One Fun Find: 1971 Sears and Roebuck Funderbird

When you think Barn Finds, you probably think of an original rare car that has been squirreled away for years and finally, after an interminable slumber, it sees the light of day again. Well, those might seem like the most fun, but sometimes we come across something that will be incredibly fun in a barn that isn’t a rare car. In this case, it’s pretty rare, has four wheels and a gas-powered engine, but isn’t a car. It’s a 1971 Sears & Roebuck Funderbird go-cart, located in Grand Junction, Colorado and for sale here on craigslist for $650. Thanks to Ikey H. for the tip!

For many of us in years past, Sears & Roebuck was the place to go for everything and I mean everything, including go-carts. I remember calling their order number on a Saturday, placing an order and whatever was requested would show up at catalog pickup by Tuesday afternoon. It probably seems pretty Jurassic compared to today’s Amazon Prime but it was impressive 50 years ago. I recall what I would consider to be a traditional, steel-frame, flat -bottomed go-cart sold by Sears but I have no recollection of a fiberglass-bodied Funderbird, so let’s take a closer look.

For power, the Funderbird used what so many go-carts and mini-bikes sourced for power, a Briggs & Stratton, horizontal shaft motor. These were, and still are, very simple, durable engines. Like everything else, they have become more complicated today, but back in 1971, they were simple enough that an adolescent with few tools and a lick of mechanical sense could keep maintained and running. And I can remember a few friend’s fathers who wondered on a Saturday morning what happened to the engine that was on his lawnmower. The seller claims this Funderbird runs great and it has the correct era 5 HP B&S engine so it sounds like it’s date correct but not matching numbers…

Not a whole lot to check out on the inside, just a single seat that is the original 48-year-old black bucket. Considering the passage of time and changing people’s dimensions, this could be tight-fight for drivers both young and old today.

The fiberglass body gives off a Meyers Manx dune buggy vibe. The seller indicates that there is a big scrape in the fiberglass finish which wouldn’t surprise me at all considering who and how these things were used. The orange meta-flake fiberglass finish, however, still looks pretty sharp.

This morning I read an Associated Press article about Sears’ continuing woes; the future doesn’t look good for any real sense of a return to health for the one-time retailing giant. While Sears and its merchandise model doesn’t seem to be competitive anymore, I’ll miss it when it’s gone. You can go on-line and still find go-carts sold by Sears but they’re not Sears’ merchandise, it’s just Sears’ website selling someone else’s product – they’re just another on-line conduit in this case. And the carts that are listed appear to be all electric – a sign of the times, I guess. Many communities now allow golf-carts to wander their paved road-ways, not particularly exciting. Why drive a golf-cart like everyone else when you can terrorize your community with this hip, old-school Sears & Roebuck Funderbird?

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Comments

  1. Dave Mika

    Almost worth a jaunt over the hill from from Denver…

    Like 3
  2. That AMC guy

    It’s a shame, Sears was the Amazon if its time and for people living in rural areas the Sears catalog was a lifeline. Sears was in a position to be a huge player in online retailing and unfortunately flubbed the opportunity.

    In any event, this is a great-looking go-kart and the 12-year-old in me would buy this in a flash if it was nearby!

    Like 11
  3. Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

    I would’ve been the toughest kid in the neighborhood with one of these to tootle around in. Cool lines. I had to resign myself to a tube frame with B&S engine but at least I had a two-seater! Now everybody wants to 4-wheel on dirt trails and neighborhood streets aren’t safe for contraptions like this. I also rigged a few free wheeling soapbox racers to roam the streets after finding the best pitched driveways for launching.

    Like 4
  4. Mike Jasperson

    I have the same body and color. No cart just the body in great shape. A few minor scratches but in excellent shape for sale if anyone is looking for one.

    Like 7
  5. AnalogMan

    This totally catapulted me back in time to my 13 year old self. I spent way too many hours drooling over the offerings in the Sears catalogs of the time, but I don’t remember ever seeing this beauty. It would have absolutely been my adolescent dream. I just can’t understand how my 13 year old nephew prefers his iPhone to something like this. I guess that just makes me a curmudgeonly geezer. But I would have had a helluva good time in a kart like this. The neighborhood would have been a much more dangerous place if I was terrorizing the sidewalks in this… (I did a pretty good job of that with the minibike I bought at 14 from our local Sears, with money I saved from working since age 12).

    Like 16
  6. Sam61

    Get out the fez and some clip on sabre earrings and have your Shriner Parade unit.

    Like 1
  7. emeltz Member

    No doubt I drooled over these in the wish book as a kid.

    Like 4
  8. Howard A Member

    It amazes me the lack of safety equipment on these. Guess we were a lot tougher then. We took many a lump, but it was all in good fun. This does look like a lot of fun for a kid, if any crybaby parent would let their kid ride it today, that is.

    Like 16
    • Robbie M.

      Correctamundo Howard. Isn’t it amazing how we all survived back then! Today parents wrap their kids in bubble wrap and then wonder why they can’t cope when they “grow up”. Government intervention and greedy lawyers haven’t helped either. I sorta feel sorry for kids today, they don’t know the fun and adventure they are missing out on.

      Like 13
  9. Joe Joo

    My brother and I had one of these in the 70’s. Had so much fun riding around the neighborhood. On one occasion, I enlisted the help of a couple buddies to do Pit Stops for me (consisting of squirting a Windex on the body and wiping it off). Then doing timed laps around the block. My dad caught wind of this from the neighbors and asked me what my times were, he then proceeded to drive his car around the block to figure distance/speed. If memory serves me correctly I was averaging 23mph…and promptly GROUNDED me from riding it for the rest of the ‘Racing Season’.

    It was totally deserved…and totally worth it. At age 10, this cemented my ridiculous passion for racing.

    Like 8
    • Jason Neal

      Did you ever attach a tow rope and drag your buddies around on a skateboard or a homemade deathtrap?

      Like 4
  10. snarky

    I agree with you guys, kids today don’t know what they are missing. i got my tube frame go-kart when i was 9, it had a washing machine engine on it, no clutch, push it to start it, it was soon upgraded to a 3hp B&S with a clutch, what fun. a friend ran it into the school building, my sister ran under my brother (it was too low to drive over him). That was the 60’s, bumps , bruises and scars. That’s what kids WERE made of. This would be so much fun, I wonder if i would fit in it now.

    Like 8
  11. rod444

    12 yr old me is getting giddy just thinking about this kart…

    See the brakes on it? Not drum or disc but metal pads that press against the front of the rear tire. Primitive but effective.

    Like 5
    • Howard A Member

      I saw that too. One step up from grinding your PF Flyers into the ground.

      Like 3
  12. Scott Houston

    Sears had a good mini-bike selection too. I used to stare at the catalog….and dream.

    Like 4
    • stanley kwiecinski

      first minibike dad bought used; That i begged for at 8th. grade graduation.Had 3.5hp. Tecumseh. not fast enough! put a 4hp B&S more torque but took to long to gain speed.Like a 440 Mopar. put a Clinton 3.5hp on it? bingo! like a small block chevy! Was a sears frame.Got a Goldblatts frame lighter with the Clinton and scrub rear brakes almost hurt my self! Great fun.

  13. Johnmloghry Johnmloghry Member

    In or around 1985 I bought my step kids a go kart that had a Mercedes body, transmission with reverse and two forward gears. It had a 5 h.p. Engine. Those kids rode that Little kart to death. I also got them a little mini bike, they terrorized the neighborhood.
    I lived my childhood dreams through the precariousness of those two delinquents.
    Billy has not done well in adult life, but his sister Maggie now owns an insurance agency and several rental houses in Miami, Florida.
    God bless America

    Like 3
  14. SteveO

    Back in the day, we called those, “Scrub Brakes”. Had them on my go-cart too.

    Like 1
    • Rod444

      I had similar on my Soap Box Derby car. Except the ‘stop pad’ scraped the ground not a tire. From experience I can attest that not only is that highly ineffective but if you panic and press the brake really hard it will lift the rear of the car right off the ground and you lose steering control. Thus the stitches on my right hand when I hit a tree. Ah the old days were exciting lol

      Like 2

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