Photos and captions by Stan Mott

Around the world in three years. What? In a go kart?

The only recorded instance of a go kart being driven around the world was a circumnavigation by Stan Mott of New York, who drove a Lambretta-engined 175-c.c. Italkart (wIth a ground clearance of two inches) 23,300 land miles through 28 countries from February 15, 1961, to June 5, 1964, beginning and finishing in New York. Why did he do it? A bet over a cup of coffee! Read Stan’s entire account of his adventures in PDF format, published in Argosy Magazine, November, 1964. Reprinted here by permission. Thanks, Stan.

 

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Surveying the terrain outside Quarzazate, Morrocco.

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Gokart in rain-ravaged Cyclops cardboard body not fooling Bobby in Dover, England. Note: For those readers who no longer believe in photographs in this Photoshopped world, see genuine, non-retouched drawings:

 

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“The story behind these drawings, as briefly as possible:  Back in 1961, gokarts were a worldwide fad.  Whenever I was stopped by police in Italy, a crowd gathered.  They always took my side and shouted the police down.  In France, the French considered me insane.  But, as they consider insanity part of life, and as I was alive, I had a right to drive on French roads.  Not so in England.  British customs impounded my gokart as soon as I drove off the Calais/Dover ferry.  A British gokart fan, whom I had befriended by mail, picked me up in his van and delivered me and gokart to London.  There we figured I could go on TV, gain public sympathy, and special permission to drive on English roads.  I got on the Oiff Mitchelmore TV show.  But no special permission.  The problem then was to get back to Dover, 70 miles east.  My British fan didn’t have the time.  I’d have to drive.  How? If gokarts were illegal, what about a teeny experimental car?  Ah!  I built a speedy dart thing out of a TV cardboard box, masking tape and grey paint.  I lettered “CYCLOPS” on the front and “EXPERIMENTAL–DANGER” on the sides for style, attached a Florida license plate an American sailor gave me in Naples for legality, and at 2 a.m set out.  All went well… until it rained.  Racing down the M20 highway, trying to reach Dover before daylight, water arcing off the tires, the body began to disintegrate.  The engine shut down.  A piece of wet cardboard had plastered itself on the Lambretta 175cc engine’s cooling air intake.  Over heated.  I ripped it off and waited.  The rain increased.  The engine cooled and started.  Off again, with pieces of the body flapping and ripping off.  The rain became torrential.  When I reached Dover, the body looked like a half eaten sardine.  I tried to hide in the ferry dock.  A bobby spotted me.  The game was up.  He sauntered over.  “I say, I saw this on the telly.  Good going!”  God bless you, sir, I thought.  “May I take a photo of you next to the gokart?”, I asked.  “Oh, quite.  I’ll pretend I’m writing you up.  Can’t approve of anything illegal, ha, ha!”  “No sir.”  Click!  I escaped on the next ferry.” From A Kart In Jolly England, April 1963 Karting World magazine.

 

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On the “Right side” of The Wall, West Berlin, with Swiss traveling companion Christine having just escaped Soviet dominated East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary, July 1962.

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Taking a shortcut in Hannover, Germany, during the wet summer of 1962.

 

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Local traffic outside Damascus, Syria, May 1963.

 

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Racing gokarts with King Hussein of Jordan at Amman Airport, June 1963.

 

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Asking directions outside Badlapur, India, en route from Mumbai to Poona, August 1963.

17 Comments
  1. I knew Stan Mott when we worked at at GM styling in the late 50’s….good designer but even better cartoonist and visionary bon vivant! Peter Brock

  2. Tony Miller

    Stan Mott is near the top of my list of heroes. Original, whimsical, and creative beyond the imagination of most mere mortals. I hope he gets a special place in Heaven.

  3. Orval Selders

    Stan and Esther Mott were Alice’s and my closest friends when I first came to G. M. Styling in late 1955. Our wives baby sat for each other thereafter until they later moved back to California in 1958. Never a dull moment when you were around Stan. In their small appartment in Oak Park, it had a tiny bedroom whereupon he stacked two King sized matresses on the bare floor that covered the entire floor of the room. Stan would demonstrate how he could literally ‘dive into bed’ from a chair in the doorway. He sprayed their Christmas tree with flat black Krylon and hung it upside down from the ceiling in the living room. With black lighting (fluorescent), he hung all the decorations and balls on the upside down branches. The tree top almost touched the floor. All gifts were all wrapped in psychodelic colors. These are just a few of Stan’s antics. I could tell you many more. Orval Selders

  4. Can you see this happening today? With the crazy “health & safety” rules that we have everywhere, Stan wouldn’t get quarter distance before being arrested for breaking the rules. Those were the days of adventure, why I can remember scooting down the road outside our house in my soapbox – probably couldn’t do that today either.
    rgds,
    Glen.

  5. Stan Mott

    I should mention, Orval, that the black upside down Christmas tree was the second tree I purchased that year. The first was a nobel experiment in Yuletide economics. I purchased it, with the aid of pal Robert Cumberford, late on Christmas Eve. Best time for good prices. The one we picked out, for something like 25¢, was a long, scraggly and lopsided number. We jammed it in the truck of my custom white 1955 Belair, most of it resting on the pavement, slammed the lid and raced home. En route, I purposely stopped on crosswalks forcing angry pedestrians to march around the car and over the tree. So by the time we got it home it was perfect!

    Esther was outraged. “But honey, this tree will remind us of all the poor and screwed up people of the world, and put us in the right Christmas spirit!” I said before joining Robert on the floor howling with laughter. Which just made her more angry.

    So I relented, got a nicer tree. But in a spirit of compromise, spray painted it flat black, hung it upside down and decorated it with red and purple ornaments and blinking magenta lights. I should note that the tree rotated (as far as the electrical cord would allow) so it cast some strange moving lights around the living room and on the presents on the floor, below the upside down star. It soon twisted too far and BOOMPH! blew the fuses.

    So it was a Merry Christmas!

  6. Kim Scholer

    Glen Smale; Quite the opposite, as in Denmark one can now legally drive a gocart on public roads, provided it has proper lights, fenders and no more than 9.5 bhp (I think that was the power limit). Danish authorities are extremely safety-conscious and have absolutely no sense of humour, so it’s a safe bet it is EC regulations that have prompted the change – meaning it this probably legal in all EC countries by now.

  7. Wayne Rowe

    Thank You Stan for taking the challenge and the time to travel the world in a kart. You have lived the dream, and from the comments here are a rare personality in the world of rules and regulations in which we live now.

  8. Jamila Bagash

    I was about six years old when Stan was an honored guest of my father while he was in Bombay. I was going through some old family pictures and came across one with him and my family and friends and the public in the background. On my visit to India a couple of years ago, he was fondly remembered by Mr. Agarwal. He told me how Stan was curious about Indian culture and how respectful he was of the symbolism associated with the culture. Stan, both of us would love to hear from you.

  9. Stan Mott

    It’s wonderful to hear from you about my visit with your family in Bombay 49 years ago. I remember your dad, Mr Agarwal, as a delightful person, full of fun, wit and life. One of our favorite conversations was about the haves and have nots in the world, the latter belonging to “The Empty Tin Association”. I hope my direct email to you in answer to yours above will renew our friendship after a somewhat longish intermission.

  10. Hi Stan, I have enjoyed the revisits to your wonder-filled stories here. Thanks for letting this happen. Hope you are well and happy.

  11. James Waltz

    Stan,

    I hope this message finds you well.

    As a youngster I discovered Road & Track and the wornderful humor and art that wonderfully creative contributors like yourself and Henry Manney III provided us.

    I still hope to build my own edition of the Cyclops – which is not that far-fetched given my heavy involvement in kart racing and vintage karting. Only question is, do I go with outrigger engine and belt drive, or internal with Throptic Drive. Of course finding old Cinzano signs may be a challenge.

    Thank you for wonderful dreams and entertainment.

  12. I wish you success in your nobel effort to build a Cyclops. Regarding the drive train, Cyclops cognoscenti have been battling it out for the last 55 years, sometimes violently, which is best; the classic Throptic Drive, with the kiddy car drive rods on throws, or the outrigged engine with belt and wheel drive? As Minister of Propaganda for Automobili Cyclops Spa, I have encouraged both sides. To add a little heat there is a third solution: centrifugal clutch and chain drive to sprocket. This drive system was used with great success by Glenn Thomas in his Cyclops at the 2012 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance. Photo shows Glenn and navigator at speed careening towards the judges stand.

  13. James Waltz

    Stan,

    Absolutely lovely to hear from you.

    Any chance I could get Glenn’s contact info to see if he has scale plans?

    I do see that he went the practical route with street tires, while I would lean towards racing slicks (vintage, of course).

    We would love to see you as an honored guest at a vintage karting event, such as the one we run in Riverside early each year. Send me a personal e-mail and I’ll fill you in. You are definitely part of our history.

  14. Rogerio Machado

    Stan,

    I’m brazilian and was at the Amelia meeting last year. I had the honour to met Robert Cumberford who is a close friend of my friend Rexford Parker from LA. We took conversations with the youngs that restore the Cyclops and your name was always on the citations. Later, on september we met again at some events in LA and we went at the old R&T offices, now closed. The Cyclops was there at the reception corridor as a testemony of the time you was there. Congratulations and compliments for all the inspiration you give to my generation (sorry by my poor english).

  15. Barry Koch

    Forty years ago, I wanted to BE Stan Mott. Emboldened by acceptance of one of my cartoons as a column filler in Road & Track (a drawing of a wing tip shoe scaled up to the size of a sports car, complete with windshield and side mount spares) I sent Mr. Mott some sketches of Cyclops variants that had mid ’70s gimcrackery like padded roofs and opera windows complete with uvulas (uvulae?). What a thrilling moment when I got a personal letter from him acknowledging receipt with a return address of his yacht, somewhere in the Cote D’Azur! That was akin to having Seinfeld nod in acceptance of one of your comedy bits. The man is a genius, and his life filled with marvelous things,. I STILL want to be him.

  16. Kevin Little

    With regard to drive systems, I could see the Cyclops XII with PT-6A turbine sequential hybrid with 12 electric wheel motors. 12 wheel drive and 12 wheel drift. Just need to find an arab with a budget for it.

  17. Ray Koenig

    Stan, I often remember coming across your Go Kart in Paris. I left my card in your cup and you called me later that day. We did not meet at that time but had a lively conversation about your journey up to that time. Before that when I first joined GM “Styling” in ’56 , you and Bob Cumberford and I got rid of musac and convinced to buy some LP’s and we in turn wolud disc jockey jazz over the PA system utl itgot shut down by some persons that did like our selections. We divided up the LP’s and I still have a few, now collectors items. I stayed on with GM u til 1990 while you and Bob on to conquer new worlds. Sail on.

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