Midget cars

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King midget car
The King Midget Car: The beginning of it all
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Some interesting facts about midget cars

Midget cars are known for many things, not the least of which are their highly specialized engines. The sport of racing midget cars has been around since August of 1933, having originated at the Loyola High School stadium in Los Angeles. What began as a regular weekly program regulated by the Midget Auto Racing Association (MARA) spread across the country and the world, first to Australia in 1934 and then to New Zealand in 1937. 
Hundreds of tracks and stores selling products and services related to the sport of racing midget cars began to spring up across the United States during the first half of the twentieth century.

How are midget cars different from other racing cars?

Midget cars can be quite dangerous because they combine high-speed capabilities and small size. Typically, midget cars have 300-400 horsepower and weigh about 1,000 pounds. For this reason, modern midget cars are fully equipped with important safety features; such as roll cages, (a frame built in or around the cab to protect occupants from being injured in case of a roll-over), roll bars and roll bar padding.

Midget cars are designed specifically for races of relatively short distances, usually 2.5 to 25 miles (4 to 40 kilometers). They are small racecars with four-cylinder engines that are capable of reaching very high speeds despite their size and the weight they may carry. There are several spectacular annual midget car- racing events, which are held all over America. Some of the more notable ones include: the Astro Grand Prix in the Astrodome, Midget Nationals at Belleville, Kansas, the Chili Bowl, the Copper World Classic at Phoenix International Raceway, Terra Haute’s Hut Hundred, Eldora’s 4-Crown Nationals and Turkey Night Grand Prix at Irwindale Speedway.

Many Indy Car and NASCAR drivers use midget car racing as a gateway to the more difficult and higher profile divisions, and the sport and its many products and accessories attracts many fans and racers of all ages. Quarter Midget Racing involves drivers ranging from 5-16 years old. These cars are scaled down to one-fourth the size of full size midget cars (an oxymoron?) and are driven on one-twentieth of a mile oval racetrack. A one-cylinder engine similar in size and construction to most lawn mower engines powers the vehicle. These quarter midget cars can cost anywhere from $1,500- $5,900 depending on age, condition and what type of motor is installed.

Why do people collect midget cars and how much do they cost?

Collecting midget cars is as much done for investment purposes as for enjoyment of the sport. Restoring decrepit cars is always very costly and buying a fully restored (or new) midget car in the long run is a better opportunity even though the initial cost will be a lot higher. As is the case with collecting classic cars of any type, the prices of midget cars are relative and vary depending on condition and the rarity of the car. A standard range of prices for midget cars could run anywhere from $600-$11,000.

What are some famous types of midget cars?

The King Midget car was the first of its kind when Claud Dry and Dale Orcutt, two World War II civil air patrol pilots, developed it back in 1946. It was conceived and developed as an inexpensive car that anyone could buy and it was sold from the factory as either a kit or a fully assembled car with a 6hp Wisconsin engine.

The King Midget II weighed basically 500 pounds and sold for $500. This second model was a two-seater convertible with 7.5 horsepower. It was this version that established the King Midget car’s reputation, as it was able to perform extraordinary feats of strength and endurance especially when crossing arduous terrain.

In 1957, the Model 3 King Midget came along with some significant changes. In this model, there were changes in body construction, with the frame welded together for strength with all the fixed body components. It also came equipped with 9.2 horsepower and four-wheel hydraulic brakes. These cars were developed until the late 1960s.

Sprint cars are high-powered small racecars designed primarily for the purpose of running on short oval or circular dirt or paved tracks. They have a high power-to-weight ratio, making speeds in excess of 140 miles per hour (230 km/h) possible on some tracks. It is not unusual for some of these vehicles to have 850 horsepower. Sprint car engine builders over the last fifty years have had basically three engines to choose from: Chevrolet, Ford and Chrysler.

Midget and sprint car engines are highly specialized and built much differently than they were ten to twenty years ago. In the past, almost anyone could build an engine and expect it to function fairly well, but today things are more complicated and much R&D (research and development) is required to make a sprint or midget car engine successful.

If you wish to see some of these amazing cars and find yourself anywhere near Duarte, California, pay a visit to the Justice Brothers Midget Car Museum. Midget car racing is a popular sport that seems unaffected by clime, economic recession or passing fads. It is here to stay and to thrill all who dare to compete safely and wisely.

Hi-ho Silver and a-w-a-a-a—a-y!

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