Racing Kart, around 1960

Elwood “Pappy” Hampton’s Winning Kart

Pappy Hampton's racing kart

Gift of Elwood Hampton, Jr. View object record

This diminutive vehicle exemplified the sport of kart racing. Assembled by Elwood Hampton, Sr., it consists of an Xterminator brand chassis built of aluminum alloy tubing by Jim Rathmann, winner of the 1960 Indianapolis 500, and a modified, alcohol-fueled Anzani engine that Hampton specially ordered. Hampton became very successful in kart competition, racing on oval tracks from Maine to the Bahamas in the 1960s, when he was in his fifties.

Minimalist karts are small, mechanically simple vehicles used for entry-level racing. Karts originally developed as children’s playthings in the 1940s, first as homemade vehicles with lawn mower engines and then as manufactured vehicles for pre-teens. In the early 1950s, adults began to equip these vehicles with more-powerful engines, and kart racing was born. In addition to grassroots racing, many professional race car drivers, including NASCAR’s Jeff Gordon, Indianapolis 500 drivers Al Unser Jr. and Michael Andretti, and Formula 1 driver Emerson Fittipaldi, began their careers in karts and advanced to higher levels of racing.

Pappy Hampton in his racing kart

Hampton, a Washington, D.C., mechanical engineer who had modified Ford and Chrysler cars for racing, won several local and regional races in this kart. He often raced at Marlboro Motor Raceway near Upper Marlboro, Maryland. Hampton continued to modify his kart and improve its performance until his retirement from kart racing in 1970.