Vintage Go-Kart: 1959 Royal Norseman

Sometimes it can be a question of available space, while it can be a matter of cost at others. Those are two of the countless reasons why some people will choose not to allow a classic vehicle into their lives. However, some alternatives are worth considering. The world of classic Go-Karts is growing in popularity, and we’ve seen a few examples over the years here at Barn Finds. This 1959 Royal Norseman would appear to be the most affordable that we’ve featured, and as you will soon discover, it is probably the most versatile. If you’re starting to feel tempted, you will find the Norseman located in Lake Station, Indiana, and listed for sale here on Facebook. The purchase price will not break the bank because you could let this classic into your life by handing the owner a mere $150. I have to say a huge thank you to Barn Finder Jeff C for spotting this little beauty for us.

The Royal Norseman was the product of Rocco Products, Inc, of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Constructed from tubular steel, it might appear to be relatively light, but it is a case of appearance being deceptive. The company stated that it was rated to carry a person who tipped the scales at 240lbs. Rocco Products offered the Norseman to buyers in several variations. The entry-level came as a roller with no engine. This version cost its buyer the princely sum of $39.95. Many buyers chose this option because the curved bar on the back of the Kart was designed to be pushed, and the Kart could be viewed as an alternative to a homemade soapbox racer. It also represented a sensible way of developing skills in inexperienced people before setting them loose under their own steam. From there, buyers could select a Norseman with a two-stroke engine for $99.95 or a more powerful four-stroke Briggs & Stratton for $129.95. However, that wasn’t the end of its versatility because Rocco Products also claimed that owners could remove the wheels in winter and transform the Kart into a bobsled! This Norseman looks to be in good condition. The frame appears to be sturdy, and there’s no evidence of welds or other repair work. The wheels that it rolls on don’t appear original, but the front ones aren’t far off the mark. Potential buyers might be able to locate a genuine set with a bit of persistence, but I’m sure that not many people would object if it were left as-is. The red paint that the frame wears is similar to the original color, and while some Karts were delivered with White wheels, others featured Black or the same red as on the frame. The seat is missing its original cushions, but the steering wheel is correct.

The owner has equipped this Norseman with a Briggs & Stratton single-cylinder engine, which is similar to what some buyers would’ve chosen in 1959. In such a light vehicle, that offered the potential for some pretty lively performance. In a bid to contain prices, the braking system was about as basic as they come. It consisted of a hand-lever that brought a rod onto each rear wheel to work as friction brakes. It’s a basic concept, but it seemed to be effective. The owner says that the motor on this Kart would kick into life on starter fluid until the cord snapped. Now it doesn’t run, but parts for Briggs & Stratton motors are cheap and easy to find. So getting it running again should be easy.

I have previously talked about tackling projects involving the entire family, and some of these are more viable than others. This 1959 Royal Norseman could potentially be the ultimate parent/child project. It is a straightforward machine that is about as affordable as projects can get. If you want to nurture the classic machinery passion in a young person, handing them this Go-Kart as a project that they can tackle themselves could represent the perfect starting point. Of course, if you want to buy it to rekindle older memories and satisfy your inner child, I can understand that too. If I lived closer, I would be tempted to do that myself.


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  1. Howard A Member

    Proof positive, BarnFinds is in my head somehow. Just wait until this goes off Early Access( can’t send “EA” to non members) it will simply blow my brothers mind. When we were kids, I was maybe 10 or 11, my brother is 2 years older than me, this would have been ’65 or ’66, WE HAD THIS EXACT KART,,,sorry for the exclamation, but I never in a million years thought I’d ever see one again. Not sure how we got it, the tip off was the loop bars and the brakes. I’m pretty sure it was belt drive, no clutch, so it was start it on a block of wood, shove and GO! Stopping wasn’t a concern, as we’d do a loop in the garage, and head back down the drive. Drove our neighbors, the Leightfelders( sp?) nuts. Up and down that drive a million times, but they never complained. We’d put a little drain oil on the floor and do smoking burnouts and the motor, a 2 3/4 Briggs, burned a ton of oil, adding to the fun. Noise back then wasn’t as offensive as today. The way my folks figured, noise meant everything was okay, it’s silence that was a concern. Sorry for the windy post, but this really hits a nerve. Never knew the brand, so I put that one to rest. Unbelievable way to start the day. Thanks, Adam!!

    Like 30
    • Terrry

      Can you imagine that without the Briggs engine and a couple of full-sized McCulloch chainsaw motors instead?

      Like 3
    • stillrunners stillrunners Member

      Actually bought one at an estate sale a few years back. Looked at it once – then went back again and on the third look I had to save it from some dumb kid. Found a sales brochure for it on Ebay and took it to the Pate Swap Meet the next year. Of all things my neighbor across the street at the Swap meet saw it and just had to have it. Later the next day he brought a picture of him and his sister – a black and white from 1961 with her pushing him – they didn’t have a motor on it yet. Funny stuff….

      Like 4
  2. unclemymy Member

    Add a seat belt – that center steering wheel support bar is scary, should one not stop quickly enough!

    Like 3
  3. Raymond

    I can make this in an hour outta scrap….how is this collectable?

    Like 1
    • Howard A Member

      Aw, come on, Raymond, weren’t you ever a kid? Not many 10 year olds had access to a welder in the 60’s, even though this is bolted and this was as good as it got. Sheesh!

      Like 17
      • 370zpp 370zpp Member

        Howard, As a kid – around the same time as you, almost every kid’s dream was to have a go cart and a tree house.
        I had a very used, non running go cart for a brief time and never had a tree house.

        Like 2
    • Dennis6605

      Raymond on 6/12/21 there was a 1958 Yazoo Drag Cart on BAT that sold for $2287. It looks a lot like this thing.

  4. Alan Brase

    This would be an entry level “Yard go-kart”. built soon after the cart craze began, like 1958-59, I think. Within a few years, there were quite evolved designs and even more evolved power, from the major chain saw engine manufacturers, then later some European companies. By the mid 1960’s, they were seeing 130mph top speeds on asphalt tracks.
    Still a great way to enter motor racing. Pretty sure F1 driver Hamilton was a karting champ.
    Nothing wrong with this, especially for entry level, but still get your kid to put on a helmet. ALL race car drivers know this. Next car for kiddo will be WAY more money.

    Like 2
  5. Ike Onick

    “Get off my lawn!! I’m calling the cops!!”

    – Mr. Leightfelder

    Like 6
  6. Philip Grover

    I had this very one- yes they were well made! Used it as a coaster for years, built several wooden bodies for it.
    When I got older, started fitting cast-off lawn mower engines. The first several were dogs, but then the little McCullogh 2-stroke with the tuned exhaust was just the ticket. Direct drive at first, then I was able to afford a centrifugal clutch. Had so much fun with it over the years, thanks for the posting and the memories!

    Like 5
  7. matt

    You lucky dog !!!
    How cool that you got to race around on that Kart when you were a kid !!!!
    What a blast that must have been !!

    Like 5
    • Howard A Member

      Hi matt, I know I make my old man out to be a monster, but he did do some cool things that interested us. While my brother mentioned, my dad found it, probably for free, and might have known, a go-kart teaches some valuable driving experience, surely to be called on later on in life. Also, he knew, tinkering on something motorized helped him, as me and my brother became the “mechanics” of the family. These were cheap, and I found an ad from the time.”And can be converted to a bobsled in winter”,,,WOW!! Covered all the bases! Leave it to the Minnesotians,,
      Re: The neighbors. They were German immigrants, his brother ( the guy with the mint ’55 Chevy we never saw until he died) lived across the street, I think, never had kids. I’m sure he was in manufacturing, a huge draw for people coming to America. Milwaukee was the leader in factories, and many immigrants had a good life. He was probably used to noise at work. Besides, had he yelled at us, it would have been more like” Geh von meinem Rasen runter”,,

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