Ethan and I restore a Carter two-seater Go Kart
"Dad, do you think we can find a go kart to build together?" my son asked me just a couple of weeks into the Coronavirus lock-down. Originally I had planned on getting some of the work on the 55 Ford completed, but what does a loving father do when his 17-year-old boy makes a request like that? I thought it would be a good opportunity to spend time together and for Ethan to learn a few things along the way. So, we began our search for an affordable project.
For about a week we continually checked Craigslist, Facebook, and other public online advertisements in the go kart category. Prices were all over the place with most projects in our area beginning at a $150 asking price. When we did find something under $100 it was repeatedly sold before we could even contact the owner. Late one evening we thought a go kart project had finally been located about an hour and a half away from us - $75, rough shape, missing parts, etc. I told Ethan that I would contact the owner after supper and make arrangements. When I did get back online my Facebook Marketplace feed showed a listing for a Carter two-seater go kart for FREE. It had only been up for 7 minutes when I messaged the owner just to make sure the go kart was indeed "free". If you know anything about Facebook Marketplace there are plenty of sellers that will price the item at "Free" in the title but when you read the fine print they want to trade, etc. Nope, this was real. "Free" meant no cost; just come and get it! My son and I did not waste any time - we drove the 32 miles to Harrison, Ohio, loaded up the go kart and gave the owner a tip for holding it for us until we showed up. It was pretty dark by that time but we did snap this photo of the kart in the trailer:
The go kart was rough. One of the previous owners had modified the engine mount/frame to place a large motorcycle engine on the kart. The engine was now gone and all that was left were remnants of shoddy welding, cobbled up brackets, etc. The jack shaft mounting plate was warped; we expected that was because of the torque of the motorcycle engine. Thankfully however, the jack shaft assembly was lying in the seat when we picked it up.
While there were no identifying model numbers on the kart or its frame, after some research and comparison of other models we discovered a PDF of the blueprints (with part numbers!) online. This was a Carter Model 2336ZX go kart. Ethan and I were happy to have the information for it certainly helped during the build, but we were dismayed when we found out that this manufacturer's assembly plant and parts warehouse had burnt to the ground about a decade ago. This made parts acquisition somewhat difficult - especially when trying to locate wheel hubs. It seems that Carter used a rather odd bolt pattern size for their wheels. One of the rear hubs had a broken ear and needed to be replaced - the videos towards the end of this post show some of the modifications to make this work since no Carter hubs were available.
Saving the jack shaft assembly - new bearings and a new clutch made it function well!
Above: the rear axle after passenger side hub removal
Below: the remnants of the hub after removal!
Most of the mechanical issues were easy to resolve, even though we had a fit trying to fix the wheel hub issue. A brand new Predator 212cc 6.5hp engine was purchased from Harbor Freight and installed as well. This meant that the engine mounting plate had to be removed from the frame and re-welded to a position 2" to the right (to get the pulleys to line up correctly). Items such as a kill switch, throttle cable, wheel bearings, etc were also purchased and installed. We did have to do some welding after our trial runs - a new plate was cut to match the jack shaft mount and it was welded together to strengthen the assembly. I also welded up some of the tubes on the frame that I thought were rather weak.
The old rubber and inner tubes were removed (very much dry rotted and not holding air too well) - this was not an issue since we wanted to blast the wheels and paint them with several coats of gloss black Rustoleum. The real chore in all of this was the actual frame. Ethan ground away rust, rough welds from the previous owner, and small areas of paint. We also sandblasted the frame pretty good. This was all messy work of course, but the real kicker came when I sprayed the Tamco 5310 direct-to-metal primer surfacer. The way the frame was designed made it very difficult to reach all of the nooks and crannies with a spray gun. There is some good time-lapse footage in the videos below that show the work that went into all of this but this go kart was very much like a vehicle restoration. For the most part you end up having quite a bit of time and materials in the paint and body work!
My son chose to purchase three decals as new design elements - two US flags at the rear and a US Army star at the front. I told him that if I knew that before I would have painted it green!
The garage was pretty tight for quite some time!
One of the tricky mechanical parts to the build was getting the driven gear, jack shaft gear, driven jack shaft pulley, and engine drive pulley to all operate together with very little slack and the proper tension. With the pulley system we used, both the driver and driven pulleys expand and contract due to engine rpm and load. When the system is adjusted properly this gives great torque on take off and good top end speed. With the governor still installed in the Predator engine, we still clocked the go kart hitting 35 mph (with an app that gives speed via gps signal.) We did purchase a performance kit that replaces the carburetor, air filter, and the muffler with parts that will produce more power. If we start seeing any higher speeds (and we certainly believe we will) then mama will require a helmet, seat belts, and air bags! The videos certainly do show that the kart moves about with quite a bit of pep!
Along the way, Ethan and I saved some video footage of the rebuild; great memories to make with my son during these crazy days in our culture filled with unrest over the Coronavirus, lock-down's, government mandates and overreach, issues with police, protests, civil unrest, riots, and on and on it goes!
Part 1 (Carter Go Kart Restoration)
Part 2 (Carter Go Kart Restoration)
During these days of confusion, the Coronavirus, political and racial controversy, and the signs of the coming end times, I do trust you are prepared for an eternity with God. The Bible declares that we will all see Him some day. Why would God let any of us in Heaven? What is it that we need to "make it" there? The greatest manual of all has the answers my friend! After visiting my page entitled "Remember," why not visit my Biography page and learn about a life-changing experience I had almost 20 years ago? I hope that you will.
Keeping the FaYth,
The Hot Rod Reverend
aka Daniel Jessup