Life Member Garth Schlierike reminisces on the 52 years he has been involved in karting.

Life Member Garth Schlierike reminisces on the 52 years he has been involved in karting.

Excerpt from historical Club Newsletter

Why me? He’s a good talker that Mark Cowley, I mean he wouldn’t take no for an answer would he? Also he is a bigger than me. (Most of our cadets are bigger than you Garth!- Ed). That was last clubday and I said OK. So here I am writing a few pages.

Well, for me it all started back in 1960 in Te Awamutu of all places. I was working for the Para Rubber Company and I was basically on transfer. It was the first branch that I had managed. I ended up playing first division soccer in Hamilton and it was there that I was approached by a member of my team to see if I could find some wheels and tyres suitable for a ‘go-kart’. I did some enquiries and found that sizes were available from Firestone and Dunlop in 16” X 4” knobbly rears and 12” X 3” ribbed fronts. As they were mainly racing on dirt and farm paddocks these were ideal. At the time in Te Awamutu, I lived next door to an engineer who saw the wheels one day and enquired, “what are they for?” I told him and two months later I had a kart in the garden shed! My wife at the time, Gail was not very enthusiastic!

Next what do I do for a motor? Someone suggested the local mower/chainsaw shop. Around I swooped and the owner, a guy called Mac said “out in the back shed there’s an old chainsaw and with a bit of work it might go”. In the shed there was a twin cylindered IEL Chainsaw motor (185cc) with no pipes, etc. I went back the next day and it was all clean and looked a bit different, Mac looked quite pleased with himself when he said “and it even goes too”. I was chuffed! A new starter rope, a bit of gas, a few pulls and away it went! I let it idle for a while then gave it a burst; there was smoke everywhere, but what a roar, two open exhausts– WOW!!!

The next challenge was to find a clutch! Next door to the chainsaw shop was the local motorbike shop and it had a huge store full of bits. I left if with them as I knew both the owners, everyone knows everyone in Te Awamutu. Three days later I got a phone call to say that they had solved the problem. I went around and there was the motor fitted with a BSA 4 speed gearbox. The motor drove back to the gearbox and then from the gearbox to a sprocket on the axle. They had made two exhaust pipes about 12 inches long with no baffles. It was
no noisier than a modern open kart.

Clubdays in Te Awamutu where held on one of our club member’s farms at Pirongia in an area of his property that was not suitable as farmland. After three weekends work we had the tack shaped out and covered in limestone. The Waipa Club (as it was known) consisted mainly of farmers and some townies (as I was known). Clubday started after milking in the morning and most people were home for milking in the afternoon! On a good day, we would have maybe 20-25 karts attending. They came from other clubs such as Te Kuiti, Cambridge, Hamilton, Te Aroha, Huntly, Matamata, Kinleith and Tokoroa. One of the members from the Cambridge club was a rep on the road and covered the whole area, so he organized the weekends when you had racing. We had quite a choice, every club being only an hour away at the most, so we had a different track to race at every weekend.

It was in the mid 1960’s that things progressed a little and we had our first sealed tracks in the area. They were in the two timber towns of Kinleith and Tokoroa. It was around that time that karts themselves progressed. Five inch wheels and tyres appeared and of course more modern Karts. Along with those came the imported McCulloch engines: Mac 10’s, Mac 20’s and the occasional Mac 101. The occasional West Bend motor put in an appearance, but not for long. Karts showed up in different towns: Palmerston North, Wellington, Hamilton and Auckland areas. One or two different makes made an appearance in the South Island too.

It was in 1964 when I was transferred again, this time to sunny Napier, a nice change after the wet climate of the Waikato. My kart was sold after a few years’ enjoyment and karting was given a break for a while. Soccer became the main interest again. The Napier City Rovers coach turned up in my shop requesting my appearance at the next weeks training session! I turned up, as he was another person who was bigger than me!!!

Once again, karting poked its nose in, this time in the form of Brian Lawton wanting the Para Rubber Company to sponsor him kart wheels and tyres for a drive around the North Island in 1967. (The History Report by Mark Jenkinson in the September 2012 newsletter refers to Brian Lawton’s drive around the North Island also- Ed). I made some enquiries and wheels from Ward Engineering in Palmerston North were obtained, along with tyres from Goodyear and Dunlop in Wellington. I might add that Brian Lawton had a big second hand shop in the Main Street of Waipawa. He was the driving force behind the Waipawa Kart Club.

Brian also had a good-sized workshop out the back of his business where he made a few Flexi Karts including karts used for North Island Championship meetings. The first kart that I owned in Hawke’s Bay came from Brian’s workshop. My daughter Kae was now old enough to race. She found a kart, a not too old dart chassis with a Mac on it that was OK for a first kart and it went quite well! Next my son Daryle was old enough and wanted to race. So Daryle took over Kae’s kart and motor and Kae obtained a copy of a 1972 Zip Californian (an English kart) fitted with a McCulloch 91A engine from New Zealand Kart Distributors in Palmerston North. Pop and Peter Brougham owned that business. I progressed from my Flexi Kart to another Zip copy and was now into the Rotary class, a hard class to compete in but I really enjoyed it. Kae had the next move; some friends of ours bought a kart in from England and wanted to sell it. Kae was working by this stage so she bought it. It was a two year old; hardly used Zip 983 and it really went around the track like it was on rails. It was running a BM Reed valve motor and it was really fast. It was probably one of the first Reed Valve motors in the area.

It was about this time that we had some Australian visitors in Hawke’s Bay for an International Race Meeting. We as a family were the lucky ones and had them to stay. One of them was John Pizzaro, a well-known Aussie karter. He was a great help to my daughter Kae. She raced against John with a Reed Valve engine. John came out on top most of the time… just! It was John Pizzaro who arranged to send us a super stock McCulloch MC91B engine over. It came through Customs as a second hand water pump and all we had to pay was the duty of $15.00. After two weekends we had the engine run in. We put it on my son Daryl’s Zip chassis and there was no beating it. He was racing in the Junior Reed Class at the time.

Then it was close to Grand Prix time at Manfield so I stole Kae’s Zip Kart as it was the best kart in the shed! We headed off to Manfield for the big day. There were three heats with about twenty or thirty karts competing in each and then the final. The racing was hectic but I managed to finish in the top five in all the heats. All the karts were nose to tail down the straight and then there was a mad dash for the corner! We would sneak up behind each other and then virtually push each around the circuit. It was all on until the stewards had some stern words with us and promised to disqualify us all if we continued! Funnily enough it stopped after that! It could have been very dangerous if a couple of karts had touched because they were traveling so close together and so fast! During practice I worked out what I would do, I decided to hold back at first and then on the last lap go for it at the end of the straight and hopefully hit the front for the last 200 meters. It worked for my one and only New Zealand tile that was won using our family kart!

Back at home and Kae’s racing a reed valve, Daryle’s racing McCulloch’s and I am racing rotary valve engines for a while. I then had an offer for the kart and motor so I sold it. What shall I race now? The 250cc Open Class was building up with a new kart turning up every clubday. I think there was three or four twin McCulloch’s racing in there to, Don Everett, Mark Jenkinson, Johnny Clark and others. At that time Clyde Cunningham bought a fairly new 250cc gearbox setup from Auckland and made an appearance. He showed everyone the way home quite a lot. The result of this purchase left a spare 250cc setup lying around.

I bought it and took about two months to rebuild it. It was a bit large for me so I had to alter a few things, the seat, all three pedals, the gear lever, the exhaust etc. I also lightened the end gearbox sprockets a bit and it made quite a difference to the performance.

It was around this time that two new karts put in an appearance at the track. They were 250cc twin cylinder Suzuki engine powered karts with aerodynamic bodies. Chris Scarrott and Dave Waugh had spent the winter in Chris’s shed building them up. They turned up at the track painted and ready to go. They had trouble to start with; mainly with being over the minimum all up weight. Even though Chris and Dave were not big guys this factor was a problem!

The karts were very streamlined and very quick in a straight line but on a sprint track they were somewhat hard to handle. At the time road racing was all the go with some clubs putting together a meeting anywhere you could get a circuit approved. Gisborne, Hastings at the Thunder Park drag strip, Napier at Westshore and Onekawa combined with cars and motorbikes, Palmerston North, Manfield, Paratutu in New Plymouth, Taupo around the industrial area. In Taupo we were first to use the new sealed circuit, there was loose road chip everywhere, even with leathers on you knew all about it! You never followed anyone too close that day!

I think Hawke’s Bay ended up with about fifteen ‘Open B’ karts on a clubday. The North Island Champs for the 250cc class was interesting that year with most of the karts coming from Auckland and Hawke’s Bay. What a class! If I remember rightly they separated the 250cc motorbike engine and the twin-engine karts because of the long entry list. Even with the large amount of karts entered I managed fourth place amongst all those entries. Mark Jenkinson was in the top ten if I remember correctly.

I have since sold my 250cc kart and now I have a 1972 Zip Californian chassis with a 100cc Komet K78 rotary valve engine bolted to it. I use this in the Vintage Karting outings.

Bye for now,

Garth Schlierike.