High School Students Unveil Custom Go-Karts with Richard Petty and Billy Lane

June 24, 2024
The karts were a testament to the students’ hard work and learning over the past eight months.

The Minnesota Street Rod Association’s Back to the 50s event kicked off like a state fair on the fairgrounds on Friday, June 21, except with the sounds of engines from modified classic cars to compliment the smell of wet pavement of an overnight rain shower and yummy deep-fried food.

Despite the display of cars, the real attractions were the high school students and their rat rod go-karts. 

Minneapolis Public Schools and Lakeville North High School revealed rat rod karts they had built in class as part of a year-long program developed by Northern Tool + Equipment. The karts, powered by 740cc NorthStar EFI engines, were unveiled in front of countless car enthusiasts at the Minnesota Street Rod Association’s Back to the 50s event.

Students were mentored by NASCAR legend Richard Petty, the team at Petty’s Garage, and Billy Lane, founder of Choppers Inc. “It was really cool watching the students create rat rod karts out of nothing over the last eight months,” Lane said in a news release. “Watching their skills and confidence grow each month was a fulfilling experience, and I was excited to see the final karts and run them at the fairgrounds.”

Kevin Baas, an instructor from Lakeville North High School, said that students focused more on the mechanical/engineering aspect of the project. He said a rat-rod go-kart implies it’s supposed to look beat up and built from scratch.

However, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. If you’re a George Miller fan, the karts might make you feel like you’re seeing a Mad Max movie come to life.

The Rat Rod Kart Build-Off was part of Northern Tool + Equipment’s Tools for the Trades program. The program was designed to fuel a growing interest in the trades among high school students through donations of tools and equipment to career and technical education programs. The donations provided instructors with professional-grade tools and equipment to properly teach the trades and expose students to trade career-like experiences.

“Watching the kids work on these karts with their own two hands is what this build-off was all about,” Petty said in a news release. “This wasn’t about winning or losing. It was about those students learning valuable hands-on skills that could help them get a job in the trades one day.”

Although there was no “racing,” attendees did get to see the karts driven around the state fairgrounds by Lane and Petty’s grandson, Thad Moffitt.

The students who spoke directly to FenderBender were all looking forward to entering a career in the trades, many even outside of the automotive industry. Some at the event expressed interest in welding, electrical engineering, and more.

Baas said, “[Trades] are on such a high-demand career path that schools are reviving them. They’re bringing back equipment, they’re getting instructors that are trained, and are getting new equipment. I’ve seen nothing but an upward climb of positive energy for hands-on trades.”

The rat rod karts were revealed at at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds during the 50th anniversary of MSRA’s Back to the 50s weekend.

“We know how valuable trade careers are to our communities, which is one reason why we started Tools for the Trades,” Suresh Krishna, CEO of Northern Tool + Equipment, said in a news release. “Most of the students involved with this build-off pursued trade careers after high school. We were thrilled we could play a part in fueling that fire.” 

About the Author

Abdulla Gaafarelkhalifa | Associate Editor

Abdulla Gaafarelkhalifa is an associate editor at FenderBender. He has a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and has covered various beats beyond collision repair news such as politics, education, sports, and religion. His first car was a silver 2009 Chrysler Sebring which he nicknamed the Enterprise because he’s a Star Trek fan. He now drives a 2014 Jeep Cherokee in order to tolerate Minnesota winters.

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