KartSport in New Zealand - The Early History 

The report below has been prepared using information obtained from a variety of sources and is, to the best of our knowledge, the most accurate information available on the establishment of the sport of karting in New Zealand to date (Sep 2004).

Reference material
  • Original report written by Mr Jack Elvey from Hamilton, New Zealand, in July 1961.Mr Elvey held the position of Official Historian to the  North Island Go Kart Association as well as being an executive member of both the North Island Go Kart Association and the New Zealand Amateur Go Kart Association.
  • Auckland Star reports June 15th 1959 and June 29th 1959
  • New Zealand Herald report 16th September 1959
  • Christchurch Paper report 24th November 1959
  • Christchurch Star report 14th May 1960
  • Auckland Amateur Go Kart Club Constitution – Declaration of registration signed by Mr Donald John Sinton and dated 2nd December 1959.
  • New Zealand Companies Office.
KartSport in New Zealand – The Early History

The sport of karting originated in America in 1956 when a long term hot rodder Art Ingles built himself a small car frame to provide himself with the smallest, economical form of racing car available. For a power unit, he mounted a West Bend two cycle 2 ½ hp motor on it and the very first KART was born. 

Wherever Art drove his little car he found himself being watched by an army of onlookers. People kept watching as Art put his car through its paces, and queries about the new vehicle were numerous. With so much interest in his sole machine, Art felt sure that commercially built cars of similar design would sell, at least in and around Southern California. Arts boss, Frank Kurtis was not interested but a Southern California surplus dealer, Bill Rowles saw the car, as yet unnamed, in mid 1957 and realized the potential of the tiny racer and tried to interest first Art in its sales possibilities, then other friends, hot rodders and builders of the already popular quarter midget.

Bill Rowles then met Duffy Livingstone and Roy Desbrow, who between them built their own version of Art Ingels car. A careful count of the cars then in existence showed that some 30 existed when the magazine “Rod and Custom” got wind of them and turned up with a camera in tow. Staffers treated to a ride, were quick to get the story into print. (November 1957). Casting about for a general term for the little powered vehicle, “Rod and Custom” elected to call the creations GO KARTS.

The story broke and Livingstone, Rowles and Desbrow could see that the term GO KART would stick with any cars of this type and promptly organised the Go Kart Manufacturing Company and wisely began offering do-it-yourself kits.

Other manufacturers, awake to the tremendous interest and possibilities, started to market their own versions. Unfortunately, many kart builders took little heed of basic safety requirements.

In December of 1957, the GO KART CLUB of AMERICA was formed. The G.K.C.A. formulated rules and regulations and with the publicity given to these rules and the dimensions etc of the new Karts, a new chapter in the history of Karts was commenced.

The first Kart raceway had 345 feet (105m) of straight, a banked turn at one end and a total length of 795 feet (242m). By today's standards this would be small with the average length of a modern track being around 800-950 meters. 

The very first Go-Kart Nationals of America were held at Azusa and proved to be a huge success. 

The first recorded article on the new American sport of Go Karting appearing in a N.Z. newspaper was an article entitled, “Who’ll Go Karting”, which appeared in the “Auckland Star” of June 15th 1959. This article really started something. Two weeks later, the “Auckland Star”, June 29th 1959, published a follow up article, giving a very much fuller description of the Karts, the engine sizes, a description of the Azusa track etc.

The article also announced the formation of N.Z’s first Go Kart Club. The Auckland Mini Kart Club commenced in July 1959, at Parkinson's farm in Mangere, Auckland, not far from the international airport with 8 members and 5 Karts under construction. The first President was Mr B.C. Boyle and the Secretary was Mr. W.D. Henderson. 

From this announcement onwards clubs were formed all over the Auckland Province, using the Auckland clubs Kart plans and regulations. On the 12th July 1959 Mr Jack Elvey (later to become the North Island Amateur Go Kart Associations Historian) joined the Auckland club and was given the job of helping establish the Waikato area. The position in N.Z. as at September 1959 was almost the same as was the position in America in December 1957 when the G.K.C.A. was formed. The sport was growing at such an incredible rate that often the safety factor was totally ignored. It became apparent at this stage that a central body to control the new sport was an urgent necessity.

The Pukekohe Go Kart club (formed 4th August 1959) called a General Meeting at Pukekohe on 19th September 1959 and invited two delegates from each of the known clubs then in existence. The N.Z. Herald in their issue of the 16th September 1959 published an article on Go Karting with particular reference to this meeting to be held at Pukekohe.

The meeting was a tremendous success and the first N.Z. body to direct and control Go Karting was formed on the 19th September 1959 – the New Zealand Amateur Go Kart Association. This body was later changed to the New Zealand Kart Federation with a registered constitution and in 2002 became KartSport New Zealand.

The first publicly elected officers of the New Zealand Amateur Go Kart Association were:

President: D.C. McAllansmith(Pukekohe)
Vice-President:F. Stevens(Auckland)
Sec.-Treasurer:P. Greenhalgh(Auckland)
Committee:J.L. Elvey(Hamilton)
 D. Sinton (Auckland) 
 J. Gair(Whangarei)
 P. Cantwell(Tauranga)
 A.Hogan (Papakura)
 C. Dahlin (Auckland)

In the South Island, word of Go Karting had reached Christchurch and in a Christchurch Paper dated 24th November 1959 an article appeared stating "Go Kart racing to open soon in Christchurch". In this article, club captain of the Windsor Motor Club, Mr B H Paton, said that "widespread interest had been aroused in go karting since the intention to introduce this new branch of motor racing sport to the South Island had been announced". Since the Windsor Club had made it's announcement earlier in the month, the clubs secretary had received nearly forty enquiries from intended competitors. The idea had been put forward to the club by a young enthusiast, Mr D J G Monty, and his proposal was recommended by the racing committee and subsequently adopted by the club council.

In December 1959 the original number of eight karters from the Auckland Mini Kart Club had swelled to many, and the decision was made to form an incorporated society to cater for their needs. This became known as the AUCKLAND AMATEUR GO KART CLUB and its secretary, Mr Donald Sinton registered its constitution on 2nd December 1959. This is the first known officially constituted Kart Club in New Zealand.

Don Sinton is recognized as one of the founders of the sport in New Zealand, and one of the first kart frame manufacturers in the country who was later awarded Life Membership of KartSport New Zealand in 1965. It was through his efforts, both as secretary of the A.A.G.K.C. and in manufacturing the Sincart, that the sport really got going. 

To promote this new form of motor sport, he teamed with the President of the A.A.G.K.C, Mr John Stevens and his son Jack Stevens in December 1959, to drive a kart to Wellington and then on down the South Island to Dunedin. Between Auckland and Wellington they covered some 550 miles and started up two clubs on the way. Their total elapsed driving time was twelve and three quarter hours at an average of 38 mph. In doing so, they broke the world Karting distance and enduro record set on 17th July 1959 in the USA. 

Following this promotion and at a subsequent meeting of the N.Z. Amateur Go Kart Association held at Mangere, Auckland, Mr Sinton reported that he had been approached in Christchurch by a band of enthusiasts and club members who wished to form a South Island Go Kart Association with the approval of the N.Z. Go Kart Association. Members of the N.Z.A.G.K.A. present confirmed Mr Sinton’s action in giving them the go ahead.

A report stating that the South Island Go Kart Association had been formed very early in 1960 with the approval of the N.Z.A.G.K.A. appears in the Christchurch Star Sports edition of May 14, 1960. The S.I.G.K.A. adopted without alteration the N.Z.A.G.K.A. specifications, but went further and drew up a set of competition regulations. The S.I.G.K.A. then had the machine specifications and competition regulations printed as the “1960 Regulations for General Competition”

At a Committee Meeting of the N.Z.A.G.K.A. called for March 19th 1960, one of the agenda items was Championship meetings. Two members were present from the New Plymouth Go Kart Club seeking permission from the N.Z.A.G.K.A. to change the status of their 2 day Go Kart Championship meeting at Easter Weekend 1960 from the Taranaki Championships to the New Zealand Championships.

The N.Z.A.G.K.A. agreed to this provided that all Go Karts complied with the N.Z. Amateur Go Kart Association’s specifications and the event would be run under the New Plymouth Clubs competition Rules. The New Plymouth club agreed to this and the event become the first New Zealand Championship, advertised in the New Plymouth circular dated 26th March, 1960 and contested in New Plymouth at Easter 1960.

Advantage was taken of the fact that most North Island Go Kart clubs would be represented at New Plymouth during the Easter Weekend of 1960 and a meeting of Clubs was held at New Plymouth on Good Friday. It is at this point that the North Island Go Kart Association was established and took over the control of North Island Go Karting from the N.Z. Amateur Go Kart Association (Easter 1960). At this meeting it was decided that the sport should be organized on District lines and that future delegates to the N.I.G.K.A. come up through the District committee level. Wellington District was the only body currently organised along these lines and were represented this way at the meeting in New Plymouth

Officers elected to the N.I.G.K.A. at New Plymouth, Easter 1960, were :

President: Mr P. Richards
Tauranga
1st Vic-President:
Mr A. Laurent
Morrinsville
2nd Vice-President:
Mr N. Dabb
Tokoroa
Chief Steward:
Mr P. Regan
Rotorua
Gen. Secretary:Mr B. Marshall
Tauranga
Auditors:
Messrs Hoare & Ladkin
Tauranga
Committee:
W. Shuker
Napier

W. Morris
Tokoroa

C. Head 
Morrinsville

C. Thomas
Hastings

J. Downs
Pukekohe

J. Elvey
Hamilton


The first Committee meeting of the N.I.G.K.A. was held in Tauranga on the 11/12 June, 1960.
At this meeting 3 new delegates were elected to the committee. They were:- Mr T.C. McDowell (Wellington), Mr A.T. Lea (Taranaki), and Mr D.K. Curtis (Poverty Bay-East Coast).

In July 1960, it was felt that the District Scheme of control should be put into operation immediately, rather than wait for the next Annual Meeting in 1961.

This meeting was duly convened and was held at Taupo on 20/21 August 1960, when new officers were elected on the Provincial representation basis. 

The following Officers were elected :

President: Mr P. Richards
Tauranga
Vice-President:
Mr N. Dabb
Tokoroa
Vice-President:
Mr B. Gibb

Chief Steward:
Mr P. Regan
Rotorua
Sec./Treasurer:
Mr B. Marshall
Tauranga
Auditor:
Mr P. Hoare, A.P.A.N.Z.
Tauranga
Executive:
Mr John Callender
Taranaki

Mr Jock Rovard
Wellington

Mr Colinn McDowell
Wellington

Mr Olive Berry
Taranaki

Mr Bill Shuker
Hawkes Bay

Mr Ray Lowe
Hawkes Bay
 Mr Noel Dabb
South Auckland
 Mr Bruce Gibb
South Auckland
 Mr Maurice Turner
Auckland
 Mr Jim Downs
Auckland
Official Historian:Mr Jack Elvey
Hamilton

The N.I.G.K.A. staged its first annual North Island Championships at Tauranga on Saturday December 31st 1960 and Monday January 2nd 1961.

The most sought after kart of the day was the Suzakart - a Sincart with the choice of Suzuki engines, 50 cc 4.5 HP 8000 rpm, 150 cc 9.5 HP 7000 rpm, all with 4 speed gear boxes.

During the early sixties a new trend appeared in karting, smaller wheeled karts with more compact engines, ie the McCollough, became popular and a number of karters moved to racing on sealed circuits while drivers of the larger wheeled machines continued to compete on grass/dirt tracks.

In July 1961 there were a total of 46 Clubs affiliated to the North Island Go Kart Assn :-

Auckland, Bay of Plenty, East Coast Bays, Far North, Foxton , Frankin, Gisborne, Hamilton, Huntly, Hastings, Hawera, Helensville, Kawerau, Levin, Mana, Murapara, Masterton, Mangakino, Matamata, Morrinsville, Manawatu, Northern Wairoa, North Shore, Northland Minicart, Ngaruawahi, Napier, New Plymouth, Opotiki, Otaki, Pahiatua, Paraparaumu, Rotorua, Silverdale and Districts, Taupo, Taihape, Te Aroha, Thames, Tokoroa, Te Kuiti, Tauranga Amateur, Waitara, Waihi, Whakatane, Waipa, Wanganui, and Wellington.

Although the NZAGKA continued in existence much of the administration and control of the sport was handled by the North and South Island Associations.

However on the 5th April 1963 an Incorporated Society was registered as the national body to represent the collective interests of karters and was known as the New Zealand Go Kart Federation, this name was later changed to New Zealand Kart Federation and then in 2002 renamed KartSport New Zealand.

For many years following this the North and South Island Associations continued to be affiliated members of the National Body. 

 
KartSport New Zealand