1959 DAVID BRADLEY Sport-Kart

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1959 DAVID BRADLEY Sport-Kart


Founded by David Bradley in 1884, the eponymous plow manufacturer was purchased

by Sears, Roebuck & Co. in 1910, and continued to manufacture farming implements

for distribution through the Chicago mail order giant’s widely distributed catalogs.

Fast forward nearly half a century, and by 1958 the David Bradley Manufacturing

Company, to give its full, formal name, would introduce an early garden riding tractor. By

the beginning of the 1960s, Bradley, still owned by Sears, had become the world’s

largest garden tractor manufacturer, but would soon be acquired by the Newark Ohio


Sometime prior to Bradley’s products disappearing from Sears’ catalogs, the Northern

Illinois-based firm began to offer a new type of recreational machine, one first conceived

in 1956 Los Angeles, and almost immediately destined for explosive worldwide


The Vehicle

Though referred to as a Sport-Kart by Bradley and Sears, this is clearly a go-kart. The

concepts of gravity racers, cycle cars, and other small, simple, single-seat vehicles were

nothing new by late the late 1950s, but gas-powered, recreationally-focused variants

certainly were, and so nomenclature was still somewhat in flux across the entire,

nascent industry.

Less fluid were the go-kart’s defining features, most of which had already been

standardized by this point. Even now, nearly 65 years since it was produced, this

example’s hard points are immediately recognizable as typical kart characteristics,

including its rear-mounted, horizontal shaft, single-cylinder engine, mid-mounted seat,

and prevailing air of simplicity.

On the Outside

While most modern karts feature triangulated, strengthened frames, and are just as

likely to be covered in plastic fairings lending little more than extra weight, this 1959

Bradley is refreshingly elegant in its minimalism. Note the upright seating position and

absolutely massive, X-braced sheet metal gas and brake pedals.

On the Inside

Controls are reduced to the bare essentials; a beautiful, half-yoke steering wheel that

would be equally at home in a period Cessna or Beechcraft airplane, a pair of pedals for

working the speed control and friction brakes, and a small, partially hidden lever handle

beneath the seat.

In a couple of neat, pre-standardization quirks, the above-mentioned hand lever sets the

engine’s throttle position, while the right-side “gas” pedal appears to act upon the

primary drive belt, engaging it to varying degrees and thus providing a primitive sort of

speed control. Centrifugal clutches and pedal-controlled throttles would soon replace

this type of arrangement, and have been standard for many decades now.


The kart’s frame consists of a single, large-diameter steel backbone to which solid,

hard-mounted front and rear axles are affixed. A pair of platforms provide foundations

for the seat and engine, and small bumpers are mounted to either end.

Power comes from an air-cooled, horizontal shaft, vertically oriented single-cylinder of

about 3 hp. Manufactured by the long defunct but fondly remembered Clinton Engines

Corporation of Iowa, this little engine appears just as fresh as the rest of the Sport-Kart

it motivates. Note the well-preserved data plates on both engine and chassis.

History Highlights

This go-kart is offered without known history, but appears to benefit from a careful,

sympathetic restoration of unknown age. Sale includes what seem to be the original

operating instructions in nicely preserved condition.

What We Think

As any lucky kid with a long driveway or lightly-trafficked cul-de-sac nearby will tell you,

go-karts are huge fun. Grown-ups with flexible knees and kid-like noses for license-free

four-wheeled thrills will be equally pleased with this early example of the breed.

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  • Location: Newberg, OR, United States
  • Seller Type: Private
  • Odometer Reading: N/A
  • Chassis Number: N/A
  • Gearbox: Manual
  • Steering position: Left-hand drive
  • Estimated Price: $1,000 - $1,500

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