Open Day Richard Peck's Hornet Facility

Columns: Legendary kart
When I hear Ronnie Dunn perform his hit country song 'How Far To Waco' I cannot help but think of Richard Peck and his fantastic Hornet karts (Text and Photos: Frank Weir)

It required 2 issues within the vintage section of Vroom International Karting magazine, namely the May and June 2017 editions, to tell the karting story of Richard Peck and Mercury Tool and Machine, a company located in Waco, Texas. Mercury Tool and Machine was owned by Richard’s father Jack and his business partner Wallace Rusch. Sometime at the end of 1957 a kart was made at Mercury Tool that gave rise to a line of karts known as Hornets. 

Along the way the Hornet kart manufacturing operation relocated to another address in Waco following a magnesium fire at the parent plant. The kart division within Mercury Tool and Machine also underwent a company name change at the same time to P & R Enterprises. At that time Richard became the principal of the new karting company.
Fast forward almost 40 years to the first decade of the 21st century. The popularity of vintage karting in the USA had vintage enthusiasts searching for parts to rejuvenate their historic karts. Many of the Hornet kart owners found their way to Richard Peck’s business now located in Hewitt, Texas.  Incidentally Richard still tests his Hornets at the Heart of Texas Kart Club raceway beside the original rebuilt Mercury Tool and Machine plant adjacent to the Waco airport.

Richard’s operation today is understandably not the size of the plant from the glory days of the seventies and eighties. Nevertheless he and his employee, a former military engineer, work from 7.00 am to 3.00 pm each work day. The business concentrates on making and restoring Hornet sprint and enduro karts from the sixties as well as the later wishbone type of chassis that was manufactured in the late seventies early eighties.

At the time of visiting a beautiful blue wishbone type enduro kart powered by a liquid cooled IAME X-30 motor was being prepared for a customer. That particular kart was eligible to race in the AKRA Enduro Formula 125 class and because these days such races only lasts for 30 minutes the large side tanks that were the norm in the past have been replaced by the smaller sprint kart size fuel tank. Initially when enduro racing was invented in the middle sixties the races ran for 60 minutes and later were reduced to 45 minutes; now the races only last 30 minutes. Also on view was a sprint version of the late sixties Hornet that had just been removed from the welding jig. 

Hornet kart manufacturing is currently almost completely self sufficient except for chrome plating and upholstery; all other aspects of fabrication can be carried out in house. Most spare parts for all the previous versions of the Hornets are available off the shelf. 

Another aspect of selecting a Hornet as a vintage ride is the fact that Richard will make a kart to fit a driver’s particular need such as increasing the wheelbase to accommodate taller drivers or adding an extended front porch and bumper bar to provide extra leg room and feet/ankle protection.

One necessary item on the Hornet sprint from the middle sixties that some vintage enthusiasts on occasions have had difficulty finding was a replacement fuel tank usually needed because of corrosion in the original. Richard now provides a replacement alloy tank fabricated by folding and welding and is part of the seat back. Pride of place these days at Richard’s shop is an original 1959 Mercury Tool and Machine Hornet beautifully restored to show quality. Tommy Orren the gentleman that made the first kart at Mercury Tool would be very proud of it.

Following the open day at the Hornet manufacturing facility Richard hosted a delicious all you could eat buffet featuring the culinary delicacies associated with the lone star state. Many of the Hornet customers from back in the day as well as recent converts to the marque attended the occasion; their stories of past karting experiences made the banquet memorable.

Sincere thanks are extended to Richard and his wife Frances for the warm Texas welcome given to the writer.

Created by: cggiuliano - 02/04/24

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