The MAKE Interns Build a Pedal Car, Part I

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The MAKE Interns Build a Pedal Car, Part I

photo 2

Every year at Maker Faire there are tons of amazing events and exhibits. One of my favorite events is the Fun Bike Unicorn Club’s amazing “Death Defying Figure Eight Pedal Car Races.” Contestants design and build 4-wheeled human-powered vehicles and race them in a figure-eight pattern. The crowd is drawn in by the potential for crashes, but they stay because of the great personalities and general hijinks.

quoteIn previous years, Make: Labs has attempted to build a pedal car for these races but we haven’t finished due to a lack of time and general know-how. This year we still don’t have time or know-how, but we’re doing it anyway. I’m attempting to build a pedal car that will be ready to race by Maker Faire Bay Area, and I’m going to be updating the blog periodically on my progress.

I’d like to reiterate here, I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m making it up as I go along and soliciting help from people much smarter than me. I do, however, think that many makers out there may be able to relate to my position. I have an idea and some ambition, and I have no idea how I’m going to complete it. I’m going to share my ideas and obstacles with you, the MAKE community, and I would love to hear your suggestions and commentary. If all goes well I’ll have a beautiful pedal car, and I’ll have gained tons of experience in the process.

So far, I’m working off of an old frame designed by Dan Spangler a few years ago.

rusty old frame
There’s a thin coating of rust, if you look close enough

To save time I’m going to repurpose it for this pedal car.


It’s a bit rusty so I’ve been grinding it off. I just finished spraying on primer, and soon I’ll paint it.

I’ve also got to make some revisions to its dimensions so that we can better fit within the rules of the races — which can be found here. I’ve already bought a differential, bearings, disc brakes, wheels, and tons of other stuff that should make the next few steps a lot easier.

primed frame
Three cans of primer later

primed frame 2

I look forward to going on this journey with you, and my fingers are crossed that this will be a success. Please share your thoughts, suggestions, and questions in the comments section below. Let’s collaborate!

0 thoughts on “The MAKE Interns Build a Pedal Car, Part I

  1. jdm8 says:

    That frame looks heavy to me. Was the frame really designed for use in a pedal car?

    1. The MAKE Interns Build a Pedal Car, Part I Paloma Fautley says:

      Thanks for the comment!

      The frame is a bit heavy, but I don’t think it will be too heavy to pedal. Because this bike is recumbent you’ll be able to brace yourself against the back of the seat and get a lot of power. Also, the frame itself is hollow so it’s not as heavy as it looks. I guess we’ll see if it works!

      Also, it was designed with a pedal car in mind, but it hasn’t been tested.

      1. jdm8 says:

        Sounds good. I hope it works out. It looks like an interesting project.

  2. Gregg Fautley says:

    Will you be providing the pedal power? If so, did you calculate the advantage your hair color gives you, both in raw strength and the “distraction factor?” No matter, I swear my allegiance to you. Yes, even if Alyssa Milano is in another car. As I always say, GO PALOMA!!

  3. me says:

    it looks like its floating? Is this a pedal powered landspeeder?

    1. The MAKE Interns Build a Pedal Car, Part I Paloma Fautley says:

      I haven’t attached the wheels yet. Although a pedal powered landspeeder would be the coolest thing ever. It’s on my theoretical to do list.

      I should have wheels attached soon and I’m writing the second installment of this post now.

  4. Karl Troll Rosenqvist says:

    Hope to see an update soon. Very curious.

  5. Mohammad Kartono says:

    Is there a part 2 to this, or is the project done?
    Interested in doing something like this for my spare time..

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Paloma Fautley is an engineering intern at Make: Labs. She is currently pursuing a degree in robotics engineering and has a wide range of interests, from baking to pyrotechnics.

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