Ghraydon Wallick is at it again. If the name isn’t familiar, you might remember a couple of articles on The Kneeslider in 2010 about a leaning dual sidecar rig he built in his workshop in Thailand. Using limited resources he constructed a mechanism for sidecars, he designed and built, to be attached on both sides of a motorcycle and then to lean with it in the turns. Pretty interesting engineering, but he’s now involved in another project, the GX70 (Ghraydon’s eXperiment at age 70), with the intention of making kart racing an affordable and safer sport for budding racers with time, enthusiasm and basic skills and tools, but lacking the funds for the high performance karts commonly seen today.
Go karts used to be affordable and fun
Remembering a time when he raced Caretta karts with his dad in the early 60s in southern California, it was a fun and low cost sport. Many of us remember similar karts in Sears catalogs and neighborhood stores, but times have changed. Modern high tech shifter karts are getting very expensive and performance is on a par with both full size race cars and motorcycles. Future Formula 1 pilots get started in these machines. Though it was appealing to Ghraydon thinking it would be fun to get back on the track, current prices make it unrealistic and those speeds at an age that it takes longer for injuries to heal can be a wee bit dangerous.
Then the crash
One of the sparks for the development of the GX70 is the result of an unfortunate get off from a mountain bike leaving Ghraydon with a few titanium parts where his shattered shoulder used to be. Before getting back on the bike, he designed a set of shoulder pads to protect his healing joint which he made from a combination of EPS foam, futureboard and upholstery vinyl. When he put them on, his wife gave it a whack with a stick and he felt nothing, so disregarding his Mad Max appearance he was on the road.
Safety first while keeping costs low
You can see where this is going. Why not build a less expensive kart, using readily available, small displacement 2 stroke motorcycle engines and basic tube construction techniques and then build a body around it from the same materials used in his shoulder pads? Securely strapped inside, the driver is covered by the protective shell in a collision and if it flips or tumbles, he won’t have arms and legs flying outside getting crushed between kart and asphalt. What’s not to like?
Build it to see if it works
The photos you see here are his ideas in functional prototype form. The welded steel tube frame has a wheelbase of 69 inches and 4 wheel hydraulic disk brakes with the driver and engine in the centerline of the kart. The driver sits on a padded seat wearing a 5 point harness. There’s an onboard fire extinguisher directed at the fuel tanks. The entire foam body is held in place by wide straps secured by Velcro so it can be removed in seconds. The driver is also protected by a polycarbonate canopy and roof.
The engine is a 150cc 2 stroke shifted by a low-tech mechanical linkage to a paddle shift mechanism. There’s a rear view camera and rear view mirrors.
Aside from a smattering of the most basic hand tools, I used a 14" electric chop saw, 4" Makita grinder, hand held 1/2" drill and a small arc welder. I did pay a local welder to do all the critical structural welding on the chassis for safety reasons, but have been improving my welding skills ever since. Other parts are now available via EBay and Alibaba and some even pay for shipping. I've had very good results buying from both of these services and at very good prices.
I envision groups of friends, clubs and school classes, as well as obsessive individuals, like myself, finding themselves in a project like this. This class Formula would employ rules and specs that prevented money from dominating the FUN. Limits on cost would be imposed in the rules while encouraging innovation, hands-on skill building, team work, cooperation and FUN!
The body Ghraydon designed reminds me of a sort of Batmobile, but there’s no reason different designs wouldn’t work as well or better. Creativity would be a plus here and I would expect different builders to work toward something unique.
Ghraydon is also motivated by the idea that someone of retirement age should be out there accomplishing things and trying to get younger people involved in building and competing and finding out what they are capable of.
It occurred to me that it would be exciting, educational and fun to put together a program within the University system to build a half dozen of these things with Thai students and get each one decorated by a different Neo Thai artist's art work then show up to represent our region called Lanna.
Just recently I said that doing your own work makes motorcycling much more affordable and that applies across the spectrum to many different kinds of activities. Once you get the idea that you can build something and then actually have the experience of doing so, your eyes will forever be opened.
Some might look at this and say it's not to their taste, fine, build one that is. This is GX70 Revision 1. It can and should evolve over time into a much more refined kart, especially if more builders are involved. I just like the idea that a guy in the Thai jungle is able to come up with the idea and build it.
I’m a big fan of anyone who takes a concept in his mind and makes it happen. Coming up with good ideas is hard enough, but it’s easy compared to turning them into something tangible. That makes all the difference. Ghraydon is a doer. Where this project goes remains to be seen, but it’s got a good start. I’ll be keeping my eye on this. Nice work, Ghraydon.
All photos credit: Ghraydon's wife Pui