Taking a Power Racing Car from Concept to Finish Line

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Taking a Power Racing Car from Concept to Finish Line

Maker Donald Bell is on a roll. Last fall, the former Make: Projects Editor launched a project site and YouTube channel called Maker Project Lab and a weekly YT show called Maker Update. The show was immediately embraced by the maker community and has now become weekly must-see maker TV (every Wednesday). Recently, Donald also announced a partnership with Kevin Kelly and Mark Frauenfelder’s Cool Tools site.

If all that wasn’t enough to put a jaunty spring in Donald’s step, on Maker Update a few months ago, he announced that he had decided to build, enter, and race a vehicle in the upcoming Power Racing Series at Maker Faire Bay Area. To fund the effort, he launched a crowdfunding campaign. Over several Update shows, he reported on the progress of the vehicle. And then came Maker Faire. Donald and his tweaked-out Hello Kitty car, dubbed Kitty Grabs Back, won. Twice! In fact, he took home four medals: two gold, a silver, and a bronze.

In this recent post on Maker Project Lab, Donald offers up a fairly detailed account of the research, design, and construction of his modified Power Wheels car. If you’re interested in the Power Racing Series and are curious as to all of what goes into modifying one of these vehicles to get them race-worthy, this article is a great overview.

An early attempt with a wooden go-kart frame.

After reading through this and hearing of Donald’s 0-to-60 racing stardom, if you’re inspired to pursue this wild and wacky sport of grown adults cramming themselves into little plastic kiddie cars like speed-hungry Shriners, he offers some tips for getting started:

First, I recommend checking out the Power Racing Series site, watching some videos and checking out their official rules, which are hilarious.

Second, skim through this Instructable on how Jamie Price built his mini electric Jeep. As someone who couldn’t weld and knew next to nothing about motors and cars and speed controllers — I knew I wasn’t ready to build a car this way on my own. Still, it was an approachable guide and in hindsight my car build ended up resembling this one quite a lot.

Join all the forums. The main Powerwheels Racers for Adults Facebook group is here, and they’re lovely people. There’s also the Modified Power Wheels group, which is more of a general showcase for non-racers and less geeky.

Then there’s the Modified Power Wheels Forum, which is a deep resource that I surprisingly didn’t use much, but covers a lot of territory and is a well organized resource. And finally, the Power Racing Series Wiki (http://ppprs.2xlnetworks.org/), which has a bunch of great info, specific car builds, bill of materials. It’s awesome. I actually wish I’d read more of it, but at some point all the research gets overwhelming.

The final welded metal chassis with wheels, motors, batteries, and bumpers attached. Gotta love those pool noodle bumpers.
Donald putting the pedal to the plastic. Photo by Hep Svadja, Maker Media.

Read the complete piece, Making the Kitty Grabs Back Electric Go Kart, on Maker Project Lab. And do yourself a favor and subscribe to Donald’s YouTube channel to get the weekly Maker Update every Wednesday.

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at garstipsandtools.com.

View more articles by Gareth Branwyn