1939 Custer Go-Kart

Custer Go Kart postYup, that’s me October 1965 and proudly the chosen image for the family Christmas Card that year. And I’ll bet you’ve never seen a motorized go-kart quite like this 1939 Custer?

Very little is known about Custer Manufacturing. I published what I could find on the company in the premier issue of Mobilia Magazine April 1993, which triggered a number of discoveries and further info on this obscure Ohio manufacturer. Our only data point until that time was the knowledge that an identical specimen was owned by the Ford family and remains part of its associated Greenfield Village and Dearborn museum.

As you can see, the Custer is about six feet long and just about right for a fifth grader. It uses a wood frame of maple, steel I-beam front axle, tubular rear axle, springs by two short lengths of spring steel per wheel, cast aluminum radiator shell, and an huff-and-puff Briggs & Stratton gas engine hooked to rear wheels via reduction drive. Top speed about 3 mph.

The Custer was my baptism behind the wheel of a self-propelled vehicle and what a blast for me and the neighborhood kids. Until one of them smashed into the cement wall of our garage and summarily broke his two front teeth. That was before our litigation-happy world would have landed my parents in jail, but enough to put an end to sharing a death wish among multiple families.

By the tender age of 13, I set about “restoring” the Custer in bright red paint and rebuilding the engine. This project taught me a lot about organization and use of tools.

Today, the Custer hangs, literally, from an interior brick wall in our Vermont home as the ultimate wall art. Hey, if you have any info to share about Custers, bring it on!

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