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Karting in the year 1960: a history

Karting in the year 1960: a history

MARCH 1960

As a result of the positive response to the Kent Kart Klub’s The Go Karter, we saw there was a need for a more widely distributed publication on the sport. In January, to promote this idea, we put leaflets around the Racing Car Show. Within moments John Lello on the Motor Books stand had signed up Bill Kitchen as the first subscriber to Karting magazine. The cover photo for the first issue was of Graham Hill on a Progress kart leading a Keele and Fastakart, all powered by Villiers 197cc motors, at the USAF Lakenheath airbase in Suffolk. These karts were equipped with 7 inch diameter Speedex cast alloy wheels using 300×7 Firestone treaded tyres which provided little by way of grip or durability. Held in November, this event was the first race meeting to be held in the UK. and it only came to a halt when the drivers could no longer see their way around the track on that winter evening.

APRIL 1960

An article on the Jackaroo Phantom kart, equipped with tiny mudguards and number plates bearing the registration WCG 96, that had been driven on the roads of London in Christmas traffic, created a great stir. Our track test examined one of the most successful gearbox machines of the day, the Fastakart. Not surprisingly, Stirling Moss, racing at Detling Aerodrome, broke the drive chain on his Keele kart which had four rear wheels for better traction.

MAY 1960

Record winter snowfalls in the USA’s Midwest no longer confined racing to the indoor circuits at Kansas City, St Joseph, Waterloo and Chicago. The $40,000 0.3 mile Dart-Kart Raceway, with a grandstand seating 2400 and parking for 1200 cars, opened at Mansfield, Ohio and staged the GKCA Eastern regionals. The GPKC held the American championships at Daytona Beach with 151 entries, the prizes including sponsored entries to the World Championships at Nassau. A 72 lap road race through the dusty streets of Tecate in Mexico, attracted a strong entry from the major works teams with many fitting elaborate modifications in the hope they might survive the punishment course. The overall winner was Cub Lyon from Pasadena using a Caretta kart equipped with two 115cc West Bend 700 motors.

JUNE 1960

Gordon Fowell from West Bromwich announced that he was to drive the 1000 miles to Monte Carlo using a GF kart with lights and cycle-type mudguards. In New Zealand Don Sinton and John Stevens drove a kart the 493 miles from Auckland to Wellington at an average speed of 37 mph. The Sinton kart was then taken to the South Island where it completed a further road 1000 miles.

Villiers introduced a kart version of the 98cc 10F model at £32 – half the price of a McCulloch MC10. Gordon Diplock built a well-engineered front engined/rear drive special with a Villiers 9E between the driver’s knees. When Jim Rathmann won the Indianapolis 500 in 1960 (already having three 2nd places), he designed the Xterminator kart with construction by an airframe manufacturer. Rodger Ward, Indy winner in 1959 and 2nd in 1960, was also a test driver for the Percival Wildcat kart.

The extremely rapid Bill Jeffery became GKCA National Champion on a GoKart McCulloch.

JULY 1960

The Island Industries Fair on the Isle of Wight included an endurance demonstration of a Wilgo-Kart with a 75cc four-stroke Villiers mark 7 engine using a cylinder of Calor Propane gas for fuel. It ran for 41 hours, covering 237 miles, on l2 lbs of gas. Because of the substantial reduction in the emission of carbon monoxide, it was thought to be particularly suitable for indoor karting.

World Stock Car Champion, John Brise, won at the Gosling banked high speed cycle track at Welwyn Garden City driving a Get Kart built by the Turney family of TKM fame. John went on to produce a range of Brise karts and was the importer of Montesa motors and Motoplat ignitions.

AUGUST 1960

The British Kart Manufac-turers Association staged a race meeting at Nottingham with class wins going to Aero, Trokart, Progress and Buckler.

An army tank engineer built a special with differential in the back axle. The GKCA National champs at Mansfield, Ohio had 435 entries. Six of the eight classes were won by Rupp manufactured Dart Karts with Chuck Florian also becoming the overall Grand National Champion.

The half mile Satelite City track, near Mexico City, cost $25,000 to build and had 13 corners. Despite problems caused by the elevated altitude, Jim Yamane won Super B at the inaugural race at the circuit. Karting magazine staged a conference at London’s Royal Festival Hall to try and find a solution to complaints about kart noise but few of those attending thought there was a problem.

Based at Sunset Boulevard, LA, the short-lived International Kart News was launched with William Glen Davis as Public Relations Director. Using an Echo kart, formerly marketed as the Volkscart, and designed by ex-formula 3 car builder, Mike Siakooles, Glen set off from California to drive around the World. The first leg was to Mexico then via Florida and New York to Europe.

SEPTEMBER 1960

A 200 lap race at Shellingford was won by Bayliss and Jordan on a Fastakart Villiers. The recently introduced Trobike and KRT Bronco, miniature motor bikes powered by a kart motor such as the Clinton A490 with a centrifugal clutch, were thought to have a future for both highway use and in competition.

The Lord Taverners organised a charity kart race at Brands Hatch between Show Biz personalities and BRDC members. Graham Hill, Dan Gurney, Innes Ireland and Jack Brabham took part and were enthusiastic about the sport but were uncertain as to whether it could be a stepping-stone to full sized motor sport.

In the USA, Firestone announced the first manufactured, as opposed to a remould, slick tyre for karts – the Micro-500. A neat and streamlined kart by Schapel and Orndoff achieved 93 mph at Bonneville.

Duffy Livingstone was busy turning out a string of mouth-watering and exotic specials. They were all based on production Go Kart frames that were suitably modified. One of these had a 250cc Puch motor mounted in front of the driver and his next creation had a rear mounted water cooled 250cc twin cylinder Koenig powerplant.

OCTOBER 1960

The marketing of the Harper Vincent 99cc engine was beset with difficulties as the price did not easily fit into the class structure and there was understandable wariness at only one side of the crankshaft being supported by a main bearing. Although not popular in its day, it is now a collectors item because of its connection with the Vincent motorcycle firm. The Shenington International was rated as the best event held to date in Europe and was notable for the startling performance of the Bultaco engined machines. Powered by two JLO engines, the chassis of the ingenious ‘X’ shaped Masterkart was constructed from sheet steel.

Using a Ruskat-Clinton A490 built by Jim Russell, members of the Downham Market & DKC took it in turns to drive around Snetterton for 24 hours. They endured periods of pouring rain and had to change the engine when a crack developed in the integral fuel tank. The night-time running was done with the help of hurricane lamps placed around the circuit. The total distance covered was 525 miles.

NOVEMBER 1960

The Paris 6 Hours was held at Orly Airport in appalling conditions of wind and rain. It was contested by 39 teams each having three drivers. For the first half of the race the leader was the Biss, McMullan and Smith Trokart McCulloch but a lengthy stop due to water in the ignition put them out of contention.

The winner was the Kart Club du Mans entry of Alline, Leret and Leloup using an All-Kart JLO with a British team from the Four Aces KC on a Trokart JLO taking the third spot.

Sid Marler and Dave Kelsey built one of the finest special karts of all time – the superb Villiers powered Marlerhaley with a multi-tubular chassis and independent suspension all round.

Get Karts (now Tal-Ko), were selling brand new Clinton A490 motors at £12 to clear stocks!

Keele Karts prepared two karts for Stirling Moss to race at the Nassau World Championships, one with a 250cc Ariel Arrow motor and the other equipped with two Bultaco 125cc units.

DECEMBER 1960

British karting gained a valuable publicity boost when King Hussein of Jordan won a race on a Trokart at Biggin Hill.

The attempt to drive around the world on a kart by Glen Davis got off to a good start. He visited Culiacan and Los Mochis in Mexico, reporting that the modified Echo kart towing a trailer was running perfectly despite the complete outfit with driver weighing some 600lbs. His next target was to reach Buenos Aires in Argentina.

The British drivers at the 2nd annual World Championships held at Nassau in the Bahamas were Dave McMullan, Trokart 2 x JLOs and Roger Biss Trokarts 2 x McCullochs, plus two Keele karts for Stirling Moss. One of the latter’s machines was equipped with two 125cc Bultacos with the other having a 250cc Ariel Arrow. The gearboxes had been removed from these ex-motorcycle engines. The behaviour of Moss in the formation laps was criticised by some but if he was somewhat arrogant it is understandable given that only ten days prior to Nassau he had won the United States Grand Prix in a F1 Lotus. With 198 entries from eight countries the qualifying races were extremely closely fought and none of the Brits made the cut. The future importance of Italian drivers and equipment could be seen in the preparation in Italy of an Xterminator kart entry powered by three Garelli MG8 motors, the racing of a Zoom kart with two Bultacos by Count Nicolo Dona dalle Rose, and the appearance of the Parilla/Saetta Vll engine with rotary valve induction that would lead to the production of so many motors specifically designed for kart use. The winner of the 100 lap (50 mile) final was Bobby Allen of Miami Springs, Florida. A couple of weeks shy of his 17th birthday, Bobby drove an Xterminator manufactured by Jim Rathmann, winner of that year’s Indy 500. Still a schoolboy, Allen gained valuable work experience by working part-time for Rathmann at weekends and holidays. His McCulloch MC10s were prepared by his father.