An 80-Year-Old Go-Cart
10509 Highway 71 N.E. Spicer, Minnesota 56288
As a recently retired band director I thought I needed something to occupy my spare time, in addition to playing trumpet with three different groups, ham radio (KAOKHJ), woodworking, hunting and fishing, old cars, and collecting everything from cameras to guns! Since I have always liked engines, I decided that was to be next on the list of things to do. Besides being a lot less expensive, they take up less space than old cars, and are much more economical to restore. Plus, they appear to be going up in value while still being available.
My first Maytags were acquired when I discovered that the father of the tuba player in our brass group had a hardware store that sold Maytag washing machines. It turned out that Marlyn's storage shed contained 21/2 (counting one stuck and various parts) Model 72D's. These had found their way to the kids' 'go-cart' when the electric motor was discovered to start all the time and smelled better than the old two-cycle Maytag on Mom's washing machine! The go-cart soon lost its charm and the engines went to the shed. It took only an hour or so to get the first of these running, and I was hooked on Maytags! They were a new kind of music to my ears!
Next came a nice looking 92M acquired from a friend in our car club. It looks better than it runs, but with some tinkering, it soon will be 'hitting and missing' on all its one cylinder!
In the fall of 1995, when orchestra rehearsals resumed in Willmar, Minnesota, my friend Wes, from Atwater, asked what I was doing to keep busy in retirement. When I told him I was into Maytags he invited me to see one he had in the upstairs of the root cellar. He said it had been on a small child's car which was made a long time ago. I had no idea what kind of Maytag this might be, and secretly hoped that the 'car' might also be around somewhere. (I had heard of the Maytag 'Toy Racer' and knew that they were nearly as pricy as our '66 Mustang convertible, and had decided that one of those cars would probably never become part of our collection.) After arranging a meeting to see the homemade car, and a long coffee session, we finally went to look at it.
You can imagine my surprise when I discovered that this was not your average Maytag, and did not even have a kick starter! I later discovered from our local Maytag experts, the Martis, that this was an upright 1/2 HP with a type E carburetor! After finding out that the 1/2 HP engine could become part of the Johnson collection, I asked Wes if there was a possibility of acquiring the car also. He thoughtfully cocked his head, rested his chin with the neatly trimmed 'Colonel Sanders' goatee on his hand, and stated, 'Looks to me like they are securely hitched together, and, if you get one you get the other, too!' I could hardly wait to get home and start work on my newest treasure!
Upon closer examination I found that the hood is made from a very old Coca Cola tin sign, turned inside out, and trimmed to fit! If you look closely at the photo you can see that the sign is in very good condition after all these years. The drive mechanism contains parts of a Ford Model T water pump, and fan belt, mated to some very old bicycle sprockets with a belt tightener to make it go. No brakes are visible, so I assume you stuck out feet or waited for it to run out of gas to stop!
With the able assistance of Hugh Geer, master mechanic of New London, who made a new set of rings and made sure that everything was in working order, we were ready to fire it up for the first time in about 80 years! With the addition of a buzz coil and battery,' it popped, backfired, and started to run! What a thrill! 'Music to my ears!'
Next step was to get the car looking better. It was made from an unplaned 1' x 12' plank which had sagged about 4' in the middle and was warped to one side! After bolting a couple of pieces of square dock tubing to the underside it could once again go straight ahead. The old toy wagon wheels got hew roller bearings and tires, the missing seat was made like I thought it should be, and a new paint job by Kevin Geer of New London made it look as good as new.
Recently I discovered from Peter Hoagland, of Willmar, that the 'Maytag-Coke Special' was made by his great-uncle, Lyndon Peterson, near the end of World War I, and that it sat in the root cellar from the 1920s till 1957. Pete and his brother finally convinced their parents they should have the car, and spent a short amount of time trying to get it running again. Fortunately for me, they did not know that a battery and buzz coil were needed to make it go, and after considerable pushing to try to start it, they soon returned it to the root cellar. Fortunately also, they did not heed Uncle Lyndon's advice to 'Get rid of that Maytag and install a Briggs,' which needed no battery and would run faster.
This 80-year old 'go-cart' now runs, looks good, and will probably never be ridden again unless I can manage to lose 150 pounds (wouldn't be able to trust a kid to ride it).
It is now the prize of our collection of Maytags, washing machines, Briggs, Clinton, Ohlsson & Rice 'Tiny Tiger,' Eclipse, Homelite trash pump, International M, LB, Fairbanks ZD, and others which, if all going at the same time, produce more 'music' than my ears can stand!