In the late 1940s and into the1950s, there was barely any telly(if you were lucky enough to have one in the first place), no mobiles, iPhones or iPlayers, no internet or computer games and no money to spend on flashy toys. Playing for kids was with simple equipment like jacks, marbles, skipping-ropes, conkers on strings, bats, balls and bicycles – and anything they could make themselves out of old stuff they found lying around. That included the first go karts in the UK. The earliest were wooden in construction, with old pram wheels and a rope to steer. The more inventive used the old pram chassis itself, but it didn’t steer so well. They were prized possessions and often raced on the streets to determine who had made the fastest model.
It is unclear who should be credited with making the first go kart, as kids in the UK were very early pioneers in the 40s and 50s. However, the Americans claimed ‘a first’ in 1956 where Art Ingels is given the credit of making the first kart, It was motorised, which was far more sophisticated that the hundreds of street karts already being raced round the streets of Britain, but does that make it a first? Ingels kart had a motor (lawn mower) on the back, and steering from a wheel set in the middle of the kart that was connected to one wheel at the back by a bicycle chain. It was pretty nifty, nevetheless, but the crude brake of a hand lever connected to a plate that he merely hauled up to stop the kart by pressing the plate on the back wheel had variable results in stopping him in anything resembling a straight line. An American manufacturer then started making these motorised karts in kit form in 1957 – with some considerable improvements to the design.
This new motorised karting made its way to the UK in 1958, brought over by American servicemen, with the first of the outings classed as unofficial races and demonstration events. In late 1959 the RAC officially sanctioned karting, and the first official race was held in November of that year at RAF Lakenheath. This was a two hour race won by the late Graham Hill in a Progress kart with a Villiers engine. Karting, as we now know it, was born in the UK and a continuous development program of improvements has made the modern kart almost unrecognisable from it’s humble shed, pram and rope beginings.
MODERN GO KART