The Dart story began during the summer of 1958 when Herbert E Rupp II, a young 22 years old ex-Marine from Mansfield, Ohio, affectionately known by his two older sisters and everyone else as 'Mickey', became interested in karting. Incidentally it was Rupp’s sisters who came up with the 'Mickey' nickname for him.
Initially Rupp became a Go Kart dealer and purchased kits from the Californian manufacturer which he then set about welding, painting and assembling, skills that his father, an industrialist, insisted 'Mickey' acquired as a teenager. Rupp would then sell the assembled karts, as a ready to ride package, making a $50 profit on each sale. Soon 'Mickey' was thinking about a kart of his own design thus by-passing Go Kart and came up a design that he called a step-frame which allowed the kart to flex easier and also provided built-in side rails to better retain the driver in the seat when cornering. Good fortune was on 'Mickey’s' side; one of his sisters married Chas Watson who was the brother of AJ Watson. AJ at that time was a winning Indianapolis 500 race car designer. Having such a close knowledgeable connection to discuss kart design ideas with must have been useful to young 'Mickey'. In fact AJ appeared in a magazine advertisement to help market the 1959 Rupp kart and it was AJ that provided 'Mickey' with his first big race car ride in early 1960. Once the step-frame kart was demonstrated Rupp was inundated with orders for his new chassis. A facility to produce the innovative frame was immediately required. 'Mickey' started by renting 1800 square feet of space from his father who manufactured pumps (Gorman-Rupp) and had just moved into a new warehouse on Bowman Street, Mansfield. At this location 'Mickey' with 8 employees started producing karts to his design which had been granted two United States patents the numbers of which were cast on the steering wheel of the 1959 kart to ward off the copiers. The karts were marketed using the name Dart. Rupp would go on to become one of the largest manufacturers of karts in Ohio if not the world producing up to ten thousand Dart karts each year during the middle part of the sixties decade. Even the American retail giant Sears Roebuck sold Rupp’s kart branded as a Sears kart. Manufacturing karts was a very good business for 'Mickey' and by mid-year 1959 he was looking for land on which to build his own Dart kart factory as well as a kart racing circuit/proving ground; work that would be second nature to him as a former bulldozer driver involved with highway construction. A site near the Mansfield airport was purchased and a bank loan initially enabled a modest factory building and an excellent floodlit raceway to be constructed. The race track was known as the Dart Kart Speedway.