Monday, August 23, 2010

On Any Sunday - Badger Kart Club - Dousman WI

Badger Cart Club copyright Jeffery Blackwell 2010

Most Sunday mornings from spring through summer the grounds of the Badger Kart Club are covered with family SUVs and campers pulling boxy trailers. Inside these trailers are miniature garages and in the garages sit some serious, if very lightweight, racing machines.

Badger Kart Club photo copyright 2010 Jeffery Blackwell

A child of the Hot Rod movement back in the mid-50s, karting is now mature enough that some families have been racing for three generations. It is not uncommon for a family to sport multiple drivers.  A scene of father or mother working with a young racer is the norm – and many of those young drivers are girls.

The open-wheel machines are obviously different for the kids and the older races. The “senior” karts have two or four-cycle water-cooled engines that can turn up to 17,000 RPM and crank more than 30 horsepower. When attached to a kart and driver that weigh 350 pounds combined, 0-60 acceleration can be less than four seconds - and top speeds of around 70MPH are possible, depending on the gearing and the track.

I met a guy named Dominic who told me he started racing six or seven years ago in his early 20s, and would have started sooner except when he lived at home his mother wouldn’t let him. The sport can obviously be dangerous, and driving suits, boots, gloves and full helmets are required. Most drivers I saw also wore a head restraining collar and some even had chest protectors. There are no roll bars or seat belts. If the kart is flipping over, it’s best to leave.

Karting is not only an affordable motorsport, it is also seen as the best way to learn the techniques required for a career in auto racing, with most contenders for the World Driving Championship and many NASCAR drivers having come up through kart racing. As I hope you can see from my photos, kart racing is highly competitive, and the fast drivers are very serious.

“I’m just sitting here trying to think of something to make this kart just a little bit faster," one man offered as I looked at his kart up on the stand. It turns out the kart is his daughter Jen’s.

 Jen holds a tenuous points lead in her class, and is now 18. She started racing at the age of five.

All contents copyright Jeffery Blackwell 2010

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Friday, August 13, 2010

Caged Bird – 1967 Pontiac Firebird 400

When I saw this Firebird staring through the chain-link fence at this storage place outside of Sterling, IL, I have to admit, I empathized with it. It’s not even a car that I have any emotional attachment to.

I don’t know what it says about me that with all of the human suffering going on in the world, I sometimes feel sorry for machines.

It’s just painfully obvious from the hand-painted flame-drops, that someone – probably a kid - poured so much of themselves into this old bird, and now it sits, tires rotting, dew rolling from its stationary beak. Sharing space with campers. Surely someone has memories of this car soaring along the open road.

To add insult to injury, an actual bird felt so confident that this Firebird isn’t going anywhere soon that it chose the car’s right rear tire to build its nest.

At least whoever drove it last parked it with its nose facing out, so it can be appreciated by passers-by. Maybe someone who thinks this old Firebird can fly again.

All contents copyright Jeffery Blackwell 2010

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Saturday, August 7, 2010

Pickup Patina - 1967 Ford F100 Stepside


I think I might be a “patina guy”.  I hadn’t even heard of the expression until it was used to describe me. But it’s the patina that makes me want this truck.


Cars and trucks, especially working trucks, will accumulate wear, scratches, and rust that follow patterns based on the interaction of the surface with repeated human contact. And then there are the random dents. As in this example, often the hard chrome plating is the last surface to begin to break down, save the glass.

I found this truck early one morning, and was enthralled by the transparency of its paint. Maybe you can figure out if the truck was originally blue or orange, but I haven’t bothered trying to figure it out; it’s the pattern of wear and the borders between the two colors that I found just beautiful.

1967 Ford F100 pickup truck

Ford F100 1967 pickup truck in Sterling, IL

As with any old objects, original surface – patina – can have a great effect on an item’s desirability for certain people – "patina guys". Guess I am.

All contents copyright Jeffery Blackwell