Age brings many new experiences. Some you’d rather do without. Everything starts to hurt. You’re tired all the time. Cynicism lurks behind you like a hungry but patient wolf. Yet some changes are good. You finally begin to shed school debt. You streamline your processes. And best of all, you find it easier every day to shuck off the concerns of others. The sweaty, calculated poise you found so crucial in middle school has faded to a mewling ghost. Instead, you value the practical. You have work to do, and you don’t have time to impress anyone. I’ve reached such an age, and that’s probably why I want to buy something rear-driven, strip it of all excess, and drive it everywhere. I want a kart hack.
In the distant automotive future, our Keepers of the Archives will open their histories to trace back for us the lineage of our car customization trends. And Roadkill will be central to that history. Those two loons and their cadre of friends just have too many frightening ideas not to birth several custom car trends at least.
The Kart Hack Trend
I’m not sure that they actually started the kart hack trend, if it is a trend at all yet, but they played their part with a waterlogged C4 Corvette and a dumpster. The story goes that they found a ruined C4 that was pretty much worth scrap but still ran, and began stripping weight off of it to see how it affected the car’s track times. (A bit of NSFW language in the video.)
The Hot Rod crew (Roadkill had yet to debut, though both of its hosts worked on the video) plied their reciprocating saw methodically, scientifically, and by the time the dumpster was full of nearly 1,000 lbs of windows and fiberglass, the car was much faster.
Years later, for Roadkill, the Finnegan and Freiburger famously pulled the C4 out of mothballs and worked on it further, stripping more weight and welding in a full cage for safety and rigidity. They also replaced the stock Crossfire 350 with a fresh V8 build. For the show’s 50th episode, they pitted it against almost all of their other mad creations and it beat them handily through the cones.
Shed Weight for Speed
The concept of shedding weight for speed is obviously as old as racing anything. Nor were the Roadkill guys the first to methodically test times as such. Sport Compact Car once cut down a Nissan Sentra SE-R this way, predating the Hot Rod guys by several years.
The C4 project itself was inspired by a milestone article in a 1987 issue of Hot Rod, when the crew did the same thing to a ’70 Coupe DeVille. But the later creation, known eternally as the Vette Kart, looked far cooler, and in the years since, several C4 owners have built- or rather unbuilt- similar cars.
Concurrently, several examples of “karted” Miatas began to crop up. This made perfect sense, as the Miata has long been an autocross messiah. These examples ranged from simple body-deletes to full cages. In a way, Exomotive’s incredible Excocet kit is the most extreme example of this.
Yet the Excocet costs money, and the point here seems to be to spend as little money as possible. After all, you can always pay for more speed, but lightness is often free. The current shop term for a kart hacked Miata is “Ghettocet.”
Kart hacking is still in its infancy, and whether or not it survives to maturity remains to be seen, but as it has grown, it has taken on a trait that we shouldn’t be so surprised to see: attractiveness. Yes, as it turns out, we actually like the look of exposed crumple zones and seam spot welds. Function has become a form of its own.
This isn’t new, either. A key tenet of hot rodding has always been to dump car design for more speed, and we love the results. T-buckets, after all, don’t often have hoods or fenders. We don’t want them to. The rat-rodding movement of the last decade or so has taken this further, trading the forms of flawless paint and bright chrome for the function of worry-free flat black and barworks.
Drift cars are another modern example. Stock bumper covers might look better initially, but after you’ve grated enough of them to dust on racing barriers, you’re happy to just bolt up a set of skeletal bash bars instead, and hey, that looks kinda cool.
Battle cars, likely inspired by the Mighty Car Mods Mod Max Nissan Silvia, have also begun to crop up recently. These can be very similar to kart hacks, but often carry a military theme with fake guns and army colors, and they often have more offroad prowess than kart hacks. (Though even the Roadkill Vette kart has been off-roaded with great success.)
All of this form/function ambiguity gives me hope that the kart hack movement could catch on. And to help it, I want to build one myself. In my next post, I’ll discuss how I
want to will do it someday.
Andy Sheehan is a blogger, aspiring novelist, and relentless hoon. He plans to will his 2002 Subaru WRX Wagon to his firstborn, plans his daily commute around the swoop of its roads, and doesn’t plan to ever buy an automatic. A cool-car omnipath, he loves the common Mustang or Chevelle, but hunts for the weird and wonderful Velorexes and Cosmos of the autoverse. And when he can afford a garage, he’s going to turn an MX-5 into a race car.