The Return of the Roof-Mounted Kart

Hey all, it’s been a minute.

I last posted over a year ago when I’d yet to turn a single lap in my kart–thankfully, that’s changed now!

In the intervening period, I sold my old Cayman for an Mk7 GTI that does a fantastic impression of a sprinter van–at 35mpg, no less. While it’s tight, the kart does fit inside, plus all the stuff I need to carry (tools, stand, driver gear, cooler, ez-up, etc). I can even go from fully packed up, to unloaded and ready to start in about 45 minutes. However, I have gotten a little tired of playing kart Tetris to such an extreme. I honestly don’t mind having to dismantle and reassemble the kart that much, but having to wedge everything into the back of the Golf is starting to wear on me. I met a super nice family at the first round of Autobahn’s open karting challenge and nearly cried when they simply rolled their kart into their trailer and left at the end of the day.

The downside is that a trailer would kinda be a stretch for me in all senses at the moment–size, space, budget, they’re all a little constrained right now. Even Harbor Freight’s 4x4 utility trailer can’t be had for less than $450 after tax these days–and then it seems I’d need to splash out a little more for tires that can do more than 55mph, title, registration, a hitch, etc. All in, that’s probably $7-800.

Conversely, a good set of roof bars for the GTI is half of that. Even ballasted, with the engine off, we’re comfortably under the 165lb weight limit for the rack. There’s plenty of strength on hand to hoist the kart up and down, so my main concern is just safety. At its core, I suppose it isn’t that much different to strapping the kart to the top of your bed in a pickup, or onto a trailer. Being on the roof feels a little more perilous to me somehow, but if properly secured, would it be a terrible idea?

TIA for any advice you have, and for all the help y’all have given me over the years.


Edit: corrected overly optimistic roof rack pricing

Not a terrible idea. People did that all the time back in the 80’s-'90s in Italy, where getting a trailer required stupid permits, homologation, new plates, fees and all those headaches. It you and your helper are strong enough to load, you are golden.

Make sure it’s strapped correctly and you keep ample space in front of you for added safety.

Also, look at this:

Having said that, a trailer, even a very small one, is a game changer

It’s safe - so long as you’ve got a good roof rack and a secure way to hold it on.

I much prefer putting the kart, stand, and tent on a trailer. My used jetski trailer cost $200 on Craigslist, and my GTI gets 30 MPG towing it.

@Andy_DiGiusto wow, if only Ferrari’s F1 team had thought to hire that guy. That’s ingenious!

Some quick math and bathroom scale weighing says that we could get the kart down to about 105lbs just by removing the engine, weights, and wheels. Probably into the double digits if I wanted to pull all the bodywork off, as well. I know lots of folks say not to strap the kart down to a trailer by the frame due to concerns about it warping, but do you think that’d be reasonable in this instance? Given the suspension would be soaking up most of the bumps and bruises, I’d think that having as little movement as possible between the roof rails and kart frame would be ideal? I can definitely agree on the merits of a trailer–if I had the space, I’d think about it much more seriously.

@Charles_Kaneb glad to hear it! I floated the idea to some friends locally back when I had the Cayman and they were, shall we say, skeptical.

That said, I did browse through Craigslist and FB Marketplace and to my surprise, prices were even higher! Somebody was trying to sell the folding 4x8 Harbor Freight trailer for $600, used. Granted, it had a deck, but plywood does not cost that much. At least, not at my local home depot. Crazy you can still get 30 while towing though! There’s almost nothing the GTI can’t do, it seems.

I think what they are referring to is to not tie down the frame with trucking grade ratchet straps and then pull the 4 corners down like hell while on the stand…If you use the regular tie downs there is no way you can bend a chassis. Even less when you put it on loading bars on top of a car, as you will secure the chassis where it contacts the bars anyways, so nothing to bend, I would not worry about it

Ahh, that makes sense. Sounds like it should all be fine!

I use a truck bed rack for my daughter’s kart on a trailer (Your Tow Vehicle, looking for recommendations - #45 by dodo). I just make sure the straps loop as close to the rack rails as possible, so there’s minimal leverage for bending anything. I also make sure the front strap and rear strap are on opposite ends. This has held very well, and hoisting it up there has been very easy. I don’t imagine this is much different than working on a roof rack vs. my trailer rack, BUT, I would absolutely hate having to remove the motor each time. More specifically, I’d hate having to realign my particular engine mount every time since it has proven to be extremely finicky.

@dodo Oh nice! Yeah, that does look to be about the same height as the roof of the GTI. I’m very much a visual learner so this may be a dumb question, but do you need to do anything special to keep the kart from moving fore or aft? I figured ratchet straps looped around the front of the frame and secured at the rear bar to keep it from sliding forward, and vise versa to keep it from moving aft. I don’t want this thing falling off somewhere!

I get that entirely–one of my sidepods is that way and it sucks! I’d definitely recommend a JTP motor mount if you’ve got the cash–it’ll get rid of all of that hassle. Also, sweet tow vehicle, and I just noticed the Lotus in the garage. I’m jealous!

The height actually worked out far more perfectly than I could’ve planned - I can see straight through my rearview mirror under the kid kart, haha. I can also sit in my kart and even work on it on the trailer because of the clearance.

That JTP mount looks awesome. I had also been looking at the Odenthal, and it seems both of them have much beefier locating features whereas the stock Praga one is far too shallow and sloppy. I may just go ahead and bite the bullet and get a good one…

For securing the kid kart, the front ratchet strap starts down behind the front post, loops through the chassis near the pedals, and then runs back down. This way, if the kart tries to slide forward, it pulls directly against the strap. On the back, I mirror everything so it tightens if the kart shifts backwards. Then I just snug everything up so it can’t move much (grippy padding on the rails also helps, but you don’t want anything too sticky or you might have trouble getting the kart up on the rail).

And yeah, the Elise is a ton of fun. I just finished rebuilding and repainting it only for a deer to hit it on the way to VIR …

Edit: I can try to take some good pictures of the straps this evening. I am far from an expert on such things, but it does seem like my approach has worked.

@dodo haha that really is perfect! That’s one of my current biggest gripes with hauling everything in the hatch–it’s awful tough to see behind. It looks like a great solution!

A friend of mine has the Odenthal mount on his kart, and I can confirm it’s also great! To my eye, it’s broadly the same as the JTP, although I’m sure they’d tell you otherwise haha. In the end, I don’t think either one would lead you astray.

Ah okay, that helps a lot! So in my application I’d probably want to start the front straps around the post that elevates the crossbars over the roof, run it through the front of the frame then back around, and ditto for the back. I certainly won’t say no to pictures if you do find the time to snag them haha, thank you!

Man, I’m so sorry to hear that! I hope the shell damage was minimal at least. I started wishing I’d bought an Elise after about three years with my Cayman. I kinda found it to be in a weird middle-ground between raw sports car and comfortable GT that ultimately didn’t work all that well for me. If I ever make the move across the pond, I’m definitely going to shell out for an S1 Elise and drive it as intended!