Tuesday, September 9, 2014



From this... 

... to this...

... to this...

... to this, karting has served the role of launchpad for many a successful professional racer, and just as many more adolescent squirrels in search of an affordable testosterone release valve. If this imagery conjures warm-but-fuzzy memories that seem hopelessly out of reach today, you're in luck. There is hope.

And now this. The Tieton Grand Prix has realized the true potential of Cycle Kart racing. The event is hosted by the central Washington town it was named for. Small fields compete in heats contested in terrain from high desert to orchards to city streets. Now we're getting somewhere! 

We've been hearing about cycle kart racing for a couple of years now. When the visuals began morphing into a vintage dirt track style, we became more intrigued. Then we got busy and forgot about it. Until Monday, September 8th, 2014. That's the day that Chris Shelton's Cycle Kart Racing: The DIYer, Adrenaline Junkie's Dream appeared on my monitor. Written for Driving Line.com, Shelton's piece is dangerously inspiring. Personally, with my time and budget restraints, I have absolutely no business considering a cycle kart project, but that's exactly what I'm doing. In fact, I'm wondering if Doctor Lockjaw might consider hosting an oval track event on the large vacant lot beside his Custom Metal chassis shop. The concept is just too seductive not to pursue...

Shelton runs down the parameters that the Tieton Grand Prix racers competed within: "They have to use Honda GX 200 engines and constant variable transmissions. However, this year's promoters allowed two electric entries, one of them a project from a couple high school students who proved there's potential in it. The other rule is written in stone: 17 inch Moped wheels. They're plentiful, strong enough for aggressive use, and maintain the right proportions for a scaled-down pre-war race car."

"There are plenty more less-official rules, all of them engineered to keep things fun and cool looking. Karts should resemble something historical, preferably sports cars from the period prior to World War II - if only to look right with the spindly wheels. They shouldn't weigh more than 250 pounds, though there is no minimum. It's a system that encourages progress (lighter cars are more fun), yet governs itself (really light cars also tend to break easier)."

"To facilitate a spirit where winning isn't everything, the organizers preempt fierce competitiveness by lightly penalizing race winners. You heard it right: Winning isn't everything." And the exclamation point, where I'm concerned: "This is a community which praises ingenuity and pluck rather than trick parts. Few people will pay-to-play for risk of violating that do-it-yourself mandate."

Read Shelton's piece in its entirety at http://www.drivingline.com/2014/09/cycle-kart-racing-2014-tieton-grand-prix/. There's also excellent helmet cam video that positions you in mid-pack, as challenges are traded at speeds approaching 35 MPH (which feels more like 100, when you're skipping over bumps with your cheeks dancing mere inches from the ground). Shelton sets the perspective with this candid quip: "As cool as it looks, it doesn't do the whole gig justice. The fun increases exponentially with each car that joins." Of course. Below is a taste of the action from the Tieton Grand Prix. A rudimentary online search revealed plenty more of this going on across the country. Stir up some dust in your community and get in on the yuks!

(Photos courtesy of Chris Shelton and drivingline.com)

Inevitably, unlimited wildcat cycle karting is simultaneously taking place globally. Rulebooks are laughed at and wallets are beaten into submission. Luckily, it's a big world, with room for every taste.



Remember Tim Jones' Crippled Dog Ranch Competition Coupe project? The rural Iowa coupe and its tow rig recently got some love from the brush of Brian Chollett. Letters are nice, but when will we see some ET slips, Tim? "Not sure when we'll be out. I'm still a broke dick dog, working for the (Henry Doorly) zoo. Luckily, my lettering guy works for Mountain Dew - at least for me."

Chollett's brushwork includes "A tribute to a friend of mine's father, who in my opinion, was one of the best mechanics I've ever met. And coming from the fuel car wars, I've seen the best", claims Jones. Alas, Bob Leaden passed away before the project was finished. But he'll now be riding along on every pass.

Happy to be paid by the letter, Chollett didn't waste any time making this adjustment to the driver credit. Jones' girlfriend Beth Main took over the starting position last winter, while helping fabricate the blower manifold from scratch. Tim confirms, "Beth has officially booted my ass out of the seat."

Previously covered in an SGE exclusive, Jones' 4WD conversion "jailbar" Ford transporter also received some strokes by Chollett. 

In rural Iowa, field push starts are just as common as using sled dogs for tow vehicles. This is Grapes of Wrath racing at its best. Beth is right at home in the coupe, and itching to hit the track. (Photos courtesy of Tim Jones)


Fellow author and hot rod scalawag Jim Lindsay returned to the scene of the flood last week to chase the XFBG/RMR record across the freshly dried Bonneville Salt Flats. Here's the back motor T, breezing through Tech Inspection at the USFRA World of Speed.

The Little Bastards' pit (named for the adolescent hot rod gang in Lindsay's best selling novel). It has been suggested the name be changed to Old Bastards. No comment on that yet from gang leader Lindsay.

Lindsay picked up a last minute sponsorship from Deluxe Brewing Company. Never in the annals of motorsport history has there been a more appropriate partnership.

The little flatty that did!

I suspect Marty Strode to be the perpetrator behind this act of vandalism.

Who'da thunk it? The Little Bastards are all grins in the impound lot! They upped the Production Flathead Blown Gas Rear Engine Modified Roadster record from 130 to 139 MPH, then switched over to alky, for a run at the Blown Fuel record. Alas, we have no results on that quest as of press time.

Bonus: With Lindsay's project finally out of his hair, chassis builder Marty Strode is now free to resume work on his long delayed '53 Ford cabover transporter. Regarding Lindsay, Strode quips, "He has a lot of drive, and he could give lessons in tenacity to a snapping turtle." (Photos courtesy of Jim Lindsay and Marty Strode)


SGE pal Maria Panova is now settled back into Russian culture, following the long Kiwi summer. Our communications remain shaky at best, but my understanding is that Maria has not been drafted into the Ukrainian invasion. She's suited-up here for a different kind of battle victory. 

Upon Maria's return to the motherland, her crew at Total Race presented her with their devious plan to heat up her mid-eight second AWD Toyota Soarer. At least that's what I think this is.

The plan pivoted on a move to a larger turbocharger (okay, this isn't even Maria's car, but I couldn't resist this).

Ah. More like it. 

The new combo dyno'd at 1,429 horsepower.

In addition to the boosted boost, the Soarer also underwent a ruthless weight reduction program. Maria's personal weight required no adjustment. 

The Soarer was ultimately cleared for track action, as was Maria.

The above changes were celebrated with a cosmetic makeover, and testing commenced. 

Definition of a "Luxury Problem": Even with a Lenco-enhanced All Wheel Drive system, traction is now nonexistent. Runs were made in AWD, FWD and RWD modes, all to no avail. Back to the drawing board.

In the course of the mayhem, this one-off Lenco gave its life, but will be brought back from the dead. Meanwhile, suspension, tires, and driving technique are being reconsidered. 

I asked Maria if she and the Total Race wizards believed seven second runs will be realized this season. This is her answer. 

Besides blasting insane doorslammers down drag strips, Maria is also a feared competitor on the drift circuit, she's obsessed with shifter karts, and she terrorizes the local populace with her crazy fast GTR daily driver. She's just like the rest of us, only better. Maria became the first woman ever to top the podium at Russia's most prestigious Championship Karting event last week. This week, who knows? (Photos courtesy of Mariah Panova)


In the name of full exposure: The SGE Model A project has slowed to a crawl this summer, due to a mysterious abdominal ailment that has baffled the most advanced minds of medical science. On the upside, my transbrake technique is improving, after innumerable practice sessions with the morphine switch. Despite this pesky distraction, the blog (and the rest of my writing assignments) must go on! (Shellski shot)

Last week's only sign of progress: The Model A will taper to a needle nose, requiring a fabbed hood, narrowed and sectioned radiator shell, and a custom radiator. We can handle the tin work, but a nasty case of custom radiator sticker shock prodded me into researching OEM coolers. That's when I finally realized the solution had been right under my nose all along: My daily driver '98 Honda Civic radiator measured 14.5" wide and 17" high. Hmmm. Research revealed this OPL aftermarket "heavy duty" aluminum two-pass version on amazon.com for $80, shipped (The stock Honda unit is a plastic single row). I ordered it, and minutes later, received an amazon e-mail: "People who liked this product also liked" several identical radiators for $20 less. Doh! I tried to change my order, but they said it was too late. Live and learn. I'll be reporting test results directly to you, the consumer, sometime this century. Hopefully. (Scotty shot)



Motormouth Ray's friend Honda John is married to a woman who has trained neighborhood squirrels to do tricks for food. Ray has been dispatched to deliver an in-depth report ASAP. (Photo courtesy of Ray's friend Honda John's wife, who's real name is apparently known only to the Witness Protection Program)

When he isn't wheeling nitro Altereds all over the track, my neighbor/pal Ronnie Mankins wheels and deals in parts. He'd rather spend his time taking your money than fixing old parts, so Ronnie depends on a tool collection that he's been growing since childhood. And those little money makers require secure storage, as seen behind Ronnie's trusty shop truck. Ronnie apologizes for the filthy truck and shop. (Photos courtesy of Ronnie Mankins)


A peek back at the golden era before the rulebook was invented. These European contrivances predate cycle karts by a bit, but share the same ethos of innovation.