Stunning Vintage: Dexon Dragon Go-Kart

If you work your way through the Honor Roll of the most successful names in international motorsport, you will find that many of them share a similar trait. That is that a high percentage commenced their motorsport careers behind the wheel of a go-kart. This is easy to understand because it is a form of competition that emphasizes driver skills. Most karts throughout the sport’s history have been built using tubular frames. The Dexon Dragon was different, and finding one today is a rare treat. I have to say a huge thank you to Barn Finder Chuck F for spotting this fantastic survivor for us. The Dragon is located in Lynchburg, Virginia, and has been listed for sale here on Facebook. If you hand the owner a mere $600, you can take this one away.

Go-kart design and construction has followed a tried-and-true construction formula for decades. Manufacturers fabricate frames from tubular Chromoly steel, and a floor of aluminum or composite material is attached. From there, components like the seat are bolted down to this base. When the Dexon Dragon first appeared in 1961, it was nothing short of sensational. It was the brainchild of Dexon Manufacturing of South Minneapolis, Minnesota. The entire frame, floor, and seat were cast in a single piece from aluminum. The result was a light and sturdy machine that looked like no kart that had come before it. The downside of this technique was that any accident damage was usually not financially viable to repair. This one shows no evidence of prior damage, and it has been polished to a wonderful shine. It is missing the seat padding that was part of the package, but a good upholsterer should be able to produce a copy for the buyer. The wheels and tires that it rolls on also aren’t correct, but most vintage kart organizations could help the buyer source the right components.

Dexon produced several versions of the Dragon, but this one was designed more for family use than for competition. There were variations in front-end and steering system design that made them relatively easy to tell apart. The Dragon is not mechanically complete, but it does feature a Briggs & Stratton engine of 1950s vintage. This looks tidy, but there is no indication of whether it will run. The buyer will have a shopping list of pieces if they want to drive the kart. There is no fuel tank, lines, or throttle cable. The buyer will also need to source a chain-drive and sprockets, but the big-ticket item is the lack of a braking system. Once again, the buyer might have to rely on a vintage kart association to locate the correct parts to get the vehicle to a driveable state.

The Dexon Dragon offered a ground-breaking go-kart design, but this came at a cost. For anyone who chose to compete with one of these beauties, they cost a not inconsiderable 40% more than machines offered by other manufacturers. Repairing accident damage could also be prohibitively expensive, so while they were theoretically a cut above the competition, they were ultimately unsuccessful. Getting this one to a functional state would be possible, but I can’t help but think that its fate rests in becoming an interesting piece of garage art. What do you think?

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  1. RayT Member

    The sheer audacity of the design makes me want to buy this. And $600 isn’t all that far above the original $349 price for a full-boat version back in the day.

    I was able to find a period ad for the Dragon online, but couldn’t enlarge it enough to figure out details like the gas tank, brakes, etc. I’m certain an old-time go-kart enthusiast could help the new owner figure it out.

    I wonder how it stacks up to a standard tube-frame kart weight-wise? I could see it inspiring someone to get crazy with carbon fiber for a new lighter-weight kart.

    I always wanted to race karts when I was a kid. My dad didn’t dig the idea, though. And that might have been a good thing. Later, I wanted to race real cars, but found a spectacular lack of talent holding me back….

    Still, this is neat!

    Like 11
  2. BlondeUXB Member

    “… behind the wheel of a go-cart.”
    Didn’t most all of us start there… ?

    Like 11
  3. Al_Bundy Member

    Ray T & BlondeUXB, I Agree…Now the rambling begins !

    Started there to be sure…about 7-8 years old, say 1978 when my buddy’s dad took us to a park on the outskirts of Columbus, OH on a summer night. Pedal to the floor, never even driven a cart. We bragged about going 80 mph when we likely never exceeded 20. I don’t even recall if we had helmets on. Couple of spin outs but nothing serious.

    ‘I always wanted to race karts when I was a kid. My dad didn’t dig the idea, though. And that might have been a good thing. Later, I wanted to race real cars, but found a spectacular lack of talent holding me back….’

    Just as well Ray, here we live to write about it !

    Guessing the kart hasn’t had too hard of a life since a frame like that only bends once. Certainly check it for stress cracks. Likely had slicks on magnesium wheels in the day. Great feature guys !

    Like 4
    • Hairball

      My dad turned me loose in his 69 Superbee dirt car on a racetrack when I was 11. Best dad ever.

      Like 13
  4. alphasud Member

    What an innovative design! Never heard or seen one and $600 seems like a bargain for something so rare. The Briggs looks period and likely the original engine. I think this would be a lot of fun for a father and son or daughter to finish the details and have fun in a vacant mall parking lot on a Sunday.

    Like 7
    • Howard A Member

      Ha, that dates you, my friend, malls are packed on Sunday, not like years ago, when it was considered a sin to shop on Sundays. In Milwaukee in the 70’s, they had “gymkanas” in vacant lots. Liability and loss of revenue on a Sunday put that to an end.

      Like 6
      • alphasud Member

        I used the mall as a reference. Most malls have gone the way of the dodo bird leaving behind empty parking lots. And yes you are correct I am old!

        Like 6
  5. Joshua Mortensen Staff

    If I thought I’d fit on it, I would have already bought this kart! It looks like you could even mount a 2nd engine to it for some serious fun. It would definitely need some type of seat cushion and restraints though, so you don’t come flying out. Hmm, this is tempting. Have any of you experienced one of these? If so, how does it compare to a Rupp Dart size wise?

    Like 2
  6. Howard A Member

    I don’t know, this looks like a toy you’d get at Farm and Barn. Could use a drive chain, for best results, and that seat will shine, from your axx sliding around on it. Nice. It’s a poor example of a go-kart, with wheel barrow tires and little, if any brakes, but for all out fun, be one happy kid, if the parents don’t sue for lack of safety equipment. Your neighbors gonna love that straight pipe,,,

    Like 4
    • Al_Bundy Member

      A message of inspiration to all of us from Howard !

      Enjoy that straight pipe neighbor…

      Like 3
  7. Jeffo

    Who needs brakes?

    Like 5
  8. Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

    That’s one wild looking exhaust sans muffler…appears to be conduit or plumbing pipe. This cart would get a lot of attention but on a hot summer day one’s little youthful legs and back would sear to the reflective metal.

    Like 1
    • grant

      It’s a black iron pipe, used for natural gas.

  9. Steve

    Spent a lot of time cutting classes in Coney Island riding the go-karts around the Steeplechase parachute jump. Aahh the life of a juvenile delinquent growing up in Brooklyn.

    Like 5
  10. Dave

    This is another “Not a Barn Find”

    • PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

      That’s cool by me, and many other readers here.

      Keep the oddball stuff coming, please!

      Like 8
    • Al_Bundy Member

      This is another “Not a Barn Find reader” that does not understand the premise of the site.

      Like 6
  11. Joe Haska

    Howard, you really don’t get it, or do you just like getting a rise out of everyone. This is no doubt one of the “Koolest” go karts on the planet. If the first person who saw it didn’t buy it, that is no doubt, the dumbest person on the planet

    Like 2
    • Howard A Member

      I didn’t say it wasn’t cool, Joe, just as a go-kart, it’s a beginners model and I’ve been on way cooler karts. My nephew and his son had a cheapie side by side kart, similar construction, I think only one rear wheel brake, on the maiden voyage, It got going way too fast, came to a corner, hit the brake, and it barely slowed and they dumped it in the ditch. Poorly engineered. No injuries, and they haven’t ridden it since, but my nephew found out, in karts, you get what you pay for. And no, I don’t get off on “getting a rise” out of people, a la FB. I think,,, I tell the truth and people just don’t want to hear it.

      Like 2
  12. Sam61

    How many beer cans do you need to smelt?

    Like 1
  13. 370zpp

    I don’t know about the rest of you but the initial thought that came to me while looking at that first picture was “Paint roller tray with a corner mounted Briggs”.

    Like 4
  14. Ike Onick

    Cool- A High-Performance cafeteria tray!

    Like 4
  15. Kenn

    Sprockets are there. Big one on the wheel, small one on the centrifugal clutch.

  16. Chuck Foster Chuck Foster

    When I saw it I had a battle with my Acquire Anything on Wheels OCD, I resisted even though it is so cool looking, label me dumb LOL.

  17. Frank

    Let the buyer beware – those look like Harbor Fraud tires, which are guaranteed to blow up at a moments notice. I tried to make my kids a go kart using those tires, they lasted about an 2 hours. On the other hand, there are a few Harbor Fraud products that last, but I couldn’t recommend them for a variety of reasons.

  18. Frank

    I also once added a piece of 3/4″ black pipe to the exhaust on my Briggs and Stratton minibike like this guy did. I got about a 1/4 mile before I cooked the engine because of backpressure.

    Like 1
  19. 370zpp

    Sorry to disagree Frank but I have had relatively good luck with Harbor F. products including a replacement set of tires and wheels for a small boat trailer.
    I also used to (carefully) buy from J.C. Whitney back in the day.

    Like 4
  20. vintagehotrods

    It’s gone! Likely sold to the first guy that saw it! I loved it at first sight. I grew up on a farm a mile away from the Warpath Go-Kart Raceway west of Sioux Falls, SD. They rented karts and I spent all I could to be out there on the paved road course, but with a 10 year old’s pocket money I didn’t get many rides. They had weekly races for all the hot rodders in the 60’s that couldn’t afford to race dirt track or drag cars cars while married and raising a family. To my young eyes there was some pretty exotic stuff flying around that track, I think the twin engined two stroke McCulloch’s got my attention the most. I can still smell the sweet two stroke Blendzall bean oil they ran in them. My Dad even surprised us and went to Sears Roebuck and bought my brother and I a little go-kart with with about a 2 HP Briggs and Stratton engine on it. We (mostly me) wore that poor thing out in short order. My brother was more into hunting, trapping and riding our horse, so I got to spend most of the time on it and that probably helped make me the gearhead I still am today. The boom in karting was a fad and died out after a few years and us kids would sometimes go out and walk the crumbling pavement of the Warpath track after it closed, reliving its former glory. Those were the days!

    Like 3
  21. Bill McCoskey

    I’m not surprised it sold fast, the engine alone was worth $500 if it was new or rebuilt. There were [I think] 3 versions of the Dragon, all cast alloy, with different mounting points for various engines.

    About 2012 I bought a huge hoard; a 15,000 square foot hardware store, farm store, marine store, and other “mechanical” stuff the store’s owner tried to sell over the years. The store closed about 1966, he simply unplugged the Coke machine, turned off the lights, and locked the doors. I bought it all, but not the building.

    One of the rooms was where he kept the “small” engines. Mostly Wisconsin brands, from 1 to 4 cylinder units [still have a couple of V4 Wisconsin and Kohler units, still on the pallets, unused but dirty], I even had several larger single cylinder diesel boat engines [for Chesapeake bay “working boats”, The type of engine that will run all day; Thump – Thump – Thump. [Sold all of these.]

    The guy also attended military surplus auctions at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, and there was tons of obsolete military stuff. I still have quite a few specialty air-cooled 1 cylinder engines, mostly for generator sets, tank heaters [?], and even a complete 1920s Kohler 4-cylinder generator unit, complete with hand crank. Plus a new, never used ONAN 120 VAC generator [no motor], plate says “Onan division, Studebaker Corp.”

    Oh, almost forgot The 1950 Schramm-Ford V-8 compressor, mounted to a 2-wheel trailer. That’s an unusual set-up, the Schramm Brothers invented a set of Ford Flathead heads & manifolds that converted war surplus Ford V8 engines into a V4 gas engine & V4 air compressor, using the same engine! It’s basically complete, and shows a total of only 19 run hours.

    I’m still looking for homes for the above big-boy toys.

    There was a wall of what could best be called go-kart motors; Clinton, Porter, Partner, McCulloch, 1 & 2 cyl Kohler, and a very high performance kart engine from Germany with a name that started with D [I can’t remember the exact name], but they all sold really fast!

    All the small go-kart engines, being new & unused, sold for $500 and up, as well as all the other karting supplies.

    But the best engines I found in the hoard were SEVEN WW2 Indian Chief motorcycle engine & gearbox units, still in their original wood cases marked with Indian’s shipping info, these were “Exchange ready” units. Sold them within a couple of hours of arriving back at my farm with them, didn’t even have to offload ’em from the trailer!

    And while I’m thinking about it, There is an Evinrude outboard parts inventory, and a Wisconsin engine parts inventory, but only selling complete inventories, not by the piece.

    Like 3
    • vintagehotrods

      Now that’s the best comment I’ve read here today! I’d love to see all that inventory before you emptied out the store. You must have a very strong back!

      • Bill McCoskey

        Almost 9 years later and I’m still emptying it out. It was a friend’s father who owned the building and business, he told me it was OK to take my time, he just doesn’t have the time to oversee individual sales, and doesn’t want to leave it all for his kids to deal with it.

        Strong back? Not anymore! It also helps that there is a forklift, and a tractor with a bucket up front.

        At this point I’ve got great deals on what’s left!

        Like 2
  22. Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

    No Tecumseh go cart engines, Bill? My one and only cart experience was with a bench-seat DIY job I bought from a lawnmower repair guy. Don’t recall much other than I’d never heard of a Tecumseh (even in history class). Cart was a hit with the neighborhood kids who loved hopping aboard and me thrashing enough to perhaps throw them off at slow speed. I was ten years old. Traded for my first 10 speed touring bike.

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