Are you looking to cram as much performance as you can into the smallest chassis imaginable? Well, look no further than the Schwartz Performance “Skart,” an LS1-powered go-kart with all of the right gear to keep things under control.
We recently caught up with Dale Schwartz, who claims to have come up with the idea for Project Skart way back in 2012, after messing around with the Schwartz Performance “G-Machine” chassis in Photoshop. Dale says it was not until he cut a section out of the car to expose its innards that he realized how helpful it would be to have a fully operational display, thus showcasing both the brand’s house-made chassis and sponsored products, as well.
At the time, exo-karts were increasing in popularity, most of which were little more than hacked-up Miata, Nissan S14, BMW, and Lexus street cars, which in turn had been reinforced with a full cage for strength and safety. However, Dale found most of these builds to either be poorly done and unsafe, utterly hideous or some combination of the two. Designed to be cheap, fun, and easy to maintain, exo-karts are like a LEGO Technic kit for big kids, and Dale Schwartz knew that he could make the ultimate Mario Kart. Unfortunately, his father did not agree with this notion, dismissing it as a waste of time and resources, thus crushing Dale’s dream of building a Skart from scratch.
Persistence pays-off, though, and Dale Schwartz wasn’t about to give up on his newfound obsession with building a Mario Kart with the shop’s name on it. However, despite all of its “cool points,” the Skart could literally expose Schwartz Performance’s services that would ultimately cause Dale’s dad to cave and approve the project. Approval complete, Dale Schwartz turned to his prized project, unsure how much time, money, energy, and foul language would be required to make Project Skart a reality, but excited nonetheless.
The goal was simple: make an exo-kart so extreme that it would guarantee that anything south of a race-bred UTV would piss itself in fear. Dale and the rest of the team at Schwartz Performance were hell-bent on building something the likes of which no one had ever seen before, A show machine that could do it all. From showcasing the company’s chassis designs, services, and meticulous attention to detail, to the marketing of partnered products via the Skart’s exposed innards, it all had to work in tandem.
Right from the get-go, the Schwartz Performance team was extremely receptive to the Skart project, with an engineering intern by the name of Clay playing a vital role in the exo-kart’s creation. Bouncing every conceivable option under the sun off one another, Dale and Clay spent numerous hours crafting prototypes in CAD until they were both completely satisfied with a plan of attack.
By this point, it was the summer of 2018, and the two men had decided that 83-inches was the absolute shortest they could go on their Skart’s wheelbase if they wanted it to be roadworthy. In comparison, a first-gen Miata has around a 90-inch wheelbase. Therefore the working room would be extremely tight, despite Skart’s stripped-down design.
Size constraints be damned, and with a shortened Schwartz Performance GM A-Body frame now in their grasps, work on the little Skart began in earnest. Since the chassis was tubular framed and constructed entirely in-house, there was no need to work around bulky impedances like door frames or windscreens. Everything was now highly visible, making Schwartz Performance’s Skart the perfect billboard for the company’s top vendors and their products.
While the 5.7-liter LS1 would be plenty powerful in stock form for the modified A-Body chassis, Schwartz Performance decided to refresh the V8 and give it a handful of useful upgrades. These include a Holley Sniper dual throttle body intake setup and fuel rails, as well as a low mount front drive system and a Dominator ECU from the brand. There’s also a custom stainless fuel tank and an Aeromotive 340lph pump, as well as a pair of K&N cone filters, Vibrant Performance couplers and clamps, and a set of Ultimate Headers 1.875-inch 321 stainless steel exhaust manifolds. Once complete, Schwartz Performance’s Skart made 345 horsepower and 370 lb-ft of torque — figures that were registered at the wheels.
Manual shifting is made possible via a Tremec T56 Magnum six-speed from Silver Sport Transmissions, paired with a shifter from the company, and then affixed to a 22-inch long RCV carbon-fiber driveshaft. The team also installed a steel Currie Enterprises independent 9-inch housing and stub axles, along with the company’s aluminum third member and a 35-spline TrueTrac differential. Dale explains that the goal here was to construct a driveline so strong that it would have zero risk of ever failing or breaking.
By this point, Ultimate Headers had caught wind of Project Skart, and being that the exhaust manifold specialist was looking for a petite vehicle for its PRI booth, the little exo-kart seemed like an ideal candidate. Upon accepting the header specialist’s offer, Dale’s commitment really kicked things into overdrive down at the shop–not only because the shop now had a set deadline, but because they didn’t want to disappoint the guys over at Ultimate Headers.
Although completing Project Skart in time for PRI 2019 weighed heavily on everyone’s mind, Dale tells us that utilizing a new product from Baer Brakes was equally important. Baer had just released its sixth-generation Camaro six-piston caliper and 14.4-inch rear rotor upgrade, which you will find on both the front and rear of Project Skart, with the only difference being the front’s use of a slightly smaller 14-inch rotor.
I chose Baer Brakes due to their plethora of options and upgrade parts,” Schwartz explains. “Since I chose a grey/black/red theme (like our logo), I thought Baer’s ‘Fire Red’ color choice would look killer through the black Forgeline wheels.
November descended upon the shop in no time, forcing Dale, Clay, Clay’s father, and four other crew members — Noah, Mark, Ken, and Vaughn — to work long hours for weeks on end. Many hands make light work, though, and by November 22nd, the little Skart was ready for powdercoating, with the chassis returning just a couple days before Thanksgiving. This left the team with little more than two weeks to get everything reassembled and the vehicle’s driving dynamics dialed-in. As with most custom builds racing against the clock, nagging issues suddenly materialized from thin air, thus requiring many late nights and busted knuckles.
Reassembled and running correctly, the Skart was shipped over to Larry at ASSC, who tested and tuned the exo-kart’s Holley ECU system. Once returned to the shop, the Schwartz Performance team was left with little more than an 18-hour window to tie-up any loose ends before departing for PRI. Sleep-deprived, with a laundry list of finishing touches to attend to, Dale and his team doggedly plugged away on the exo-kart up until it was time to load it on the trailer.
Dale admits that while he did have to finish a few small things upon arriving at the PRI show, the feeling of driving his Skart under its own power was damn near inexplicable. Although many of the exterior parts were unable to make it onto the project in time for the big show in Indy that week, Dale explains that this was due to exhaustion and little else. PRI 2019 complete, with staff and Skart alike safely back home, the team unanimously voted to “…take a few weeks off from the project to relax.”
However, spring is right around the corner, and Dale Schwartz says that we can expect to see the Schwartz Performance Skart at a handful of national shows. Don’t rule out seeing this little riot act on the open road either. It is 100-percent street legal due to being licensed and titled as a 1972 Buick Skylark thanks to certain components found on the long-extinct chassis. Pass the controller, Dale…I’m feeling like kicking up some sand on Koopa Beach and throwing a few turtle shells around.