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History: 1956 The Very First Go Kart

The very first go kart

Name: Caretta-West Bend
Created by: Art INGELS & Lou BORELLI
Nationality: USA
Date of birth: August, 1956 – Glendale/CA, USA.

Art Ingels was a mechanic at the Kurtis Craft Company in Glendale, California, a firm that built racing cars, notably used in Indianapolis. His friend and neighbour, Lou Borelli, worked for a petroleum company. Together, Art Ingels and Lou Borelli built the first kart in August 1956.

Art Ingels built the frame, using the same steel tubing that went into the racing cars. He made it with two straight side rails joined by a straight front axle across one end and a tube containing axle stubs at the rear. There was a simple steering and seat hoop, a three-spoke steering wheel and a column with a steering spade and two drag links.

To Lou Borelli fell the task of installing a West Bend 750 engine on the frame and designing a braking system. He mounted the engine behind the seat and placed the fuel tank high on the seat back. The West Bend’s 2.5 hp were delivered to the left rear wheel through a countershaft, using chains, sprockets and a centrifugal clutch. The West Bend engines were originally designed to be fitted to lawnmowers produced by Mc Culloch, a company known until then for its chainsaws – but a manufacturing defect soon forced Mc Culloch to withdraw its lawnmowers from sale. In the months following Art Ingels’ and Lou Borelli’s invention, the engines of the faulty lawnmowers quickly found a new life, revived by the Karting fever and requisitioned by various artisan manufacturers. Braking the Ingels-Borelli kart demanded the use of a lever on the right-hand side. Pulling the lever pivoted a plate in bell crank fashion, which in turn pressed a braking pad against a disc welded to the right rear rim!Art INGELS & Lou BORELLI

The story goes that the first test of the kart carried out on a public road by Art Ingels was not very conclusive: the kart was not powerful enough in relation to Ingels’ weight, so it did not manage to climb the slope where it was initially tested. However, Borelli, who was lighter, could reach the top of the hill and applied himself – already! – to «soup up» the engine so that it could overcome Art Ingels’ weight!

After further testing of this kart in car parks, Art Ingels took his machine to the Pomona sports car races in September 1956. It was the first real public appearance of his invention, which was to arouse so many passions, ideas and initiatives.

Art Ingels and Lou Borelli decided to build six karts, in time for selling during the Christmas season. Although they were the first to manufacture complete karts for the public – under the name of Caretta -, it remained for others to pioneer the mass production of enough karts to satisfy the ever growing mob of racing enthusiasts springing up in the wake of each appearance of the original karts.

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