Archive for the ‘Vintage Cars’ Category

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.

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.

Is it a trunk or a boot? Who really cares, I’m talking about the back. As we did with the front portion, this step of our Bugatti kart involved trimming a sheet of galvanized steel to size and carefully wrapping it around the wooden framing we’ve previously put in place.

Using two quarter round mouldings to finish off the tail.

But, before we were able to sit down and get to business with the steel sheet I needed to consider the point or tail edge itself. You see where the left and right sides of the body meet in the tail, we ended up with an edge that was approximately one and a half inches wide.

Had I been more careful with the body and tail assembly I probably could have significantly reduced this to the point that all it needed was a bit of good filing and some elbow grease. But alas, I didn’t think that far ahead and here we are… with a bit of a challenge. Nothing insurmountable, just something else to keep me on my toes with this project.

I figured that I could probably use some simple wood moulding/trim to finish this off so I headed to my second home (Home Depot that is). I wasn’t able to find a single half-round that was the right size, so I settled on quarter round pieces that I figured we could just glue together.

Our custom moulding glued and held in place to dry.

I roughed up the pieces, applied a generous amount of wood glue, and held them together with rubber bands for a few hours.

After gluing the two pieces of moulding together, I then glued the entire single piece onto the back of the kart. To hold this all nice and firm against the kart I then wrapped a few lengths of painters tape around the tail which applied constant pressure to the glued surfaces.

After a few hours of drying, leaving the tape in place, I next drilled a few pilot holes through the moulding into the kart body. Since I knew I would be filing this down and generally putting some elbow grease into it, I wanted to make sure it wasn’t going to go anywhere.

Once the pilot holes were complete I set a few 2″ finishing nails through the moulding, attaching it securely to the kart. This piece wasn’t going anywhere that’s for sure.

Creating a template with newspaper for our sheet metal.

Now… to think about exactly how the steel sheet would mount. I knew it would be wrapped around the shape much like we had done in the front, but I wasn’t quite sure how I would finish of the very edge where we have our moulding.

After some serious consultation with the boys (“Oh yeah sure Dad, whatever you say.”) I figured I would first put a rough layout together with newspaper.

One of the challenges we had with the front was that I didn’t use a template, but rather just measured and cut it out. I shot from the hip you might say.

In doing this I did a fair amount of trimming as we were mounting it and that was something I wanted to try to avoid here if I could. The final result there was fine, but I think in retrospect I could have made it fit better had I taken a slightly different approach. Live and learn as they say. Anyway…

Our sheet cut out just sitting in place for the moment.

With the newspaper taped in place I sketched the perimeter lines with a Sharpie to indicate the final shape that I wanted our sheet metal. I then removed the newspaper and trimmed it along the lines we just placed on it thus creating my template.

With our newspaper template now complete I placed it onto the sheet metal and once again using our Sharpie, outlined the shape. I was sure to give myself an extra half inch or so all around just to be safe.

It was about this time that one of the neighborhood kids (a girl in fact) came by and said “I wish my Dad would build me one of these.” Awesome. I must be doing something right here.

Once we outlined our template I then picked up our cheap Harbor Freight cutting shears and cut it out. The shape of our panel once mounted will follow along the seat back, along the sides following the top of the tail, and will meet at the new tail piece we put in place.

Most of our screws set revealing the final gap on the end to consider.

At the top of the tail I decided to shape the steel to match that of the half-round moulding and bend the sides around to meet it. Once it was all cut, the next step we took was to place marks at 3″ intervals around the edge of our steel and drill pilot holes through the steel. Every 3″ may seem a bit extreme, but it’s mainly to keep the steel snug against the wood.

With our pilot holes in place we next set the steel into position, with the back of it sitting nice and snug onto the seat back. Once I was happy with the side to side positioning I then set this first screw into the back center.

To try to avoid the buckling we experienced with the front, I then worked outward from this center screw along the length. After setting a couple of more screws I went ahead and set the center of the rear (this is right on the moulding we mounted) to insure the steel stayed put.

Little by little the stability and strength of our sheet increased until we had all the screws set except the final two on both sides of the rear point.

Scrap piece we'll wrap around and mount over the moulding.

I had intentionally left these loose while I considered how best to get the final bit of moulding covered. I suppose I could have done it as one complete piece but the thought of cutting segments out, with the intention that they would miraculously meet perfectly in the middle was a gamble I didn’t think I’d win. I figured working with two separate pieces just be easier to deal with.

Since we had the very top of our moulding covered (we cut a slight half circle) we only had to consider wrapping around and meeting with the already set steel on the sides. No sweat right?

I secretly borrowed my wife’s sewing measuring tape (shhhh!) and wrapped it around our moulding and measured the distance from our steel on side to the steel on the other.

The final wrap piece in place and some sanding to remove the sharp edges.

The amount of scrap we had sitting around was perfect for a piece this small. It was easy to work with in that it was only roughly 6″ wide at the bottom and 3 1/2″ wide at the top.  I cut it out and was careful to hit with some 100 grit sand paper I had sitting around. This removed the sharp edges that were left behind when cutting it up.

Next I went ahead and drew a line down the center, so that I could align it with the center of our moulding. We will then carefully bend it around to meet up with the partially mounted sheet… well that’s the idea anyway.

I positioned our scrap onto the moulding and carefully bent it, sliding it underneath our already mounted piece.  This way we will end up with a relatively clean line of our steel and the larger piece will effectively clamp down our smaller piece nice and tight. It worked perfectly and didn’t look half bad.

As I mentioned before, so far we’ve had relatively little buckling which is great to see. The steel is bent to the curve of the wooden body and there aren’t anywhere near the bends and dents we ended up with on the front. With this final piece in place I think it will all be nice and tidy.

Once I had the sides of our scrap slid in place underneath the already mounted main piece, I then ran a screw through each side to hold it all together.

Close up revealing our installation with relatively little buckling. You can see where both pieces were screwed together near the tail.

Next with the corners screwed in, I then ran an additional screw about midway up our scrap piece, securing it firmly in place.  We now had the moulding completely covered, or wrapped around.

I discovered that in the top of the tail section, where the pieces met, a little tap here and there with a ball peen hammer did a world of good. These little taps just ever so slightly bent these raised points inward, towards the wood body making for a smoother overall finish.

After mounting this piece we still have just a hair of wood visible through the gap where the pieces meet, but it’s relatively little and isn’t really a big deal. Once we’re all painted I think it won’t be all that noticeable.

Our kart is resembling a Bugatti more and more all the time.

With this step we’ve completed all of our steel work for the body. I have some things in mind with regards to the grill but I think that will fall into place after we do some priming of the body and wood.

To prepare for priming the next step will be removing all of the exhaust, the wheels, and taping off anything with the steering components we don’t want painted.

Stay tuned, with Spring just around the corner I don’t expect our next step to be too far off.

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.

Measuring the curvature of the dash.

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?

Nice and new 24x36 galvanized steel sheet.

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.

The freshly cut hood mounted at each end, to the grill and the dash.

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.

Trimming a bit extra off so that the the hood doesn't overlap with the louvers.

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.

Curving around the dashboard and setting the screw.

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 think resetting some of the screws will resolve some of the buckling.

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.

Birds eye view of our hood. Starting to look similar to our overhead Bugatti shot in Chapter 6.

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.

To this point we’ve made some great progress with our steering assembly, the body, and even the steering wheel itself. With regards to the pedal and crank components, after assembly it didn’t really seem that it would work. The thing is it’s that original idea, of making a simple pedal car, that got me started on this project to begin with. And it’s that thought that really made me revisit the pedal crank just one more time. There is just something really great with the idea that this go kart could sit for twenty years and it could still be a neat toy right out of storage, whereas with an electric motor or even gas it may not stand the test of time would have issues with speed and power, etc.

Our two donated Power Wheels motors with 6v/4amp batteries. With plastic sprockets it's amazing these things last as they do.

Over the past couple of weeks I had two Power Wheels cars donated to the cause and after digging into them and removing the motors I realized that I would have to do a serious amount of retrofitting (drilling, cutting, etc) of our already assembled body to make them work. And even still, the power would in all likelihood not be enough, or at least not make for a very exciting ride, since they were single speed motors with a 6 volt 4 amp. battery source. There are some great resources online (such as with tons of docs on hacking these things, but I think going this route would really make this project drag on more than I’d prefer. And I’m not totally convinced it would even work in the end.

I remember catching a commercial on television for the Dyson vacuum cleaner. It was noted that the inventor had gone through a hundred prototypes (maybe it was a million, I don’t remember) before settling on it’s current form.  I’m sure the Wright Brothers didn’t get off the ground on their first attempt either, so with all this in mind I don’t feel too bad for spinning my wheels for a few weeks while trying to figure this all out.

My trusty assistant working diligently as usual.

After raiding the boys’ Halloween candy for some inspiration I thought long and hard about my dilemma. I really have a few issues to address if I want to use the crank; first is the mounting of the sprocket, second is the general alignment of the crank to the rear sprocket and of course the leg room issue for my oldest son. After a couple of bite size Snickers, a Tootsie Roll and some Candy Corn I think I finally came up with a solution for all three problems…not to mention a stomach ache.

First problem to contend with was the sprocket mount. Remember as handy as JB Weld is, it didn’t really cut it when we tried to mount the sprocket with it. The force when it turned the the chain was just a bit too much. To solve this problem I realized I could mount the sprocket onto the crank using a pipe floor flange…the very same thing we used to mount the rear wheels as well as the crank in the frame. This galvanized pipe is really handy stuff, I’ve used it in a variety of places in our project and heck for all I know it may even be a cure for the common cold.

Our sprocket mounted to the pipe flange.

I realized that if I drilled four holes in the sprocket I could mount that to the pipe flange. The flange and sprocket could then slide over the crank where once the ideal position was found I could secure it with nuts on each side plus a cotter pin through the crank to prevent it from spinning when the crank was turned. Genius I tell you! Sheer genius! OK, maybe I’m getting a little carried away, but I did think it was a good idea… then again I also thought JB Weld was a good idea.

To put this plan into action I first bribed my assistant and we drilled the holes. I realized that having four mounting points for the sprocket would also give some flexibility with the alignment issue as well. I could shim one or more of the bolts with washers to get it to lean one way or another.

We spent a bit of time drilling our holes we then mounted it up to the flange. It actually didn’t look half bad. Next I placed it onto the crank… so far so good.

Our sprocket and pipe flange unit mounted to the crank, with a cotter pin drilled through the crank. Second time's a charm right?

Now for our leg room issue. When my older son sat in our kart, and pedaled, he hit his knees on the steering wheel. I realized that as much as raising the height of the wheel helped, I also needed to bring the wheel further away from the dash and closer to the rider. The solution here was simply to add another 2″ spacer into our steering column. It’s not as though this kart will fit them forever, but at least for a bit of time they should all fit right?

If you look at a typical recumbent bicycle the rider is somewhat laid back, with their feet in front, and the steering is either via a crazy “hands at your side” or via a system that is higher than where your knees will be while pedaling. All these measurements and considerations are definitely easier said than done.

I had my son sit down for yet more measurements (at this point I think he’s getting tired of me asking him) and I realized that unlike what I did in Chapter Seven it’s not so much that the steering wheel needs to be higher, but that it should be farther from where his knees will end up. In other words I need to make it closer to the dash, not farther. I also realized that I could make a bit more room for his knees by carving yet another (third one I might add since the I cracked two earlier versions) dash up.

Third pass at a dash with a revised shape to the bottom for more leg room.

I proceeded with this step by removing the steering column and removing our longer 3″ extension and replacing it with 2″, and carving the bottom of our dash with an “S” shape as seen in the shot.

To this point we’ve resolved our leg room issue as well as the sprocket alignment and mounting challenge. Woohoo!

Finally, I can now see a light at the end of the tunnel with some finishing work in the not too distant future. Let’s just hope the light isn’t a train.

After the frustrating progress from Chapter 9, and while hunting down an electric motor, I decided to concentrate on something I can move forward with… the steering wheel. There wasn’t anything stopping me so I jumped in with both feet.

If you remember back in Chapter 8 we cut out the rough shape, so here I busted out my trusty Dremel and went to town. With this step I recruited my oldest son to come over and help me. In typical fashion his attention span was short lived, but it was nice to get the help.


Jake getting some great first time experience with a Dremel.

Gradually we rounded the corners off, and carefully brought down the depth of the three spokes of the wheel. While we were working the mailman stopped by to drop off a package. He looked at the kart, looked at me, then looked back at the kart.

In somewhat broken English he asked “Is that an airplane?“.

I was tempted to say yes and tell him her maiden flight would be the next morning, but I was afraid he would believe me and call the FAA.. then we’d have a balloon boy situation on our hands. “No, it’s a go kart… for the boys.

He then said “Well, you could put wings on it!” I looked at him and thought “Are you serious? Yeah, I could also put a propeller on it, but I’m not gonna do that either!” but just asked him “Do you have a box for me?“.

So we continued on with the Dremel work for a bit more.  After some time we dug in with some 80 grit sand paper work to smooth out the rough edges. I was seriously tempted to form out some finger ridges but figured I’ve got a bit too much into this project already. The dog is getting ignored, I have a ton of things to do around the house…my wife pointed out that 4 light bulbs were out,  but alas here I am working on the go kart. Priorities I tell you!

After I finished up the rough sanding with the 80 grit we then moved onto 220 for a bit. It was really coming out nicely. At this point I realized just how soft and easy to work with Pine is. It’s really very soft, almost malleable, and is just really forgiving.


The final result of an afternoon of a Dremel and some sanding.

With the progress pretty far along I thought I’d share it with the other boys and my wife. They were really impressed, with my wife saying that I’m quite the carpenter. I wouldn’t go quite that far but hey, I’ll take it.

My wife then held the wheel in her hand and said “Wow, ya know the boys are gonna have a nicer car than me!” Ah, c’mon … As if I could build a go kart that could compete with a ’78 Pinto wagon!

Next I masked off the perimeter, or grip, of the wheel with tape and newspaper. I will be staining this part and will paint the spokes and hub. Before I can do that though I hit the entire exposed area with some primer sealer.  This was white so the entire wheel, except the outer grip was now a flat white color.


Our wheel all primered up.

After a day of drying I then liberally applied a coat of metallic silver to the spokes and center. I wasn’t so particular about the center, but wanted the spokes to be silver. After this dried I’ll then come back and paint the hub.

After another day of letting the now silver spokes dry, I then masked off the spokes as well as a 1/4″ line around the hub. The exposed area left I then hit with a coat of black paint. My goal here was to give the impression that the spokes were metal, and the center would be a simple black. Some nice bolts will finish it off once mounted. I’m probably putting far too much thought into this, but what the heck. If I’m going to do this I might as well give it my all right?


With the silver paint dry, we masked off except the hub.

It was a somewhat cool day so after I shot the silver paint I brought the wheel into my home office to dry.

My wife came to ask me a question and I guess i didn’t quite realize how bad the fumes were. She opened the door and said “Whoa, what are you doing in here? I can’t even step in the fumes are so bad.” I guess I didn’t realize it was so bad. “Now that you mention it I do kinda have a headache.” I said. A friend suggested I just tell her it’s a new aromatherapy product.

After that dried I removed all of the masking. So far it looked pretty good. Not perfect but still pretty good. It almost had a “folk art” look to it…neat and detailed, but still having an obvious handmade look to it with rough bits here and there.


With the silver dry, I hit the hub with black.

With the painted part now, well painted, I set my sights on the staining of the grip. I grabbed an old rag and a can of stain I already had and tested a spot on some scrap. The scrap looked good so I guess it’s good enough for the wheel.

At this point our black paint we applied on the hub had dried for a couple of days, so I removed all the masking revealing our bare wood grip.

Next I then applied just a bit of masking around the edge our silver spokes where it meets the grip. I did this so I wouldn’t get wood stain onto the spokes. In all likelihood the stain wouldn’t penetrate the silver paint, but better safe than sorry right?

So I wouldn’t stain my hands in the process, I put on a surgical glove, grabbed a rag, and started staining. It’s been a while since I’ve stained any wood and I had forgotten just how fast it goes.


The grip stained and drying out.

I stained all of the outer surface and hung it up to dry. After a few days I took a very very light sand paper to it, then stained it some more. Although it looked pretty good, had I not already had this stain I probably would have preferred something a bit lighter in color, but all in all it looked pretty slick. Especially knowing that this was simply for a go kart!

After letting another few days go by  (as a side note, waiting is sometimes the hardest part of this whole project) I was ready to add a nice coat of lacquer to the stain.

Now that it was all dry to the touch, I again masked off all except the outer grip.  I then applied a coat of high gloss lacquer in a spray can and let it dry for a few days.


Our final lacquered wheel. Ooooh, shiny!

Once dried, I hit it with some more very light sand paper, and then applied a second coat of lacquer. The end result is a really nice high gloss stained wheel reminiscent of the open wheel racers of the ’20s and ’30s.

This definitely makes me want to get into the finish work on the rest of the cart, but not so fast… I have yet to hunt down an electric motor

This next step in our project involves the hands of a surgeon and nerves of steel. OK, it’s not quite that bad, but was rather nerve racking. You see at this point I needed to carefully bend the rear panels towards one another, and screw them together. Doing this will create the very vintage boat tail rear look to our kart, plus it will just look cool.

Just what exactly is this boat tail design anyway? It’s all the rage, all the cool kids are doing it! This body design in automotive carriage building has been around for quite some time, beginning in the early 20th century. The main attraction was for aerodynamics, making the car generally more sleek and faster. Of course the end result also was that the rear of the car ends up having a general shape that resembled that of an old boat.

A great overhead shot of a 1925 Bugatti Type 35

A great overhead shot of a 1924 Bugatti Type 35

Some great examples in this time period include the 1933 Duesenberg, the 1936 Auburn Boat Tail Speedster, the 1934 Packard 12 Boat Tail Speedster and of course the Bugatti Type 35 that we’re loosely basing our project on.

There were also more recent (and questionable) examples including the 1971 Buick Riviera. Nothing however could replace the original art deco era cars, they really are just priceless.

On our project we had the body mounted on both sides with the rear waiting for the final assembly. In order to secure the rear panels to one another in the back I needed to first create the boat tail “base” that both sides will attach to.

This base is a triangle that mounts to the rear of the frame, and the body panels are bent inward to attach to the triangle itself. I set a line down the center of both the rear cross member, as well as the tail brace, drilled pilot holes through the rear cross member, into the brace and followed up with 1 1/4″ wood screws.

Boat tail support base that both panels mount to.

Boat tail support base that both panels mount to.

After I mounted the boat tail brace to the frame, I then had to cut what amounted to a long triangle block that mounts vertically at the absolute rearmost point in this boat tail.

This vertical brace effectively acts as the edge of the tail, and adds some strength and rigidness to the whole structure. Cutting this piece was a bit of a challenge, since as before, I still didn’t have my table saw. Again creative cutting with the Skil saw would be in order.

I basically needed to cut a 9″ deep triangle out of a 2×4. It took me a few tries to get the angle correct, but I finally got it right. Once I cut this piece out completely I mounted it vertically onto the rear point of the tail base.

Cutting this piece to be used vertically in the boat tail was a bit of a challenge.

Cutting this piece to be used vertically in the boat tail was a bit of a challenge.

Next I very carefully bent the left panel against the triangle brace, drilled pilot holes through the panel into the brace, and followed up with 1″ wood screws. As I bent it over and set the screws I heard the very distinct sound of wood slightly cracking. Eeek. The plywood, very slightly, began to crack right where our kerf lines were cut. Nothing too significant, just a very slight hint. I think I can file it down and fill it with wood putty and you’ll never know. Well, I’ll know but I’ll never tell.

After attaching the left panel, I carefully bent the right panel over and did the same, drilling pilot holes and inserting soaped up wood screws.

The meeting of both panels to the rear against this vertical board will need some smoothing over and likely some filler as well, but the end result is quite sturdy.

After mounting things up I realized that the vertical brace actually extends about 1.5″ higher than the body panels. Hmm. I wasn’t quite sure why but I did confirm it was the correct size based on the plans. On closer look there is another piece that will be mounted on top of the boat tail at a later point, so I think we’re all good here.

Both panels attached to rear vertical beam and boat tail bottom.

Both panels attached to rear vertical beam and boat tail bottom.

After assembling the tail I realized it is probably strong enough, and has enough space, to house a small engine or electric motor in the future. I could easily see a small gas engine, or even some of the small electric motors readily available for the various Razor products fitting right in here. The vicinity of a motor here to the rear wheel sprocket would be pretty easy to work with as well. The boys are a bit too young, and my wife won’t even let me consider it, so I’ll leave this for another day. Though maybe if I sprang for a weekend getaway for her, she’d never notice if I dropped one in while she was gone?? Couldn’t take more than an afternoon right??

Since I was making some great progress, and it had been a whole 15 minutes since someone asked me if I was done yet, I figured I’d keep going while I had the opportunity.

Next I’ll add the seat. In preparation of this I mounted the cleats, or mounting braces, on the inside of the body panels. I mounted these a half inch lower on the body to account for my older son. I wanted the boys to be able to fit into this as long as possible, so where I could I tried to account for dimensions with that in mind. I also placed them a bit further back from the original mounting spots since I’ll be adding a crank with pedals.

Next I cut out the base of the seat and the seat back. The base has a slightly narrowed shape to account for the portion of the tail where the bend begins. The seat back will be mounted vertically and has braces attached to the top, left and right sides. The plans call for a brace on the bottom as well. I opted not to use a bottom mount since I felt it a bit redundant, not to mention risky with regards to running the screws into it. When cutting the seat back I followed the plan in making it rounded on the top, but opted to make it a bit taller than the plans called for. Again, accounting for longevity of use (or at least hoping to).

Seat base and back mounted into the body.

Seat base and back mounted into the body.

I placed the seat bottom onto the seat braces. I then drilled guide holes through the bottom and into the seat braces I previously mounted to the body panels. At this point we actually had something to sit in and it was getting pretty exciting.

Right about now I was wishing I was 6 or 7 years old. Then again if I were I wouldn’t be using a Skil saw and my Dad would be putting this off to another time, so never mind.

Once the seat bottom was mounted I slid the vertical seat back into place. This was a tight fit, which is good. I wanted to get it as close as I could to the panels, but also didn’t want to force the panels outward. Once this seat back was in place I then drilled guide holes and ran wood screws into the side braces of the seat back from the OUTSIDE of the body panels. This was one of the cases where at a later point prior to painting I’ll fill these screws and with any luck they won’t be visible in the least.

The seat back braces are clearly visible in this shot. The upper brace will be used for mounting another piece later.

The seat back braces are clearly visible in this shot. The upper brace will be used for mounting another piece later.

We now have the tail and seat in place. Next up will be getting the dashboard and steering mechanism cut and put in. All in all a very productive day for sure.

The neighbors are beginning to ask questions so that should be a good sign right? Only I wish they weren’t asking “What is that?”.



I recently stumbled across the site CycleKarts. This is a site that basically has been put together by some kart enthusiasts that aren’t so much into going fast, but really more into the overall nostalgia aspect and in general having fun approach.

These karts are nothing short of flat out awesome. They’re built with a steel box frame and recycled motorcycle wheels. Since the wheels are larger, about 17″, with the proper detailing at a glance you would mistake these for true original race cars from their heyday. These typically have a small 6 hp engine mounted in the back, but the addition of a false exhaust pipe down one side makes them look all that more accurate.

I’ve always been a huge fan of open wheel racers of the 1920s and 1930s so what better than to build a kart in that style. Although I would love to build one of these, I don’t really have the room to drive, or equipment to weld up something like this. In addition the fact that my boys are pretty young I figured I’d start with something a bit more easy to manage. Maybe I’ll revisit this or something like it at a later time. I know, I know… why someday? For now I’ll be focusing on something that is just more kid friendly.

Bugatti Pedal Car

Bugatti Pedal Car

As it turns out the same guys that have the Cycle Karts site also sell some plans for building a pedal car. They have some great plans available to build a car based on a Bugatti Type 35. The plans are noted as easy to follow and are based on materials that are readily available at most hardware stores. After a bit of poking around I’ve found a great example of one of their other projects, an MG TC. This too is a pedal car.

To get an idea of how the plans with the MG differ, and to see the real world results, I’ve been following a project that is in process with this car at The Norwood Home/Blog. Mark has done a great job with his car, keeping the original look and primarily using the plans, but adapting it to use small bicycle wheels. I too wanted to use bike wheels, but was thinking I wanted something a bit more than a pedal car, but less than a full on racer like the CycleKarts I noted earlier.

Armed with a garage full of tools I went ahead and ordered up the plans and anxiously awaited their arrival.