Vintage Go Kart, Brand Hatch

Vintage Karting…U.K. Style

They sent us The Beatles, we sent them Karting. A Fair Trade.

Most motoring enthusiasts know what a Go-Kart is, and probably know that karting today is the first rung on the motorsports ladder for professional race drivers. Which makes sense, since “modern” karting was invented at the Kurtis-Kraft race car shop in Glendale, Calif., in 1956. In the early 1950s,Vintage Karting such as the Kurtis-Kraft front-engined “roadster” dominated the Indianapolis 500, winning the Brickyard classic four times in five years. In the 1953 race, 24 of the 33 cars at Indy were Kurtis roadsters.

Art Ingles was a fabricator at Kurtis-Kraft during this time. He got the wild idea of making a simple race car, just a tube frame, small wheels, simple seat, and small 2-cycle lawnmower engine. Additionally, Kurtis made sprint cars and midgets as well as Indy roadsters. His buddies thought the little contraption was kool so they built their own, too. Next thing you know, Ingles and his friends were meeting at the Rose Bowl parking lot, putting on impromptu races.

What happened next was quite unforeseen. Editors at Hot Rod magazine caught wind of the Rose Bowl antics and checked it out. A story followed, then another story. Then the Go-Kart company was launched in 1958 by famous SoCal hot rodder Duffy Livingston. Soon, the Go-Kart Club of America was formed, followed by the first national championship in Azusa, Calif.

At the same time, “Go-Karts” caught the fancy of the mainstream press, creating a national phenomenon. Kart manufacturers popped up everywhere, from California to Nebraska to Ohio and more. And local tracks sprouted up like mushrooms after a heavy rain. Publications such as LIFE and Saturday Evening Post covered the trend.

By the late 1950s, American servicemen had introduced karting to England, where the motorsports-obsessed Brits put their own unique spin on the on the sport.

FUEL CURVE recently unearthed early photos from Vintage karting in the UK background. Enjoy!

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Gary Medley has been a friend, ally and contributor to the performance community for decades. His interest in cars and journalism was pretty much a genetic imperative, as he is the son of Tom Medley, creator of Stroker McGurk. Medley’s own career path has traveled from the halls of Petersen Publishing to PR director for an Indy Car race to pitching tight-fitting Italian-made cycling shorts and countless other forms of high-speed life. Living between two volcanoes in Hood River, Oregon, Medley will be a regular Fuel Curve contributor when he’s not working to sustain his father’s legacy.