Sunday, May 20, 2012

Copper Pipe Go Kart

In my March post, "Chelsea Court Memories", I mentioned that my Dad built a go kart from copper plumbing pipe. I was digging around and, OMG, there is video! My best guess for the date is 1967 and my uncle, aunt, and cousins were visiting from Indiana. My sister and all the cousins, plus my uncle get into the act. Dad was acting as pit crew and camera man.

A few things about the go kart before you watch the video.

Naturally, no sound on the 8 mm movie film originally used to capture this. I added the sound of a film projector, just like you would have heard in its first showing. Funny, it kind of sounds like a lawnmower. That's OK too.

Yes, that is a hand wound rope starter. When was the last time you saw that?

I wanted my father to buy a go kart. He thought that he and I building one would be a much better idea. He made time for me in so many ways, I'll never be able to thank him enough.

My father figured the thing that he and I could do together was solder, so he designed a frame using 3/4" copper plumbing that was soldered together using elbows and T's. The next element was plywood held on with pipe clamps and wood screws. Wheelbarrow wheels and tires and an old 1.5 HP vertical shaft lawn mower engine were selected. The steering wheel is 1"x1/4" flat aluminum stock, bent to shape, and topped by bicycle hand grips. A similar approach for pedals which were operated by steel rods to the back of the cart.

The first time I drove the cart, I mashed the go pedal and went counter clockwise around the circle. As I got up to speed, my butt slid over onto the accelerator rod. When I lifted my foot, the throttle stayed wide open. I couldn't pull myself off the rod because of the g's. It took me a couple of laps to figure out that I needed to head out toward the big street, then slide off the rod and brake.

At this early stage, a twisted v-belt drove a jack shaft which drove another v-belt to the rear axle. The clutch was a spring loaded idler wheel putting tension on the second belt. As you can see, the clutch didn't work so well. A later version saw the installation of a centrifugal clutch and the idler was eliminated.

Naturally, this thing was heavy and slow. But it turned out to handle pretty well. All the heavy copper down low must have given it a low c.g. There was one slightly banked corner in our neighborhood. When I got enough nerve to take it flat out, the kart slung right through it and I could feel the frame flex down toward the ground.

Can you believe how simple things were then?

All in all, a great memory for me. I hope you enjoyed. Oh yeah, in case you haven't figured it out, I'm the little squirt with the glasses.

1 comment:

  1. Great discovery, Jac. Go karts were so popular back then, I think every neighborhood must have had at least one kid and his dad who built one.