Home » Go-Karts Disguised As Real Supercars Are Unbelievably Hot Right Now

Go-Karts Disguised As Real Supercars Are Unbelievably Hot Right Now

Tiny Fun Go Kart Ts2
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Think fast: What’s the single most fun thing you can do as a child? I mean sure, Burnout 3: Takedown is still a brilliant racing game, but I’m talking about something that happens away from a screen. It’s Go-karting, of course! Who didn’t love strapping on a helmet and pretending to be Niki Lauda, Ayrton Senna, or Kimi Raikkonen during summer break? It didn’t matter that much if the go-kart selection at the local track was crap, you were driving, and that’s as good as it got. Perhaps as a method of bottling that nostalgia, classic go-karts that look like real cars have gained serious popularity at online auctions over the past few years, and it’s easy to see why.

Granted, if you pick one of these things up, there’s only so much you can do with it. You probably won’t get away with running them around many neighborhoods anymore, so you’ll need some serious space for them to play. However, if you’re, say, an HOA board member or happen to have a parking lot at your disposal (or just live out in the sticks), replica go-karts can be a ton of fun. Beyond that, they’re just cool to look at, and some feature incredible craftsmanship.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

The explosion in novelty go-kart sales on Bring A Trailer over the past few years speaks to the appeal of these little things, and it started as all fires do: First a spark, then a catch, then a flame, then an inferno. Let’s take a walk back through the past few years to see how we got here.

Porsche 936 Go Kart

The first car-aping go-kart to appear on Bring A Trailer was a Porsche 936 Junior that hammered for $25,500 back in 2019. [Ed Note: Forget Bring a Trailer, I’ve been seeing these miniaturized versions of supercars blowing all over the world. My car-collector friend in Hong Kong bought some for his sons, I know Beau has multiple mini sports cars — they’re definitely in. -DT] Strong money, but the 936 Junior is a holy grail of go-karts. See, this isn’t a mere licensing deal sold in big box stores, but an actual item commissioned and sold by Porsche itself. Between 50 and 100 of these pint-sized replicas of the Le Mans-winning 936/81 were produced, making them coveted by Porschephiles. It’s a strong precedent, but one that would set the stage for things to come.

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Italycar Ferrarina 312t2 Go-Kart

In early 2020, another child-friendly racecar lookalike appeared on Bring A Trailer, this time an Italycar Ferrarina 312T2. Powered by a 60cc two-stroke engine and shaped like Niki Lauda’s 1976 Formula 1 car, it does a surprisingly convincing “Honey, I shrunk the racecar” impression. It’s also rare, with only 12 allegedly being made, and appeals to Ferrari collectors, who have some serious cash to throw about. The result? Try $46,000 for what is essentially a child’s toy. How mad is that?

Rupp Chevy Junior Go-Kart

By now, you may have noticed a pattern with these early examples — they’re all made to look like racecars. That changed on the last day of 2020, when a Rupp Chevy Junior hammered for $7,500. A what? Well, it was a mass-produced go-kart made to look like the Chevrolet Monza SS concept car. Allegedly, GM’s design legend Bill Mitchell wanted a scaled-down version of the Monza SS concept, so GM went to small leisure vehicle manufacturer Rupp, and a deal was struck. This was a mass-produced toy, first as the Monza Junior SS and then as the Chevy Junior, so it’s nowhere near as pricey as the Porsche 936 Junior or the Italycar Ferrarina 312T2, but it definitely helped open the floodgates.

Celica Supra Go Kart

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If 2019 showed spark and 2020 ignition, 2021 carried a baby flame of car-shaped go-karts. More and more examples came to Bring A Trailer, from a Lorinser 500SL go-kart to a miniature E-Type to a Celica Supra lookalike. Most of these toys went for sensible-ish money,  with the Celica Supra a steal at $2,600 and the E-Type coming in relatively strong at $8,800. However, they all helped fan the flame, and whip things into a frenzy for 2022 and 2023.

300 Slr Go Kart 1

This Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR go-kart with a plaque signed by legendary driver Stirling Moss sold for an astonishing $45,000 earlier this year. That’s certified pre-owned C300 money. To the right person, I can see why it was worth it. More than just a scaled-down piece of racing history, the detailing on it is absolutely beautiful, from the paint to the brightwork to the stitching.

300 Slr Go-Kart 2

The cabin of this scaled-down 300 SLR is lined in quilted vinyl and carpet, the pedals are expertly grooved for grip, and all the exposed linkages for throttle, braking, and steering are just perfect. This tiny 300 SLR is simply a wonderful thing, and probably wouldn’t have broken the budget should a 300 SL gullwing owner wanted it in their garage.

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Oldsmobile Aerotech Go Kart

On the other end of the market, this Oldsmobile Aerotech go-kart hammered on Thursday for $8,000, and it’s also kick-ass. Sure, it uses a fairly standard frame underneath, but the Aerotech was an American hero car of the ’80s, the coolest Oldsmobile of all time, and a near-mythical instrument of speed. It doesn’t matter that you have to take the rear canopy off to use it, because this thing kicks ass standing still. It drills into exactly why adults buy these little go-karts for real car money: They’re just damn cool.

[Ed Note: Let’s not forget the Porsche 356 Speedster that stars in our topshot! Bring a Trailer reports it’s from “Little Roadsters” and features a fiberglass body over a tubular steel frame with a 107cc 4-stroke single delivering power to the wheels via a 3-speed sequential gearbox (with reverse!) and chain drive. It looks fantastic, and sounds wonderful too:

And the price for this lovely machine? The Bring a Trailer auction closed at $30,250 – not inexpensive by any stretch, but with actual Porsche 356 Speedsters auctioning for $200,000 – 500,000 at the site, at least the buyer’s price for the two-thirds scale Speedster was much less than two-thirds of the “real thing.”

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The online market for car-shaped go-karts is still an emerging one, but it doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. These things are rare, valuable, and incredibly cool. Plus, some of the people who wanted these as kids are now car-crazy adults who’ve either made a ton of money or are willing to make irrational financial decisions. Hidden inside all of us is our nine-year-old selves, craving the four-wheeled equivalent of Pop Rocks.

(Photo credits: Bring A Trailer)

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JDE
JDE
3 months ago

somebody got a hell of a deal on a 1/2 scale spyder back in 2021 https://collectingcars.com/for-sale/little-legends-spyder-1

Goblin
Goblin
3 months ago

I find these surprisingly inexpensive 😛

My first visit to FAO Schwartz (as an adult) was in the early 2000’s. Big toy store, nice toy store, legendary toy store, eh well.

Set behind velvet ropes on one of the top floors was a similar thing. I believe it was supposed to be an F40.

It was atrocious, moulded plastic of some sort, panel gaps to make a Tesla proud. Said gaps were wide enough to be able to peak through to recognize a Kohler engine, or something similar. Or was it a two-stroke with a mid-60’s CZ motocross-like engine with air cooling, and the fan-shaped cooling fins. Rudimentary to an amusement park kart level.

$42000. In early 2000’s dollars.

I never quite figured out why FAO Schwartz went belly up and closed. Such items in their product line must have sold like hot cakes 🙂

Last edited 3 months ago by Goblin
Myron Vernis
Myron Vernis
3 months ago

I have an OG Speedster go-kart from the late fifties. Hanging out at the garage today with my 2 1/2 year old granddaughter and she declared it as “my Porsche”. I’m one proud παππού

A. Barth
A. Barth
3 months ago

When I was a yute, I went to an amusement park with some friends. There were go-karts that could be driven around a path that was well defined with guardrails. The engines were the standard Briggs type but the throttles did very little, so they were pretty slow.

I asked my friend to drive, and turned around to get under the hood of the rear-engined cart – and pulled on the governor. The engine roared, the kart accelerated dramatically, and we had a good chuckle. 🙂

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
3 months ago

So how much are these going for on Alibaba?

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
3 months ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

Temu has them for $1.97.

Dolsh
Dolsh
3 months ago

I kinda love this idea.

The prices? Not so much.

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
3 months ago

Anybody remember Malibu Raceway Parks with the Indy Car style go carts that could hit upwards of (so I was told) 50mph if they had enough room? Those were a hoot!!

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
3 months ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

Yes I remember those. and drove a few. Not sure they would actually hit 50 mph though.
But a ton of fun for sure.

OldDrunkenSailor
OldDrunkenSailor
3 months ago

Consider me crushed that the world’s first car website started talking about karts without mentioning the Saab 006/Convertible Jr.! The only kart with (simulated) louvres! Louvres!

https://www.saabplanet.com/tag/go-kart/

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
3 months ago

These are amazing miniature cars, but I had to laugh when you opened with childhood memories of strapping on a helmet at the local track and going racing.

Ha! Go Karting for my generation was a bone jarring rip on an unsprung, bent steel tubing frame bolted together (no welding, unless your dad could) with two pieces of unfinished plywood, one laying flat on the frame the other angled for a seat back.

The engine was likely a wheezing, unmuffled Briggs and Stratton pulled from a lawn mower and driving the rear axle with a bicycle chain and single gear, unless you were lucky enough to have access to the running gear of a ride-on mower. Clutch? What for? You just propped the back up on brick, pulled the motor to life, then leaped aboard with a mad push and hoped it didn’t stall. The throttle was usually a hand control lifted from the same mower as the engine. Was it fast? Hell no, a three-legged dog could outrun it (I speak from experience), but it felt like Le Mans to us.

Brakes? Who needs those? You ride until the gas runs out, which given the fuel leaks didn’t always take too long. You really want to stop, you just throttle way down and bump into something. It’ll stall.

Steering was by foot and rope. The main input was by the rope in your hands that pivoted the front axle on a center mount and you used your legs and feet to apply additional tension to the axle to modulate your turning actions and maintain a straight line when you needed it.

Wheels, well, they came in all sizes and materials. The easiest to get were the solid rubber jobbies on push mowers. If you were a lucky SOB, you had actual, inflatable tires from a small tractor. Talk about a smooth ride!

You always knew who the rich kids – or kids with mechanic fathers – were because they had luxuries like welded frames, padded seats, steering wheels, brakes and even clutches, plus their motors didn’t have 100,000 lawns on them.

But it didn’t really matter what you rode, as long as you could ride.

Riding tracks probably did exist in some places, but we never saw them. Backyards, sidewalks and parking lots were our milieux. And streets, though that was usually inadvertent and sometimes calamitous.

All I can say after reading your article and looking at the pictures is, We’ve come a long way baby, and thank goodness. I’m so jealous.

A. Barth
A. Barth
3 months ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

You always knew who the rich kids – or kids with mechanic fathers – were because they had luxuries like welded frames, padded seats, steering wheels, brakes and even clutches

I was neither and my kart had all of those things. 🙂

Dad was a Mech E and knew a guy with a welder: the kart frame was made with angle iron from a bed frame.

The engine, transmission, brakes, pedals, and wheels came from a riding mower. The padded seat was installed by bolting a riding mower seat [from another model] to the floorboards. The front tires were solid but the rear tires were inflatable!

Dad broke out the brazing rig and made me a butterfly steering wheel. 🙂

(We lived in the sticks so I had places to drive around, slowly.)

Last edited 3 months ago by A. Barth
Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
3 months ago
Reply to  A. Barth

Yours sounds much cooler than my rig, which was largely “engineered” by my teenage uncle. It was way better than nothing, though. Basically, “rich kids” to me were kids whose fathers had full-time jobs as mine was a grad student with three kids, so money was scarce. Lots of improvised toys in those days , but they were still great days.

A. Barth
A. Barth
3 months ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

That’s fair.

Basically my kart took nearly all of the components from a fairly old riding mower and repurposed them into a sportier package. 🙂

At some point I would like to take a small 4-cylinder motorcycle engine and make a RWD, live-axle go-kart. It would retain the original wiring harness so it would have electric start and lights. There is absolutely no reason to build such a thing other than I think it would be a fun project – certainly couldn’t drive it anywhere.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
3 months ago
Reply to  A. Barth

Oh man, a motorcycle engine would make for a killer kart (in more ways than one, possibly)! Good stuff. Are kids (and dads) still out there building things like this or is everybody just buying off the shelf karts?All I see are kids in golf carts and on mopeds or scooters, but nothing home-built. Guess I’m living too far from the sticks these days to run across kids who know how to turn a wrench and improvise, but they gotta be out there.

A. Barth
A. Barth
3 months ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

I honestly don’t know, but I hope there are some around.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
3 months ago
Reply to  A. Barth

These days, its probably just easier to buy a junker off CL or Marketplace and add wheels & power.
And then there’s Grind Hard Plumbing & their insane creations. Want to waste an afternoon? They’re on yt.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
3 months ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

Few people truly understand ‘grad student poor’. They teach & research by day—and work at the student laundry by night if they can get the work.

Cheers, mate!

Eta: It was a blow to me when I finally realized that Dad didn’t actually like working on that succession of 40s & 50s cars I grew up with: he did it cause he had to.

Last edited 3 months ago by TOSSABL
TOSSABL
TOSSABL
3 months ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

Holy crap! That exactly describes the ‘cart’ in the corner of the garage at my grandparents’ house in the early 70s. My then in college cool uncle had built it when 13-14. I asked if we could fire it up & take it out, but he was cool, not stupid: explained that it was complete crap and he only tried to drive it a few times because it was so dangerous.

He took my for a ride in a partially restored Model T instead, so I’m glad I asked.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
3 months ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

My uncle took me out in his Corvair convertible. Not as cool as a model T, but cool enough. He built our “family” kart when he was around 13, too. We used to have a massive family/neighborhood 4th of July cookout and the highlight of the day was a Kart race that spanned all of the neighborhood backyards. By the time I got to drive in it the Kart was pretty beat and slow. There were just five or six racers running that year, but it was still great fun. We moved a long way out of state the next year and never made it to another big 4th celebration. Ah, memories

Morgan Thomas
Morgan Thomas
3 months ago

When I was in high school in the mid 80s, the building next door was a Porsche dealership – this was back when there was only one Porsche dealer in the city, and they were the official Porsche importer. They had one of those 936 Juniors displayed prominently in the front window.

Jonathan Hendry
Jonathan Hendry
3 months ago

Chaparral 2J or gtfo.

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