Saturday, October 24, 2015

Midget Car

Welcome to Midget Car Week here at OPOD. When I was growing up, midget cars, also known as go-carts were extremely popular. Some were purchased ready to run, some came as kits, and other home brew cars were built from the ground up by kids with more mechanical expertise. The cars with motors were typically called go carts, and then cars that had no motor, but were used to coast down hills were usually called Soap Box cars. In any event, many kids of my generation had a passion for these cars. I don't see much of this type of thing any more. There is a lot of interest in ATV's but while these might be fun to ride, they are missing a critical aspect. The go carts of my generation were exciting because of the effort put forth in building them. The experience is just not the same to simply buy something and ride it.

Today's picture is from 1939 and it shows a midget car built by a High School senior. Cost of the parts for the car was about $30. It looks like a pretty impressive car, and am sure he took great pride in his creation.


  1. Looks like the motor is from a Maytag washing machine.

  2. If I were to guess the reason we don't see much of this anymore, it would have to do with liability and regulations. I guarantee that if a kid took something like that down the street now, the policeman wouldn't look and think "Wow, what an innovative young mind, I'll bet he becomes someone big some day," but rather, "Hey, that thing's not street legal, I better stop him." Same thing happened to all the empty lots around here, used to be kids playing in them all the time - if you got hurt, it was your fault. Now, every vacant lot has a huge fence around it to make sure they don't get sued for someone hurting themselves while trespassing.

    1. Well said, Nate. And I agree, although I think the change is sad.
      -Anne K.

  3. I would have some concern about the front axle staying attached because it looks like it is attached by a single bolt with almost no support at the end for turns that would cause it to torque . This could cause the wheel to rub against the frame of the cart. The motor looks to me like a gas powered engine from a reel type lawnmower,

  4. When I was growing up in Seattle in the 1950s, boys (only boys, of course) competed in Soap Box derbies in all the neighborhoods of this hilly city. There were rules about how the soap box carts could be constructed, including especially no motors, and how much help adults (fathers, especially) were allowed to provide. I think there was a dollar limit on supplies, too. Many of them really were made from old crates with roller skate wheels. And there were age limits, like about 10-15, or something like that They ran downhill routes, carefully laid out not to be on the steepest hills in town, because those were way too dangerous for the primitive brakes most of these little carts had. The races were always a big deal, usually sponsored by various men's groups in town. They were well covered in the major papers of the day, with trophies and sometimes small money prizes. Looking forward to seeing what kinds of carts you show us this week.


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