The Albert Zains and John Hume AZUM kart

Columns: Legendary kart
A demonstration of karting on the pit straight at Silverstone in 1959 was watched by Albert (Bert) Zains who at that time was racing a 500cc Cooper MkXI. Bert owned dry cleaning shops in the Shepherd’s Bush area of London.(text: Frank Weir; photos: Enzo Falconi Collection and Frank Weir)

Zains was said to have been unfortunately gifted with little practical mechanical expertise. Nevertheless he was very enthusiastic about motorsport and along with a gentleman called John 'Boots' Hume; formerly with The Cooper Car Company a business to manufacture karts was formed; John being the kart designer. 

The company was called the AZUM Kart Company, arrived at by taking Albert’s initials, AZ and the middle two letters of Hume’s name. A lease was taken on the Bradstock Motors Garage in Epson, Surrey and at the same time Roy Golding was recruited from Cooper’s to become the workshop foreman. The kart company expanded and hired fabricators, welders, painters, assemblers and store-men. The kart was advertised as the finest kart in the world proclaiming that from drawing-board to final testing there was no compromise with quality. 

The AZUM was a simple straightforward chassis constructed using heavy wall steel tubing of 1. inch diameter and featured a dead rear axle. The steering hoop was bent from ⅞ inch diameter steel tubing. Removable front and rear bumpers as well as side nerf bars were fabricated using . inch diameter by 16 gauge steel tubing. A sheet steel floor was skip welded to the main chassis rails from the front axle back to the front of the seat. The seat, described as a racing bucket seat, was very similar to the units used on some Field Marshall tractors that were popular at that time and was attached to the frame by four ." diameter bolts. The engine kill switches were attached to the front of the seat. The steering wheel and column were all one unit bent from . inch diameter by 16 gauge steel tubing very similar to the design favoured by the English PAK-a-kart and the American Lee kart at that time. An ‘L’ shaped solid ⅝ inch diameter Pitman arm was double bolted to the inside of the steering column approximately 3 inches from its junction with the front axle. 

Surprisingly, the early production karts although fabricated by people with a racing car background did not have front axle geometry. The kingpin was set at 90 degrees to the horizontal and the front axle did not feature any caster angle. The kingpins were thus welded vertically and front axles were welded square to the kingpin sleeves thus giving neutral camber. The kingpins ran in bushes as did the steering column. The wheelbase according to the AZUM brochure was set at 46 inches. The front track measured 35. inches and the rear 33. inches. Both rear wheels were attached to 5 inch drum brakes. The yellow kart pictured may have been made for a tall person as it featured a wheel base of 50 inches and a front tread of 37 inches; the rear was set at the standard 33. inches. Perhaps it might have been one of John Hume’s personal karts knowing that John was a tall man. That particular kart also had an alloy weight saving floor fitted. 
Testing and development of the AZUM took place in the garage yard at Epson much to the annoyance of the neighbours because of the 2 stroke engine noise. 

Initially to boost their order book the AZUM Kart Company organised demonstration races during October 1959 on the start finish straight at Brands Hatch in front of the grandstand; thousands of spectators attend the event. Later at the New Cross Speedway Stadium in Croydon, south London another meeting was organised. This time, Graham Hill, Tony Brooks and The Tiller Girls, a popular dance troupe from the famous Windmill Theatre were invited. The dancing ladies participated in a ladies race all on board AZUM karts. 

In the course of 6 months several hundred AZUM karts were produced. At weekends John Hume would travel all over England to kart race meetings hoping that an AZUM win on Sunday would mean a host of sales enquires on Monday. John also designed and made an AZUM high ground clearance sporting trials vehicle complete with spare wheel, as per the sporting rules, which featured a swivelling front axle and independent rear wheel braking. 

During this time of high chassis production Charles Cooper called at the AZUM premises to see how his former employees were progressing. It was reported that he took one look at the well lit and heated workshops which were in stark contrast to the premises of Cooper Cars at Hollyfield Road and said to Roy in his inimitable manner ‘This will never last! Call me when you need some work!’ Unfortunately for Albert and John and not for the first time Charles was correct. The initial wave of Karting enthusiasm subsided and orders almost completely dried up. As a result AZUM Kart Company became prime subcontractors to Cooper Cars making wishbones and machined parts. AZUM were forced to let staff go and Roy Golding reverted back to manufacturing parts himself rather than supervising others on the production line. 

It was not long before the AZUM Kart Company was listed for sale. Albert tried to influence racing driver Reg Parnell to become the new owner of AZUM Karts. Unfortunately a prospective buyer never materialised which resulted in the company going into liquidation in 1960. AZUM Karts existed for just about a year from the end of the fifties and during the start of the swinging sixties decade. 

Roy Golding returned to work at Cooper Cars taking the karting bug with him. It was not long before his influence encouraged Brue McLaren and Jack Brabham to take up karting. Both Bruce and Jack went on to race karts at Surbiton kart circuit in south west London on their free weekends. Jack, at that time, became involved with the Australian manufactured Whirlwind kart by signing his name in advertising literature to his recommendation of the kart. Bruce did something similar by allowing his name to be publicised in magazine adverts announcing that he had purchased an EM-Bee Wasp kart. 
John Hume went off to work for Sydney Allard at Clapham, south east London, where he built the first English dragster. John later developed the Shorrock supercharger and ran Allard’s international rally operation. 

The writer is indebted to Dr John Sheldon for information gleaned from his article about the AZUM Kart Company titled AZUM and published in the Cooper Car Club Newsletter, Volume 1 Issue 1, dated May 2001. 

Created by: cggiuliano - 24/12/23

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