Kart Me Off to Another Time

An interesting phenomenon is the spate of YouTube videos allegedly proving that time travelers exist. I’ve seen videos showing hipsters in early nineteen-hundreds crowds, stared goggle-eyed at cellphone-toting characters walking down rutted horse-pattied streets back in the twenties, and munched popcorn while all manner of mysteriously modern individuals gadded about in turn-of-the-century city scenes. So what’s up with that? Personally, I think it’s just a techy, modern-day version of “Where’s Waldo”, with people everywhere searching old photos for new people like so many others have always watched the stars in hopes of spying a UFO and the reverent seeing the revered on their toast.

But recently I came across evidence of sort of a reverse-time travel situation. I found a little company in Rhode Island staffed by folks I believe were brought to the present day from some early period of our twentieth century. Enter: The Flatworks Wooden Kit Company. Their product of note? A plywood go-kart, fully equipped with race kart styling and a top speed of over 30 mph, as recorded by this guy.

Yep, these inventors must be time travelers…brought forward from the days of wooden race cars and fully-non-protective leather skullcap helmets. And I for one am glad they arrived! My brother and I spent many fun years as boys riding our Sears & Roebuck two-seater go-kart given to us by dear old mom and dad when I was six. In a constant bid for more speed from the thing, I took apart and put back together that Tecumseh engine many times…and developed a love for the beauty of a functioning machine.

Now, I realize that I’m late to this particular party. Like, almost a couple years late. These guys did a Kickstarter campaign that culminated waaaay back in 2015 with a successful company launch, and they appear to be moving up in the world. I was browsing images on Google and came across this.

I saw that and immediately the urge to build a high-speed wooden kart resurfaced from about ten years ago, when I had drawn up a few plans but was stymied by my lack of adequate woodworking tools. Since my 5-month marathon teardrop camper build back in 2010 (the “Rolling Stone”), that shortfall had been remedied. Add to that, the fact that Harbor Freight is opening up here in my hometown in April, 2017, and it seems as if the discovery of the Flatworks PlyFly has been ordained as the final part of a three-pronged prompt of encouragement for me to finally do it.

You may wonder why I’d rather build a wooden kart when a steel-framed kart can be had as easily as ordering one off Amazon. Oh, I’ve got a laundry list of reasons…

  1. I don’t weld and don’t care to. Maybe one day I’ll see the necessity in it, but for the money invested in a proper welder and all the other accessories, a good saw, drill, screws and glue is much more economical.
  2. The PlyFly isn’t built from your father’s lumber. It’s either 13- or 16-ply Baltic birch plywood (can’t remember which at the moment), no voids whatsoever, and it’s phenomenally strong. The builders say they’ve left their prototypes outside in all kinds of weather for months and months with no degradation. And no rust…
  3. With a speed goal of 70 mph, I’ve got to have my act together to do it with wood and succeed. Pretty much anybody could do that with a steel framed kart.
  4. The beauty of the PlyFly lies in the engineering. If you study the design, you see that it’s put together in such a way that every piece contributes to strength. It’s a complex puzzle that solves the problems of durability, functionality, a great-appearance (for a kart), and ease of assembly all at the same time. It really doesn’t take a great mental leap to assemble a steel kart that won’t fall apart.
  5. The wow factor. Again, people go fast on metal things all of the time. Not so much with wood.

So in the days ahead I’m going to be working on plans with my favorite 3D design program, and I’ll post my progress. If you don’t hear from me before then, Happy New Year!

And yes, yes, I realize that it appears that I haven’t posted in almost exactly two years. What was I saying about time travel?