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History of Go Carts

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

History of Go Carts

Larry Johnson
May 1, 2006

What a thrill it must have been, racing around the track in a go cart, a speedy miniature car that had never even existed before. Go carts have only been around for about 50 years, but what an impact they have made on the public in that short period of time.

What started out as a way for airmen in the 1950s to pass the time has turned into a popular worldwide sport for many. Go carts have quickly become a phenomenon all over the globe. With most historians giving Art Ingels the credit for inventing the go cart, he built his very first one back in 1956. But that first go cart was nothing compared to the models we have today. Newer more modern go carts can now travel 160 mph or faster. Now that's amazing.

This miniature Formula One racing machine is referred to by a lot of names including go carts, go karts, go-carts, shifter carts, gocarts, gokarts, enduro carts, and a number of other ways. But one thing is for sure, getting behind the wheel of one of them is exciting. Go carts are related to open-wheel Formula One or Indy Car racing. If you've ever wanted to know what it feels like to race a Formula 1 or Indy Car, while still being as safe as possible, go carts would be your best bet. And that's probably what Michael Schumacher, Sarah Fisher, Darrell Waltrip, Tony Stewart and Kyle Petty all thought when they were kids. They all started their racing careers in go carts. With speeds as high as 160 mph these little machines can travel as fast as the professional race car drivers do on many of their tracks.

There are many different options available today for people that want an exciting vehicle to drive. There are ATVs, dirt bikes, scooters, mopeds, go peds, mini bikes and motorcycles. But go carts are the closest thing you will find to the thrill of Formula 1, NASCAR or Indy Car racing. They are small open-wheeled vehicles with 4 wheels and no suspension. Instead of a suspension they rely on chassis flex. They are basically a smaller version of the professional open wheel race cars.

Many hopefuls who dream of one day racing at the pro level will get their start in go carting. Go carts can be a stepping stone to professional Formula One or Indy Car racing. The reason is that there are many different classes in go carting. No matter what level of experience you have there is a class for you. And as you improve you can move up to increasingly higher classes with greater competition. If you can get to the top in a go cart you may have what it takes for Formula 1 or Indy.

Professional racing is a very expensive sport. But with go carts drivers can get involved on a shoestring budget. It's a cheaper way to get involved with racing. Find out if you have what it takes without breaking the bank to do it.

But go carting is not only for the professionally-minded drivers. Go carts are usually driven by non-professionals, people just like you or me, out for a good time and a lot of excitement. Because anyone can drive one, regardless of their experience level, go carts have become extremely popular all over the world. They can be found in just about every large city either in family fun centers or other venues.

A go cart is made up of a chassis, motor, transmission, seat and 4 tires and a few other odds and ends. As mentioned earlier they have no suspension. The chassis must provide the stiffness and also enough flexibility to allow the cart to grip the road well on the straightaways as well as in the turns. The chassis can be either open or caged. The caged chassis allows protection for the driver in the event of a rollover while the open chassis does not. The cage performs a similar function as does a roll bar.

Engines used in carting are typically either 2-stroke or 4-stroke. They are made by manufacturers such as Honda or Briggs and Stratton among others. You would think that the 4-stroke engines would be more powerful than the 2-stroke engines, but that's not usually the case.

If you have ever wondered how fast go carts can travel you will be amazed at the top speeds. Sprint carts can usually get up to about 60 mph while the more powerful enduro carts can reach a top speed of about 90 mph. And if that's not fast enough for you how about the shifter karts that reach top speeds of 160 mph or more. You heard right, that is not a misprint and these are certainly not toys. Transmissions differ from cart to cart, but the shifter carts use a manual transmission with a clutch that allows the driver to get the most out of the motor.

It seems as though every part of the go cart has become a separate entity, a specialized piece of equipment with different options available to the purchaser. And with regard to the tires they are certainly no exception. In dry weather slicks are used. They are smooth tires that grip the road well. And as they heat up while driving they get even better traction. During wet weather tires with treads are needed. These are called rain tires. And of course, how could any respectable driver racing on ice do without specialized spiked tires? That's correct, there are even go cart races on ice in some parts of the world.

With the many different levels available for drivers today anyone can race at a comfortable level. And the sky is the limit to a talented driver. With a lot of practice, a bunch of talent and a little luck you might find yourself racing alongside Tony Stewart someday. It's certainly possible.

About the Author:

This article about racing fast go carts is brought to you by http://www.go-carts-supreme.com. For more information about carting and gocarts visit Go Carts Supreme.



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