Rocket Karts





The wildest example of Turbonique vehicles, which perhaps ultimately led to their ban from NHRA competition, was "Captain Jack" McClure's Turbonique-powered go-kart, which topped 150 mph. McClure, who later ran 5.95 at more than 240 mph in a rocket-powered go-kart, reportedly had less than $2,000 invested in his Turbonique-powered cart.




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This is Jack McClure's Kart after replacing the 1000 lb thrust rocket with the larger 1500 lb motor. This kart turned 215 mph in the quarter mile!



Why It's a Rocket Kart...


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... a rocket powered Dart Kart from the mid-1960's.

Those Wild Rocket Karts!

There have been many wild and strange experiments throughout karting’s history. Perhaps the wildest of all were the rocket powered karts of the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s.

Would you believe that in the mid-1960’s the rocket-powered kart pictured above turned the quarter mile at over 150 mph? 0 to 150 in 7.3 seconds! That was Jack McClure with his modified 1963 Rupp Dart Kart powered by a pair of Turbonique T-16 rocket motors.


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These motors, each producing 300 lbs of thrust, used a special kind of monopropellant which the company dubbed "Thermolene" (actually N-Propyl Nitrate). These engines powered the little kart to faster times than rail dragsters of its day. These engines, however, were also very dangerous and killed many users because under certain conditions they could explode like bombs. Those disasters resulted in the Turbonique factory closing and its owner landing in jail.

Rocket Karts in the

In 1967, a company called Reaction Dynamics built a record-breaking dragster powered by a 90% hydrogen peroxide rocket motor. This car was the inspiration for many rocket powered vehicle builders in the 70’s, among them (back again!) Jack McClure with a hydrogen peroxide rocket-powered laydown kart. The kart, which resembled a Margay, was actually custom designed by Jack and built by Glenn Blakely of Tampa Florida. Jack fitted this kart with an engine built by Arvil Porter that produced 1000 lbs of thrust.


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Hydrogen Peroxide Motor similar to the type run by Jack McClure




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Jack McClure's kart with the 1000 lb thrust rocket.

Jack needed more speed (!!) however, and had Arvil build him a
1500 lb thrust version. This engine, crafted of stainless steel, was 10" long by 7" diameter. The hydrogen peroxide was forced through a catalyst pack made of silver and nickel screens. Superheated steam produced by the reaction at 300 PSI escaped through a 2 " diameter nozzle and produced enough thrust to push the little kart to over 215 mph in 6 seconds in the quarter mile. For stopping, the kart featured disc brakes (for below 100 mph) and a drag chute. The driver’s suit was also fitted with its own parachute in case driver and kart became separated during one of those wild runs. The kart was later sold to Ramon Alvarez who raced the kart for a short time. The kart might still exist to this day.

The 1980's

In 1980, the karting speed envelope was pushed yet further by Australian Rosco McGlashan. Rosco, who at the time was living in the U.S., built and drove a hydrogen peroxide rocket kart that surpassed 253 mph!

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253 mph kart!

"It was an incredible feeling sitting in that thing with fuel bubbling and gurgling just behind your head and then hitting the throttle" says Rosco with a smile. "It was truly an awesome machine."

Rosco continues to be heavily involved in drag racing and speed exhibitions and is today known as Australia’s fastest man. He is currently preparing an assault on the world land speed record.

Juan Manuel Lozano of Mexico, who supplied most of the historical information for this article, is himself an experienced rocket car builder and is currently constructing a rocket-powered dragster. After that, he plans to build a rocket kart. We will definitely want to see that!




Now…Back to Reality….


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This is a photo ca 1959 of Duffy Livingstone (co-founder of the Go Kart Mfg Co.). The kart is a Go Kart 400B with West Bend. Photo is from Duffy's personal collection.


Go Kart 400 Brochure


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This pamphlet appears to date from about 1958 and depicts the original Go kart 400 (prior to the addition of sissy rails with the 400B). The Go Kart 400 was the first kart ever to go into production.

The inside of the pamphlet features an exploded view of the assembly. Kits figured heavily into early Go Kart sales. In fact, prior to formation of Go Kart Mfg., Duffy Livingstone sold kits (of an earlier design without dropped front axle) on Sunday afternoons at the Rose Bowl parking lot. Those kits were created at his GP muffler shop and instructions for assembly were often scratched on shopping bags.

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By 1960, the GoKart 400 had seen several changes, including side rails and a spiffier (sorry) seat. This was the last version of the 400 series before the introduction of the 800 in 1961.

The above ad appeared in (among others) "Quarter Midget and Karting World" magazine, Feb 1960.


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