The next item on the to-do list for the midget was brakes. We could roll and steer, now we needed to stop. ’40s midgets did not use a brake pedal. Instead, they had a lever on the outside of the vehicle which was actuated by hand. The lever actuated the rear-only brakes. Midgets were drift cars long before drift cars were a trend.
An example of a period midget brake lever can be seen in the above photo with a white knob. That is my grandfather, Dale Ith in the 108 car. This photo was taken at a now defunct racetrack in Salt Lake City called the Hippodrome circa 1948.
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Coincidentally, golf carts also only have rear brakes, and they are cable actuated, so the adaptation was fairly easy. The biggest hurdle was to find a suitable lever and hinge it at the frame. The golf cart brake pedal had a very nice, stout hinge for its brake pedal. We stripped down a bunch of the superfluous metal, drilled a few holes in the frame, and came up with this setup:
We were even able to use the stout return spring from the golf cart brakes. We welded a stop tab to keep it upright. A trip to Pick-n-Pull netted the arm for the brake lever – a shifter arm from a ’66 Ford pickup. I believe that the shape and taper offer a better aesthetic than a straight piece of stock.
A couple of brackets were then fabricated to hold the cables. Add an 8-ball knob and the brakes were done.
Now that we had brakes, we needed a reason for their existence. Power. This really was exciting. All we had to do now was add electricity and the midget would be on the road. First, we needed a place to keep the batteries. The golf cart had used 6 6-volt batteries, but there was no way that many batteries would fit in the midget, so I went with 3 12-volt batteries. It was very difficult to find a place for even that few. I wanted them on either side of the steering column, but due to the hinging of the hood, only one would fit. Another was placed in the nose cone, and the last one was squeezed in between the seat and the rear diff.
Next, we needed an accelerator pedal. We used – you guessed it – the one from the golf cart. Instead of hinging at the bottom, we turned it over and suspended it, as seen here:
Finally, I mounted the forward/reverse switch and the key switch right at the front of the seat. The driver reaches between his/her legs to activate it. At this point, all of the main components were mounted in place. All that was left was wiring, building a seat, and bolting the body on. Those items will be covered in the next post.
Scott Ith is an Associate Editor with Hooniverse.com, but he also contributes to his own site NeedThatCar.com. Head over there for more hooniganism.