This Home-Built LS-Powered Go Kart Runs and Drives

Author: Evan Perkins | 09/12/2020 < Back to Motor Life Home

For many of us, go karts yank hard on our sense of nostalgia. Lawnmower-powered or relying solely on a willing nudge from gravity down a big hill, they were our first entry into 4-wheeled bliss, and the reason many of us grew into the car lovers we are today.

The wild, LS-powered go kart built by youngsters, Joseph Blum and Travis Flannery, is the Go Kart our inner ten-year-old wishes we could have built. Based on a Vector go kart from Tractor Supply, the back was hacked off in favor of a custom-fabricated tube setup and 5.3L LS engine sourced from a Chevy Tahoe. It’s every bit as crazy as it sounds and we found it on display at LS Fest 2020.

“Last year there was a go kart here [at LS Fest 2019] with a 5.3 [LS] in the back,” said Blum. “When I got home, I thought ‘I want to see if we can build something.’ Eleven months later this is what we ended up with.”

The question on everyone’s mind is does it actually drive? While other LS-concocted go kart creations have been more sideshow attraction than mobile vehicle, the answer is a resounding yes, and the wheelie bars are as functional as they are a requirement. The boys actually drove it through the gates of LS Fest 2020.

We’ve had it up to 40mph, which is pretty sketchy,” said Blum. That might sound slow compared to the slew of 100+ mph drag cars blazing down the drags strip this weekend, but keep in mind it has the wheelbase of a shopping cart and the weight distribution of a lonely elephant on a seesaw. How fast was your childhood go kart? Not this fast.

The drive system on the kart is ingeniously simple. A pulley on the crank is linked to a pulley on the rear axle via a belt. A lever in the cockpit (actually an e-brake from a Chevy Cavalier) links to a tensioner that tightens the belt to engage the engine to drive and lets the belt slip to idle.

“I’m trying to get it approved by the mayor of my town for road use,” says Blum. That's a ballot measure we'll back any day.

The drivetrain for the kart routes power directly from the crankshaft to a pulley on the rear axle. A custom idler pulley with linkage from an emergency brake tightens up the belt to initiate forward motion, and when released allows the belt to slip and the engine to idle free.

The first iteration of the kart used a solid rear axle, but with the weight of the engine the kart didn’t want to turn so a custom, manual locker was created to allow for better handling. Electrical is handled by a custom wiring harness and exhaust manifolds from a C5 Corvette and Chevy SSR help route exhaust away from the cockpit. Soldered copper piping directs coolant to an Acura radiator and a Honda Civic gave up its brakes to slow the golf kart tires.

We love wacky LS builds like this, and we love them even more when they’re perpetrated by the next generation of car guys. Keep it up!

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