Buying a kart (part 2)

I’ve done nothing but spend my spare time on karting stuff since Christmas – the whole towing/kart finding/learning/bartering process has been more stress than I typically have to endure but… here she is!!!

kart

It’s a 2009 Tonykart EVR which, as you can see, is sitting on top of my fairly low-tech trailer lid!!! Having it in the garage takes a huge weight off of my shoulders! I’d been monitoring two karts for some time: this one, which was offered to me before Christmas through one of the Karting forums, and a 2011 Wright which had been relisted on eBay in numerous packages with varying levels of completeness. Unfortunately both sets of negotiations came to a head at the same time: I agreed to buy the Wright, got cold feet and luckily this one was still available (always go with your gut feeling!).

I had negotiated a price/package with my seller over the prior weeks that included the rolling chassis, complete engine (from airbox to exhaust), used slicks on rims, used wets on rims and a trolley for £700. In addition I was buying the following extras to the tune of £300: Mychron 4, remote starter, new slicks, kart cover and a comprehensive spares package. I don’t feel at all comfortable haggling with people so did it all via email rather than in person so that I could negotiate harder than I otherwise would. If I were the seller, I’d have told me where to stick my initial offer but there is no point in starting high – it will just cost you more!

The day began with my second towing journey – no problems there although I did have to learn how to use ratchet straps (tip: much easier to figure out when you are actually wrapping it around the trailer than testing them on the lounge floor). Met the seller at Clay and spent the day learning what I could about being a mechanic whilst my son set about trying to find the 10 seconds that he had been off of the pace when we had rented a kart a few weeks earlier. Bump starting was a much harder task with this kart compared with the rented kart and I soon had to make way for the seller and his to do the starting (and even then they were running around the first bend trying to get him going). We also had to spend some time adjusting the things, including installing a smaller seat, to accomodate the difference in size between the new and former owner which necessitated a first ever purchase from the shop at Clay (pedal extensions – £25). The timing of the purchase wasn’t great – my contacts were unable to make it on the day to give me an expert opinion on the chassis, which was a concern as the kart had been involved in an accident in it’s last outing in October. I had been assured that the kart was straight and that there were no cracks, rust or flat spots – everything looked ok to my untrained eye and, unless was prepared to spend the £50 to get it checked on a jig, I was going to have go on trust/take a punt.

So after a day’s testing, in which my son was still 8 seconds off the pace (but had a great time which was far more important in only his second day in a ‘proper’ kart), I parted with the readies and also bought a couple of extras that weren’t part of the original deal (spare carb – £30, transponder – £40, Tillett R4 rib protector – £25). Then, as if by magic, one of my contacts came along and started inspecting the kart and asking a lot of questions – and then he pointed out a small crack just off a weld on the front end. Gutted!!! What could I do? I’d paid for the kart and, although I trying to back never crossed my mind, I knew that a crack or weld *significantly* impacts the value of a chassis. I pointed it out and the seller offered my another carb – basically 10% off the chassis. That didn’t make up for the crack but I didn’t feel I had much choice but to take whatever charity was offered. So I loaded all the bits in the trailer and the boot and the back of the Clio and the footwell around my son’s feet. Then we set about fixing the kart to the trailer before heading for home, £1120 poorer but with a pretty decent entry level kart (with crack) and two feet firmly entrenched into the world of karting. The journey was a little nervous – checking my mirrors every 15 yards to see if the kart moved and we got all of 25 yards down the road before pulling over to remove the kart cover which was clearly going to disappear very soon! Other than that the journey was a smooth one.

Total spent so far: £1610 (£110 over budget!!!)

My first obstacle

The second purchase of my (our!) karting career – a 5’x3′ Franc trailer with jockey wheel (uber-important when you will be dragging a kart around on top of it), cover and spare wheel. I’d been looking at trailers on eBay, Gumtree, Preloved and Trade-It but found this one was still for sale on the Karting1 forum having initially discounted it. A steal at £225 🙂

trailer

Towing was a really big obstacle for me – everything about towing (towing capacity, trailer gross weight, weight distribution, noseweight, hitchlocks) was alien to me until now. The trailer was further away than I was really hoping to travel and it would be fair to say I was in fear of towing a trailer up the M4. My fears were unfounded and, although it bounced around a bit and I was overtaken by lorries (including six artics!) for the first time *ever* as I tiptoed down the A34, it all well very smoothly and I held my own on the motorway 😉

With the limitation of towing behind a Clio, I was very keen to get a fairly lightweight trailer that would fit inside my (hitherto full of junk) garage and obviously the smaller ones are cheaper. A kart measures roughly 6′ x 4.5′ so I was keen to go for a 5’x3′ trailer and not a cheaper 4’x2.5′. My inspiration came from this Flickr image. I have my 12″ thick 6’x4′ ply sheet and some timber to make a frame; the plan is to sit the kart on top and ratchet strap it down.

Some alternative ideas that were discounted (the left image looks the part but has no cover for the trailer contents, the right uses a 7’x4′ trailer – a little large for car and garage):

9028tn_Dax 218 kart

Total spent so far: £490 (towbar, trailer, ply sheet, timber) – £10 under budget!!!

The Three Big Questions #2: Is this for me?

Probably the biggest barrier to buying a kart was concern over whether the Dad/Mechanic role was really for me. Walking around the paddock area and watching the Dads busily tinkering between every session really made me doubt whether I would a) be able to do it and b) enjoy doing it. I’ve never been mechanically minded; I didn’t really know how an engine worked; what a piston did, or a carb, crankshaft – you get the idea. I spent a lot of hours reading forums such as those found on the karting1.co.uk and karting.co.uk, as well as collecting strange looks from my other half as I watched YouTube videos such as ‘How A Carburetor Works‘! In the end I concluded that, whilst kart maintenance was something definitely out of my comfort zone, I was going to go with it – hopefully I’ll pick enough of it up to get by in the first few months.

As it turned out, there was a second part to this role I had not foreseen – transporting the kart!!! I own a Clio and changing cars was definitely not something I was prepared to do. Obviously if you have a van or a nice 4×4 then this might not be an issue for you but I *really* did not fancy the idea of towing. I looked around for lightweight options and quickly realised that trailers like this weren’t going to be in the running and it was only when someone recommended the camping trailer and board approach that I became more open to the possibility of towing. It still feared me with dread – what with the kerb weights, towing weights, noseweights (there’s a great resource to be found on the National Trailer & Towing Association web site if you want to find out more).

I wasn’t overly convinced about maintenance or towing and my clearance of this hurdle was more of a slump over than a jump but never mind – onto the last question…