Hooniverse Asks: What's the Greatest Driving Experience You can Have Before You get Your License?

STICK-OUT-YOUR-TONGUE-FUN Eleven-year-old Chesney Walker peels around the corner of a parking lot while taking "hot laps" in her new go-kart Wednesday afternoon in Payson. Chesney's mother, Kim Walker, said the go-kart was a recent gift to her daughter, who rides it as much as she can after school. (H-W Photo/Phil Carlson)
When I was a kid – I mean around 12 or 13 – I bought a fat-tired minibike with a stout Briggs and Stratton engine. I rode it around the dirt oval I had carved way back behind our house but that soon lost its luster and I couldn’t really open it up in the tight confines of our suburban backyard. That led me to take it out on the street – after dark and when I thought it less likely that the local constabulary would be driving by – and to take it to the limit.
Of course by “limit” I mean about 30 miles per hour. That was still the fastest I had ever gone under my own control by that age. It was awesome. There are a lot of options for pre-license age kids to test their mettle at speed, and today I want to hear both your own stories of youthful indiscretion (keep it clean however) and what you think today represents the best opportunity for satisfying the need for speed when you’re not old enough to have a license. What is the greatest driving experience an unlicensed kid can have?
Image: Phil Carlson

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37 responses to “Hooniverse Asks: What's the Greatest Driving Experience You can Have Before You get Your License?”

  1. P161911 Avatar

    When you are a kid driving ANYTHING is a thrill, especially if it is a REAL vehicle. The best would be a real car or truck on private property (farm, large field, etc) or a track. I always thought it was great to drive the tractor ( a diesel M-F 135) when I was a kid, the lawnmower not so much. Boats are great too, but regulations have changed somewhat since I was a kid.
    This is appropriate: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H7g_xP2SpW8

  2. GTXcellent Avatar

    In northern Minne-snowta, it’s snowmobiles!
    Kitty Cats (now Polaris and Arctic make bigger 120cc kids sleds) to get a taste and then move up to something a bit faster. Rules and regulations have changed since I was a kid, but probably for the better – I probably didn’t need to be riding sleds capable of 100 mph before I was old enough to stay up past 10:00: but it sure was fun!

  3. Alff Avatar

    Step 1: Be 12
    Step 2: Have a NASCAR team owner with a cute 12 year old daughter move into the estate adjacent to your subdivision.
    Step 3: Make friends with both of them
    Step 4: Accept the father’s generous offer to let you drive his daughter around the new neighborhood in his dune buggy.
    Step 5: Explain to your parents how 12 year old you got a ticket for operating without a license while driving some strange girl around in some strange man’s dune buggy.
    Totally worth it, at least it was at the time.

    1. irishzombieman Avatar

      MAybe if you’d driven a little more sedately. . .

    2. njhoon Avatar

      It was one of those times when Dad wanted to give you a high five while yelling “That’s MY BOY!!!” but the look on Moms face made him say “I’ll have a talk with him”. You then get the Your Moms Pretty Upset speech.

  4. Kiefmo Avatar

    For me, it was one of these indomitable little beasties. Not mine, but my best friend had one of these trunkmobiles from Big Red. It took all the abuse we could hurl at it and never once broke while topping out somewhere in the neighborhood of 35-40mph, which for an unhelmeted young teen in shorts was more than fast enough.
    I credit the big balloon tires for how well it survived the 5′ vertical jumps we subjected it to, and its gravel road powersliding ability for learning how to respond when the back end starts to come around on a RWD vehicle (though I still put my D50 in the ditch a few times before I got it right).
    Apart from that, for the sake of expediency, starting at the age of 12, my dad would have me tow the boat up the ramp in the ’89 K5 while he packed away the skis, secured the tube and such, so we could get out of the way so the drunk rednecks could launch their $50k tournament bass boat (towed by a ratty C3, because apparently all that matters for a tow rig is that it have a 350/350).
    The summer I was 14, I worked at a neighbor’s hobby farm doing odd jobs. They had a ’93 F350 with the long bed and 300 I6 with the ultra-low 1st gear manual. It was an impressively strong truck that would tow impressively large things on trailers around the farm crawling in 1st gear, though they had a proper diesel dually F-superduty for towing on the highway.
    They also had a K20 4×4 of unknown age (70s?) or original paint color with a hot 350/350, swampers, and cut fenders. It had no tags, and had been the farm fun vehicle for the then-grown sons. I got to drive it once, and the combination of explosive power, completely absent overboosted GM power steering, and rusted everything scared the crap out of my 14-yo self, so I never went near it again.

    1. P161911 Avatar

      C3 Corvettes had a factory option towing package well into the 1970s. It was for towing too, not some secret performance option. Body on frame construction and a V-8 (or even I-6 or V-6) are all you need to tow a decent size boat.

      1. Kiefmo Avatar


  5. Drives Dead Marques Avatar
    Drives Dead Marques

    Growing up, we lived a little outside of town, and we had a pretty decent sized lawn. My dad had (still has) a ’60s Wheelhorse riding lawn mower. The throttle was on a stick. I don’t remember when he started letting me mow the lawn, but I loved hopping on and actually doing work around the house for the 45 minutes or so it would take. Once I turned 16, my father was more than happy enough to take back lawn mowing duties, and my bike gathered dust in the garage. But mowing the lawn, if your father had a riding mower, was pretty fun.

    1. Kiefmo Avatar

      I could make my dad’s 11hp Craftsman rider do a wheelie!

    2. JayP Avatar

      My son loved (loves) granddads mower and would ride it into the dark.
      He let it get away from him going down hill freewheeling, jumped a concrete wall and almost hit a car. The boy was scared to death that I’d be mad. We fixed it and got chocolate shakes. Good times.

    3. P161911 Avatar

      We had a small rear engined John Deere riding mower. I hated that thing. It got were is was really hard to start, the starter died and my dad was too cheap to fix it, so you had to use the rope pull start. It was always a chore to get it started and keep it running. I think the tires would go flat. It leaked oil too. When I was about 15 or 16 my dad put me on the mower to mow the grass. He forgot to check the oil. After about 30 minutes of mowing the screeching engine got a little louder, let out one final scream followed by a loud thunk! No more crappy mower, the engine had locked up due to lack of oil!

  6. onrails Avatar

    My cousins and I had something on the farm real similar to the kart pictured in the article, only red. After the throttle cable broke we rigged up some bailing wire to hold the throttle at WOT and either learned how to take the turn faster (the ‘brake’ was totally inadequate… a piece of metal on a lever that dragged on the rear tire) or we ended up in the weeds or rolling it over. No helmets, shorts and tank tops, and gravel and bugs. That thing taught me a lot about driving and the bare minimum required to keep the thing running.

  7. acarr260 Avatar

    I drove our dump truck first… idling in first while driving around hay fields as others stacked hay on the trailer. I was probably around 8. Shortly after that, my dad bought three Trail 70’s from some guy, all non-running. We made two runners out of those (top speed 45), and my friend and I drove them all over our farm. At age 10, I got an 80 cc Yamaha 4-wheeler (top speed about 40 mph). I rode it until the tires looked like slicks. At 14, my dad and I co-purchased a 300 cc Honda 4-wheeler (top speed around 55 mph). After I got my license, we pulled the old farm truck out from behind the barn and I put it back on the road – 1982 2WD F250 with comically wide rear tires and a 351W transplant.

  8. 0A5599 Avatar

    The Kawasaki I got when I was 11 weighed about 100 lbs, wet, and was powered by an 18.5 HP 100 cc engine.
    I weighed less than the bike.
    60 mph on trails and shopping center construction sites is plenty fun for a tween hoon.
    I was also king of the wheelies back then. Probably couldn’t ride one to save my life now. Come to think of it, an opposite result would be likely…

  9. Jeepster Avatar

    MF 165 – with bushog, scraper, disc, boom , post hole digger, trailers, wagons, etc… the best learning experiences , all before age 10

  10. Tanshanomi Avatar

    The ONLY driving experience I was allowed prior to driver training school was something very similar to this.

    1. Jeepster Avatar

      OK, Yall want to see my first ” farm car” – this is not a joke ….
      1970 Formula 400 Bird, Air Jackers, Foresight Ventures Drag Mags, Jerry can, ammo box, rifle rack, and My personal paint job, about 1986 in middle Tenn.

      1. Jeepster Avatar

        a mean one she was …

      2. Rover 1 Avatar
        Rover 1


  11. PDQ Avatar

    In the early 70’s when I was maybe 11 or 12 my dad had a buxom blonde secretary who drove a blue ’69 or ’70 Corvette. During the summers I often went to work with my dad, which kept me out of mom’s hair and which provided him with my free labor to straighten up areas of his warehouse and the offices that had been neglected by his employees.
    On one of those days, Yvonne (the secretary) asked me if I wanted to run to the post office with her which was maybe a half mile from dad’s office. She knew I was mesmerized by the car, so I jumped at the chance.
    As we were leaving the post office, Yvonne looked over at me and said “you want to drive back?” – and tossed me the friggin’ keys! It was only a half mile – but that was the best driving experience I had before I got my license.
    Naturally I couldn’t keep my yap shut because I was so keyed up about driving a Corvette on a real, honest to God STREET. Dad was NOT pleased when I told him and he reamed Yvonne a new one.
    I never got the chance to drive the Vette again…………..

  12. marmer Avatar

    Dirt bikes for sure. Taught me how to shift, how to handle a slide, how to brake effectively, and a lot of simple engine mechanics. About the only thing a boat has in common with a wheeled vehicle is a steering wheel and the concept that it’s best not to run into things with it.

  13. Hatchtopia Avatar

    When I was about 12 and living in southern Utah, we would occasionally head for the nearby mountains to collect firewood in my Dad’s beat-to-hell 1978 F-150. It was a 4wd with the 400 ci engine and auto transmission. Once we got off the paved highway, he’d get out and I’d slide across the enormous bench seat and he would re-enter on the passenger side. He’d always tell me not to go too fast and that would be it. While I drove, he would scout out good spots to collect and I would pretend I was on some sort of random adventure. Turns out it wasn’t pretend.

  14. peugeotdude505 Avatar

    Dirt bikes! I had a bunch starting when I was 10 or 11

  15. Jofes2 Avatar

    I’ve been avoiding this slightly, because it kind of ruins my credibility as a commenter here, but I’m 15, completeley unexperienced and unlicensed.
    My substitute of choice is a Logitech G27 racing wheel, often paired with a quirky Russian car simulator called City Car Driving.
    It gives you infinite access to GAZ:s, VAZ:s and UAZ:s along with other obscurities for $25.
    Other stuff to do includes Assetto Corsa and Euro Truck Simulator 2 (what am I doing with my youth?).

    1. Hatchtopia Avatar

      Don’t worry. I’m 40 and I have zero credibility.

    2. CraigSu Avatar

      Not to worry. Even if you’ve only driven those cars virtually you’ve driven them more than anyone else in the Hooniverse, I’ll warrant. Your credibility remains completely intact.

    3. JayP Avatar

      I gotta get this for the kid (who is just 2 yrs younger than you)

    4. Guest Avatar

      Hey, welcome to the club!

      I’m only 16, have only some experienced, and working hard toward getting licensed.

      I am kinda disapointed that I’m not the yougest hear, as I thought… Oh well, time for a new title!

  16. neight428 Avatar

    Managed one of these with a bush-hog cutting grass in vacant lots a few times. I thought I was pretty hot stuff.

    1. Jeepster Avatar

      dang that is a Ford 2000, we had one of those on the farm also, Dad wouldn’t let me use it much because the right wheel brake did not work, so I got the MF165, boo hoo. I need to dig up photos.

      1. neight428 Avatar

        I’m not sure of the exact model, it may have been slightly smaller than that one, but it’s very close. We had some property that we had to trim back a few times a year, so it wasn’t anything close to full-on farm duty.

  17. neight428 Avatar

    Also, I wanted a go-kart like the one in the lead pic since before I could talk. I had a friend in elementary school that had one, but tragically he did not have an ounce of hoon blood in him. I actually talked his mom in to starting it for us once, but she refused to do so again after seeing the rubber laid down on the driveway and ruts where grass used to be in her backyard.

  18. crank_case Avatar

    Not the greatest, but to be honest, when you’re an aspiring petrolhead, ANY wheeltime pre-license is awesome, my first experiences of a real car were on a farm in rural Cork at the wheel of BLs… eh…finest. The 1.3 litre powered victoria spongecake that is the Austin Maestro. My friend had one as a field car. It had a leaky rad so we had to stop every 10 minutes to top it up with water. There were also cows and geese in the field, the cows were indifferent but the geese took offence (I think they were Ford fans) and would try attack the car. Slow as hell but handbrake turns in a muddy field are still fun.
    Even with my limited experience, I still had the discernment to know it was sort of rubbish. My friend, who was a BL fan said that “I’d always have a soft spot for maestros now”, my predictable comedy gold response.. “yeah I think there’s a nice bog over there” *baddum tsh!* .. yeah he didn’t laugh either.

  19. Guest Avatar

    I live on a farm, and haven’t quite managed to get my license, yet. Here are my top 5, no license required rides. Pictures are Google searches, because I’m lazy.

    John Deere 2950. It’s loud and dusty, but it always gets the job done!


    Case 7110. It’s our biggest tractor, and my favourite newish one to drive.


    John Deere 7410. Good mid sized tractor, but a little plasticky inside.


    Allis Chalmers WD45. Same model my grandfather started with. It’s kinda mind of my tractor now.


    Honda Trike. My off-road Hoonmobile!


    Bonus Entry: Allis Chalmers IB. Actually haven’t driven this yet, since we’re picking it up on Tuesday!


    1. Vairship Avatar

      Nice! That’s a good variety!

      1. Guest Avatar

        Thanks! Farm life as a Hoon is a pretty good thing!