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Decades in Storage for Safety: 1973 Rupp Go-Joe

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This is a 1973 Rupp Go-Joe and it’s in Edwardsville, Illinois, just a half-hour northeast of St. Louis, Missouri. It’s listed on eBay with a current bid price of just over $500 and a Buy It Now price of $3,000. Don’t laugh, this is one rare Rupp, and their motto was: Only The Best.

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Rupp made some of the oddest yet coolest little vehicles of any company, in my opinion. They made quite a few great minibikes and small dirt bikes, and of course they made some fantastic snowmobiles, but those were more “normal” than their multi-wheeled vehicle offerings were. They made the famous Centaur, a highly-desirable and collectible three-wheeled vehicle. They also made smaller, go-kart-like ATVs like the Rat and the Ruppster, and then there was the Go-Joe.

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The seller bought this Go-Joe at an auction a year ago. They mention that the “farmer that owned this before me took it away from his kids 20 or 30 years ago. He thought they were going to hurt themselves with it.” With farming being one of the most dangerous careers of all time, they must have really thought that these were dangerous!

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The Go-Joe has electric start and the seller says that this one works great. They were “told it is the “holy grail of carts” and they may be right, this thing is super rare. I’m not sure if it’s $3,000 rare, especially when a few things have been tweaked on it, and you can also see a stress-crack there on the LF side. Not to mention that it needs a little work to bring it up to running perfectly again. Original is king when it comes to vehicles like this; people who buy these things typically want to relive their youth and it’s harder to do that with a modified version. I’d want to restore this thing to bone-stock spec, but that’s just me.

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This thing is fast, up to 55 miles an hour fast! Ok, now I can see why the former owner put this one away so their kids didn’t get hurt. That’s an 18 hp Kohler engine. Rupp fell on hard times in the early-1970s and sold out to an investment group and subsequently changed engines for the Go-Joe. They were available with an 8 hp engine but went to a Kohler 18 hp which is quite an upgrade. The seller says that this two-stroke needs a little more adjustment before it’ll run perfectly. What do you think of this fun, fast little machine? I would want to restore it back to stock spec, but I’m funny that way (not “ha-ha” funny, more like oddball funny). Have any of you ever owned, ridden, or even seen a Rupp Go-Joe before?


  1. Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

    Nice find, Scotty! I have wanted a Ruppster ever since I got a tour of the Ruppster factory when I was 8 or 9. Anyone have one?

    Like 1
    • Scotty G Staff

      Jamie, I’m jealous, that would have been a life-changing tour for a kid! It would be great to have a collection of all sorts of Rupps, they had so many different models.

      Like 1
    • Bobette

      Was looking up the gojo came across this thread. My dad bought us one when we were kids. I just found out he still has it after all these years. I’m in Arkansas. It’s in california. Was looking to see if it was worth bringing it back here

      Like 0
      • Rick Abrams

        in my opinion it would be. my dad bought his brand new and i’ve worked on it all my life. it’s now finally complete and runs great. if you’ve driven it before you know it’s not a regular quad.

        Like 0
    • Tom Hamminga

      yes i have one it’s a little ruff but all there except the rear axle and differential somebody put a 330 2- stroke on it and blew the diff. It has been outside but, I live in socal so it’s not that bad.👍she is for sale!cheap!

      Like 0
  2. JW

    Never had one but wouldn’t mind tinkering with this one BUT 3K is a little steep for me. It’s actually near my mom’s home town of Alton, Illinois.

    Like 1
  3. Fred W.

    I remember the minibikes well, they were definitely a step up from the Sears catalog units in my neighborhood and had a sporty chrome gas tank. Always hated Tecumseh engines though, even as an 8 year old kid I was a Briggs and Stratton fan, they always started right up.

    Like 1
  4. Blindmarc

    Never saw one before. That’s really cool!

    Like 0
  5. packrat

    Fifty five miles an hour ( 0_o ). Okay, this is fuel for another one of those FB meme posts we’ve shared about growing up without modern helicopter parents and “somehow we survived anyway, hahaha”. If these had been a big thing in my area when I was growing up, I definitely envision more of the older teenage guys I tried to hang around with becoming rollers before their graduation ceremony– or even being the grainy photo centerpiece for that year’s high school annual dedication page. We had *enough* Life-Changing Incidents And Regrets from the virulent formula of Hormones, winding Riverside Drive, and 350/455 engines. Still memorable life lessons with a higher survival rate were routinely dished out from bouts of Banana Seat Bicycles vs. Storm Drains…and, in winter, Sleds vs. Concrete Culverts.

    Like 1
  6. John K

    I have no recollection of the ATVs they made, growing up in Maine the focus was snow mobiles. The Rupp Nitro was a very capable machine for its day. In high school I had a Scorpion Stinger and my friend had a Rupp Nitro 440. He would leave me in the (snow covered) weeds.

    Like 0
    • Howard A Member

      Hi John, coming from Wis. our focus was snowmobiles too. We didn’t see a lot of Rupp’s other products, such as this, but if you had a Rupp Nitro, you meant business. I too had a Scorpion ( Super Stinger 400) and it was an awful sled.

      Like 0
  7. Schwag

    That looks like a lot of fun! No clue where I would drive it legally in the suburbs, but it seems pretty rad.

    Like 0

    The Rupp name brings back memories. My old man bought me a Rupp mini bike when I was a kid. It had to be 71-72 I believe it was a Ruppster It had the mag wheels. Non springer and no jackshaft scrub rear brake. It was blue and had a chrome gas tank round like a 1/2 lb coffee can. Reliable high winding Tecumseh power.

    Knowing the old man it had to be the least expensive Rupp had to offer in fact had to be cheaper then what Sears had. At the time Huffy drag bikes with 5 speed shifters AND mini bikes were kings of the street.

    On the purchase of the Rupp I think the old man was trying to make up after buying me the Sears mens’s 27″ 3 speed for Christmas because it had been on sale for $39 I was in the 3rd. grade. With help (and my package on the cross bar instead of the seat I could ride it! Stopping I had to jump off. To say the old man was thrifty is an understatement.
    Where we lived no one had a Schwinn it was Huffy’s often branded as Grants A kid a few blocks away had to grow up with greatness. He had the holy grail of bikes. His older brothers Huffy Wheel or simply The Wheel. Had a metalflake steering wheel and a sissy bar a mile high. Still cool and trumps any Schwinn Sting Ray
    We lived in city but there were a lot of areas to ride usually in areas that were in ruin. My family lived in a very tough neighborhood. As a kid you have no idea how bad. Sadly the Rupp was short lived as it was stolen. I never saw it again….Yes they got the Sears mens 27″ 3 spd too which may be a good thing. I might never have had kids of my own
    Great find. $3000 seems fair. A cross between a Snow Mobile ATV Go kart with Black Widow handlebars. Near mint condition. What’s not to throw money at?

    Like 0
  9. Howard A Member

    While no stranger to the Rupp name, I never saw this. Rupp was the king for a while. I had a good friend that had a Rupp Roadster mini bike. Coolest mini bike ever. IDK about the Kohler motor, as I’d have done the “Asian” 2 cycle thing, but this is pretty cool. I agree with Packrat, 55 is a little optimistic, but I’m sure it does 40, and that’s really moving on something like this. Great find Scotty ( what, no more “G”?)

    Like 0
    • Scotty Staff

      Thanks, Howard! I’m not sure where the G went, I didn’t even notice that!

      Like 0
  10. Travis

    Hey Scotty thanks for the cool story. Very well written. I will say you did get one of your facts wrong though. The go Joe pictured is the 18 hp go Joe. They only came in white. There was another go Joe mini that was red and about 8 hp. The mini had the gas tank in the back. This larger one has the tank under the seat. This larger go Joe is so large it will fill a bed of a full size truck. These sold for $1100 new in 1973. One more interesting fact is they all had what looked to be stress cracks brand new. What it was though was cracks in the gell coat. That is what this one seems to have.

    Like 0
    • Scotty Staff

      Thanks, Travis!
      In doing research I read that the Go-Joe Mini had a 3.5 hp and the regular Go-Joe had an 8hp Chrysler! Then I read that after the company sold out they went with a Kohler 18 hp, and then there’s the white vs. red. A couple of sources mentioned that they only came in red and there’s a photo of a white one, that you and Brian Crowe mentioned; confusing.. Thanks for the great info!

      Like 0
      • John

        The go joes did in fact come in 3 different models which include mini go joes which had the 8hp Kohler than the full size go joe that had the Chrysler motor or a Kohler 295 motor which where only red than last but not least the 18 Kohler with the white bodies!!! I have both that I’m working on the 18hp had little lights electric start and gas tank was farther back under the seat other than those few changes that’s about all that’s different between the models!

        Like 0
      • Adam

        My uncle was a dealer for Rupp. I have the original 8hp go joe in my garage. They offered only the 8hp in red and the 15hp with lights and electric start in white. The 3.5 mini go joe was 3.5hp. All were available when I was a kid. We had one of each. Also, they only made 300 of them.

        Like 0
      • Phil Secrist

        I have a go-jo and it came with the Chrysler 8 hp engine. The thing is huge and has the gas tank under the seat. I’m planning on doing a full restore on it but I can’t find parts. It is also a pull start. The only wiring is a kill switch on the handle bar. I’ve had the thing since the 90’s. I used to have the centaur and ruppster too but sold them back in the late 80’s. If anybody knows where the parts are hiding let me know. Thanks

        Like 1
  11. Phillip Secrist

    I have an original unrestored go joe. It came with the Chrysler motor but was in pieces. I have had it setting around for years. I could never find the parts to restore it. If anyone knows where I can find OEM parts I would really like to hear from you. I put a Briggs in it 25 years ago and rode around but that engine is also long gone. By the way, mine is factory red.

    Like 0
  12. phil z

    i have a 100% complete 72 go joe 18 the 18hp go joes are white the standard 8hp go joe is red and the 3 1/2 or 4 hp go joe mini also came in red my 18hp will do about 45 mph but is scary no suspension got mine from original owner with all paperwork ride it in parades gets lots of comments

    Like 0
  13. mike

    I use to sell Rupp Go-Jos. The models came out with an 8hp West bend motor. The later model did come With an 18hp kohler motor. The 8hp would about 35 mph and were very stable to ride on. The later models would do about 60+mph. They came with a title so we contacted the Minnesota auto license department to if they could licensed as a car. They said yes as long as they had a headlight/taillight, a horn and directional lights, of which we added to make them legal. We sold about 9 or 10 of them in southern MN. My son still has a Black Widow Minnie bike. I wish I had one of the Go-Jos yet, they were fun to ride.

    Like 0
  14. rick

    there were quite the off road vehicle. no suspension, just hang on. my father bought a white one and i’m now rebuilding it. mine is nothing close to original like the one posted.
    i’ll post before/after pics

    Like 0
  15. Jeremy Smith

    I actually owned one. It was white from the factory. It’s was fun!! I’m obviously kicking myself for selling it

    Like 0
  16. Rick Abrams

    thats too bad. i’ve had many people stop by and ask to buy mine.

    Like 0
  17. Richard Timm

    I have one if you are interested!

    Like 0
  18. Tom Hamminga

    yes i have one it’s a little ruff but all there except the rear axle and differential somebody put a 330 2- stroke on it and blew the diff. It has been outside but, I live in socal so it’s not that bad.👍she is for sale!cheap!

    Like 0

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