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Is this the best billy cart you've seen? Time for a derby!

NOT all billy carts are created equal.

There's the one your granddad helped you make in the shed when you were a nipper - of questionable materials and build quality - that may well have disintegrated the first time it hit a bump.

Good job child pilots heal quickly.

Then there are billy carts made by expert hot rodders. This example, affectionately known as The Fink, is about as professional as you'll find.

Its frame is of boxed steel construction covered by moulded sheet metal for the body, all finished in Ferrari-red paint and with hand-painted pin-striping.

And it's fast. I get to drive plenty of different vehicles in this job but there's not much to match a well-engineered cart on a steep hill propelled by gravity alone.

 

Noel St. John Wood's
Noel St. John Wood's "The Fink" Billy Cart at Gyndier Drive, Tewantin. Iain Curry

Current owner Noel St John Wood (pictured), of Tewantin, bought The Fink about a year ago from fellow Noosa Beach Classic Car Club member Reg Merry, a known collector of automotive memorabilia.

Its creator was Laurie Schumann, who once owned a hot rod shop in Yandina, and The Fink was built for the Cane Toad Rally, a billy cart derby in Nambour.

"Like most people my age we built billy carts as kids, so to see this come along on another level of quality was incredible," he said.

 

Noel St. John Wood's
Noel St. John Wood's "The Fink" Billy Cart at Gyndier Drive, Tewantin. Iain Curry

"The Fink is the ultimate billy cart and so different to what we threw together as kids. Having Gyndier Dr (a steep closed road in Tewantin) so close by made owning it a big attraction."

The wheels and brakes have come off a type of wheelchair, while the original builder custom-made the simple steering set-up.

Mr St John Wood has made some choice upgrades for aesthetic and safety reasons, including adding a roll bar, a seat belt on the freshly upholstered seat and new push-bike "gumwall" colour-coded white-wall tyres from Japan.

The talented car restorer also crafted wooden handles for the steering wheel, improved the handbrake lever and fitted a little red plastic windscreen.

 

Noel St. John Wood's
Noel St. John Wood's "The Fink" Billy Cart at Gyndier Drive, Tewantin. Iain Curry

For attention to detail and in the hot rod spirit, a Mr Horespower decal - a sneering cigar-smoking road runner - adorns The Fink's flanks.

So what's it like to drive? Hopping inside and with a few responsive turns of the steering wheel it felt solid, safe and agile.

I belted myself in, donned my crash helmet and was given a little push towards Gyndier Dr's bollards. I threaded the needle through them and quickly gathered speed as the gradient steepened and the grin filled my face.

 

Noel St. John Wood's
Noel St. John Wood's "The Fink" Billy Cart at Gyndier Drive, Tewantin. Iain Curry

What a rush! Only a tiny input on the steering wheel gave darting changes of direction and only in the really tight turns did the tyres start to squeal a little as the cart lost grip on the road's leaf-covered surface.

Cyclists and walkers climbing Gyndier Dr started beaming with joy as they saw me flying past in The Fink, clearly loving seeing such a beautiful toy in full flight.

I only needed to use the handbrake at the end of the run to come to a stop, although I'll admit to regretting the speed I took into a tight left-hander and under-steered onto the wrong side of the road.

Using the sports app Strava, the GPS said I'd hit 63km/h on my billy cart run. I'd struggle to match that on my triathlon push bike.

 

Noel St. John Wood's
Noel St. John Wood's "The Fink" Billy Cart at Gyndier Drive, Tewantin. Iain Curry

Mr St John Wood said there's potential for some sort of run down Gyndier Dr for multiple carts in the future, with it happening as part of the twice-annual Noosa Hill Climb race weekend mooted. The next hill climb is scheduled for June 9-10.

"The track is already paid for then, the road is free of spectators so it would be safe and everyone just loves seeing these billy carts run," he said.

If any other billy cart hopefuls are out there, contact the Noosa Car Club (www.noosacar club.com.au) to register your interest.

 

Noel St. John Wood's
Noel St. John Wood's "The Fink" Billy Cart at Gyndier Drive, Tewantin. Iain Curry

Topics:  billy cart billy cart derby cars news the fink