The History of Go Kart Mfg. Co.
as recounted by Don Boberick (9/18/98):
As to Go Kart Manufacturing, Co. Inc., it came into being in 1958. The principles, Duffy Livingstone and Roy Desbrow, were partners in a muffler business called "GP Mufflers," in Monrovia, California. Both Duff and Roy were experts at fabricating welded components. After seeing Art Ingles' one-off creation, Duffy and Roy fabricated their own versions and then improved on them. And, Duffy built a couple for friends (including Bill Jeffery who did the upholstery for everybody - that's Bill in the above racing photo). Bill Rowles, then a salesman of surplus materials in the L.A. area, was a frequent visitor at the GP Muffler shop in Monrovia. Bill had located a source of inexpensive engines from a failed West Bend rotary lawn mower venture. The three individuals, operating out of GP Muffler's facilities, formed a loose partnership to manufacture and sell kit components for karts. They called them "Go Karts" after the name Lynn Wineland, a commercial artist, had coined in an ad referring to GP's products. "Dart Kart" was another Lynn Wineland creation. The kits GP produced were offered mail order for $129 and the business grew like Topsy.
I can remember one day lounging in the small office at GP Muffler with Bill Rowles and Duffy Livingstone when the postman came by with a handful of envelopes addressed to "Go Kart Manufacturing" and saying "It looks like another thirty orders today, guys." That kind of demand became constant and it became apparent that the business had to be elevated several levels. I formed a corporation for the company and it leased a five acre facility in Azusa from AeroJet General Corporation. The company had six stockholders. Roy Desbrow, Duffy Livingstone and Bill Rowles were the principal stockholders. Jim Patronite (the company's accountant, who later formed Azusa Engineering), myself and the companiy's office manager were the three minor stockholders. Go Kart Manufacturing Co. Inc. continued to thrive in its Azusa facilities into 1963.
In 1962, Art Linkletter Enterprises made an offer of $750,000 for purchase of the shares. The offer called for $250,000 up front with the balance of $500,000 to be paid at the end of one year. Go Kart declined that offer because the proposal gave management control to the Linkletter group prior to final payment and we did not trust their ability manage the company. Unfortunately Go Kart had, less than a year earlier, hired a very experienced, energetic and enthusiastic individual to manage the sales end of the business. To promote the product, Go Kart began to fly the six driver and four mechanic racing team, seven or eight karts plus spare parts to places like Mansfield, Ohio, Rockford, Illinois and the Bahamas. As spending escalated, sales hit a plateau industry wide. From just a handful of manufactures in 1959 the industry had grown to over thirty manufacturers by 1962. Go Kart failed to accommodate the recession in sales of its products by cutting back on spending. It went into bankruptcy.
One bit of irony in the demise of Go Kart Manufacturing Co, Inc. is that for a couple of years Go Kart was involved in trade mark litigation with Fox Body Company of Janesville, WI, over the trade mark "Go Kart." Fox called their kart the "Go Boy Kart" which we said was akin to calling a cola drink "Coca Boy Cola." Fox, on the other hand filed a petition to dissolve our trade mark "Go Kart," claiming it was generic. After Go Kart Mfg.. went through bankruptcy, Fox bought the "Go Kart" name for just a few dollars from the bankrupt estate. That was "Go Kart" from beginning to end--with a lot of fun in between.
Jim Patronite went on to make Azusa Engineering a success and it is still going strong with his son and nephew at the helm. Roy Desbrow has since passed on. Bill Rowles is enjoying life in southern California. (Anyone wishing to get in contact with Bill should contact Don Boberick for more info.)
Before the company went into bankruptcy I gave up karting to get back
into aviation. Then I got into aviation law and moved out of Pasadena. Duffy Livingstone
spent several years operating a specialty welding company in Costa Mesa. He is now retired
and living in Grants Pass, Oregon. I just talked to him tonight and he is in the process
of restoring his original FKE kart, "the Mole." He was able to recover all of
the original parts except for the body shell. The original shell hangs in someone's garage
in Monrovia but the individual (despite having obtained it for nothing from Jeff) refuses
to now part with it. Unfortunately Duffy has not gotten into computers so we cannot
attract him to your web site.
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