Taylor Made: Old-fashioned engineering
This past summer, I began work on one of my latest projects: restoring a 1950’s-era golf cart. The manufacture date is actually speculation based on my research, as I have very little information about the history of the golf cart. This summer’s goal was to do a complete teardown and take stock of parts in order to start planning the rebuild. From my work so far, I can confirm that the old saying is true—they don’t build them like this anymore!
The gas-powered cart begins with a simple frame that provides the majority of structural support. In my photo, the frame already has cables attached to it for actuating the transmission, gas, and brakes. It also has one spring, which I will address later.
To turn the frame into a rolling chassis, three wheels are added. Two springs and two vertical stabilizer bars connect the front axle rod to the strut, which runs through a steering column of sorts at the front of the frame. The strut is held in place in the column with a large nut, and the steering handlebar screws onto a rod sticking out the top of the strut.
The rear axle is a transaxle, which means that transmission and differential gears are housed together. Individual shafts for each rear wheel connect to rods that enter the casing. Instead of sitting at the wheels, the two brake discs are also attached to rods from the casing. A torque converter connects the transaxle gears to the engine’s power output. The transaxle casing bolts to the engine block, which in turn is bolted to the two inner rails on the frame so that it sits rear of center. With the engine connecting the rear axle to the frame, the frame becomes a rolling chassis. Two springs, one attached to each rear axle shaft, make a suspension system between the frame and the rear wheels by connecting to the top of the frame. The spring still attached to the frame had broken off at the axle.
The engine block supports the exhaust can and alternator. The frame has shelves for the gas tank and battery and also supports electrical system components. The rear body piece is designed to be load bearing and includes seats and storage compartments. The front body piece is mainly in place for the overall design, and serves as protection for the front wheel assembly. Floorboards, originally wood, fill the area within the frame upon which the driver and passenger step.
There are some interesting things to note about this golf cart. In lieu of a spring and damper system in the rear, the cart has stiff springs attached directly to the rear axle with safety chains that prevent the springs from extending beyond a certain length. Some components are attached to the frame or body pieces using slotted screws and square nuts. A wooden rod with more safety chain beneath the front floor connects the gas and brake pedals so that you can’t depress both at the same time; from research, I believe that this is a mod added by a previous owner.
Now that the golf cart is disassembled, the future tasks are numerous. The frame needs to be cleaned of dirt and rust, welded for reinforcement, and painted. The body pieces need to be sanded down and repainted—additionally, both pieces have gashes that need to be filled in. The transaxle has a few worn gears that need replacing. The engine needs to be taken apart and cleaned. Most of the hardware and anything rubber needs to be replaced, and yadayadayada. I also intend to make a few mods of my own. I’ll be celebrating when the whole thing is reassembled and ready to run, but half the fun is in the work along the way.
Photo at top: The 1950s gas-powered golf cart, shown here in a photo from 2007.
All photos by Taylor Tucker.