Go-karts have been such a big part of racing culture for so long, it’s hard to imagine the sport without them. The story of the very first go-kart, however, actually came decades after the invention of the automobile and occurred right here, in California.
ART INGELS & LOU BORELLI
The story of the very first go-kart starts with Art Ingels who, in 1956, was working for the Kurtis Craft Company in Glendale. Ingels was a mechanic who worked on racing cars that were mostly shipped and professionally raced in Indianapolis… but he had another idea. An idea for a smaller, one-man racing vehicle that everyone could use.
Ingels shared his idea with his neighbor and friend, Lou Borelli. Borelli worked for a petroleum company and had some expertise when it came to engine systems. Together, the men set out to make the very first go-cart in Ingels’ Echo Park garage.
DESIGN & ENGINE INSTALLATION
For the kart’s design, Ingels turned to the same tubing that was being used in the racing vehicles made by Kurtis Craft Company. The frame was a simple prototype to house other elements: a three-spoke steering wheel, two drag links, the steering column, and a seat hoop.
Borelli was in charge of the breaking system and the installation of the engine. For the engine, the men had selected a West Bend 2.5 hp. West Bend engines were primarily known at this time for lawnmower and chainsaw engines—but after the go-karting caught on, West Bend began to supply engineers with its engines for the creation of more karts.
TESTING & DEBUT
According to the story, the first go-kart test drives were not entirely successful. While the kart was able to carry both men, it was unable to lift Ingels up slopes. Borelli upped the horsepower on those early models so that, even in the face of an incline, the kart had the muscle it needed accommodate an average-sized adult man.
When Ingels and Borelli thought their invention was ready, they debuted it in public in public lots at the Pomona sports car races of 1956 and the Rose Bowl parking lots in Pasadena. There, spectators and passersby were instantly hooked by the invention—and racing history was made!
Ingels and Borelli went on form the “Caretta” kart model and make five more karts. While other companies carried the legacy from there and eventually mass-produced different models, their indelible impact on racing, sports, and entertainment had already been made.
At MB2, we’re passionate about go-kart racing and the excitement and fun it brings to enthusiasts of all backgrounds. Whether you’re a beginner, novice, or have been racing all your life, MB2 strives to provide an unparalleled racing experience for one and all. Call today to learn more about our facility and events.