him continue on.

Side to side, not up and down.

We kept on with our work. After a bit Nick ran off to scatter various toys up and down the street so I was left to my own devices. The challenge was that I had a birthday party pick up for our oldest son in about an hour. I could do it.

I went around the front, covering the grill, and then down the passenger side meeting back up again with the tail where we had started. Since all the hardware was still taped off with blue 3M painters tape, and the entire kart was now blue, it was starting to resemble something a Smurf may drive around.

One of the boys came up and when it was mostly completely covered and simply said “Dad that’s a whole lotta blue.” I wanted to reply with “Whole lotta Bugatti blue…” but I just asked him what he thought. He loved it.

A go kart a Smurf would be proud of.

It does seem like one big blue blob, but you have to remember we’re going to get our chrome exhaust back on, paint some racing numbers, etc. It’s going to look great I think when we’re all set.

With the exterior of the body now painted I wondered what am I going to do with the interior? In hindsight it would have been a good idea to have painted the body on the inside as I assembled it. But live and learn. I’ll do that with the next one. The boys are each now asking for their own, with of course a motor.

I’d like to figure out if I can simply get some pleather for a seat but we’ll have to see. Next step will be to get our pieces back on, and tackle the grill I think. I have some great ideas on using window screen so stay tuned for that one.

Oh yeah, happy birthday Dad.