Most of the karting universe knows Faye’s racing history and prowess at running a karting business. Faye’s driving career spanned the late 1950,s and the 60’s when karting was growing and new innovations came hard and fast. She and husband Tom would create Bug, and then Team Bug, and proceed to drive headlong into the history books of kart racing.
I began racing karts in 1985. While I had seen Faye in the pits from time to time, I didn’t really formally meet Faye until my first IKF Sprint Grandnationals in 1987 held at Garnett, Kansas, where I won my first Duffy. I began running a Bug the following year and my husband Rick would convert to Bug shortly thereafter. Rick and Faye would spend vast amounts of time discussing chassis and tires. Faye’s Husband “Big” Tom Pierson and I would become close friends too, and the four of us would remain close buds, and frequently meet up to catch up.
Rick and I stopped racing in the late 1990’s to early 2000’s, but never lost touch with Tom and Faye. After Tom’s passing, I would drive down for a night or weekend just to spend time with Faye. She was heartbroken and felt a little lost without Tom. But Faye threw herself into the business, with a whole lot of support from sons Tommy and Jon, she moved ever forward, as was her nature.
A couple years later Faye called me one afternoon to tell me that she had been asked to attend a vintage karting event in Quincy, Illinois. She had promised Gus Traeder that she would attend, and Faye then explained that IKF Director Deb Harper had set up their travel plans. Deb was going to attend with Faye and write articles for interested karting publications. But, Deb had something come up and could no longer make the trip. It was just a couple of weeks away, so Faye asked if I would go with her, and to please bring my driving gear because she really didn’t know if she could do more than one heat race (Quincy in the heat you know…). She wanted me to be her backup driver; which would turn out to be the VERY LAST THING Faye needed.
And what an adventure it turned out to be – Faye would soon name us the “Thelma & Louise” of vintage karting. We had the absolute time of our lives together. We couldn’t attend an event in Quincy without stopping to put our feet in the mighty Mississippi River, which is how we discovered Hannibal, MO. Over the years it became ritual, after which we would eat at the amazing catfish house in Old Town.
On some of those trips to Quincy together, and the many other tracks around the country, Faye and I would get so tickled and begin laughing so very hard we had to pull over. Our friendship grew immeasurably during these times.
So after that one phone call, that one trip, I watched Faye’s glow come back as she was once again in her element. She was hooked, and I can tell you that she loved vintage karting most dearly. She cherished all of the incredible new memories through her time in the Vintage Karting Association and being at the tracks with all of you.
Faye always carried a notepad to each event so she could keep up with those she met along the way. After deciphering her notes and reminiscing about each event, we talked about all of y’all. Way, way too much to tell, and some things…I will never divulge – but it makes me giggle to this day.
Before vintage, we were friends who enjoyed and respected each other. But after our years of running amok together, the bond went well beyond friendship. I sincerely thank all of you for making our time with you so special. As her son Jon told me recently “What a run you two had together” and it’s so very true.
Obviously death is inevitable, but Faye was a super hero to me. Faye “Lady Bug” Pierson was truly a lady, she was poised and practical, a bit daring, forever playful, smart, sometimes downright sassy, she was so dear to all, she was my friend.
The first time I met Faye was at the 1992 IKF Sprint Nationals held at the Adams track in Riverside, California. After the event I needed a ride to one of the local airports. Faye offered to take me. That was the beginning of a wonderful friendship. We would talk on the phone often as she was the Bridgestone distributor for the West Coast.
Fast forward to 2002 and the Prairie City track. There was a vintage event there and who shows up but Faye Pierson with Tom Medley. Faye was wheeling Tom’s Faller kart around the track at the time we were having flagged heat events. Faye and I had a great time dicing back and forth – that was the beginning of my vintage days with Faye. We would fly into St. Louis and meet up at the airport (Faye, Mona Sturgeon, Ernie Fisher and myself), rent a car and drive to Quincy, Illinois. We would always stop at Hannibal, Missouri for fried catfish. Those were some great times and memories.
Faye was a living legend. One of the years at the banquet she was given the key to the city. We had a lot of fun at the track, we also had just as much fun at dinner. California always had a contingent of vintage karters at those events.
Faye, Tom Medley and Vince Hughes got together to start up the Riverside vintage event soon after. The first year we shared the track with pocket bikes. Then the event grew to where the vintage kart program had become a full three day event. Mona stepped up to the plate to help Faye and Vince out, Ernie Fisher was the official flagman at this event for many years.
Faye would always make it to the Northern California events too. At a Davis, California event I remember Faye, Mona, Tom Corso and myself went downtown. We had to have ice cream and we did. No matter what event we went to, Faye was always there and a big part of the event. She had no qualms about mixing it up with the guys. She could still outdrive many of us. The last time we visited was at the Riverside vintage event in February of 2020. Jon Pierson had moved Faye to live with him in Oregon and brought Faye down for a visit.
Vintage karting brought a lot of happiness to Faye, She looked forward to the people and they all loved her and the seat time she got in her Bug. I could go on and on with my memories with Faye, but it would take me forever to write it.
We are all going to miss this wonderful woman that brought so much happiness to everyone she touched.
Article: Frank Weir Photos: Gary Medley, Tom Medley, Jack Spitler and Frank Weir
President Gary Crawford of the Vintage Kart Club of America has made the sad announcement that Faye ‘Ladybug’ Pierson, the Queen of Karting has passed away.
Faye Pierson drove a kart for the very first time on Christmas Day 1957. Faye and her late husband Tom Pierson were initially introduced to karting by a neighbour who had purchased a kart kit as a Christmas gift for his teenage son. Tom Pierson kindly volunteered to help with the assemble of the kart and the two families went to a school parking lot in West Covina located within the greater Los Angeles area to experience karting for the first time that Christmas morning.
Once at the school car park everyone got to drive the kart. Faye just would not get off the tiny machine; driving it she later said was infectious. Faye was most definitely hooked that day on this new form of motorsport and soon her husband Tom was busy making karts for Faye and himself.
That was the very early days of karting in its birth place of Southern California and around the beginning of 1958 the Pierson’s along with family friend Dick Geer started making karts in a semi professional manner in the Pierson’s garage located in a Los Angeles suburb. The demand for the Pierson manufactured karts became so high that it was just not feasible to continue to make them in a domestic garage; a proper factory had to be sourced. Bug Engineering was formed and the Pierson kart manufacturing operations relocated to premises on Irwindale Avenue in the city of Azusa.
Previous to becoming a kart manufacturer Tom Pierson’s business involved the distribution of the then Los Angeles Mirror-Times newspapers which incidentally was were Faye perfected the art of driving fast as she made daily wholesale paper deliveries not that she openly advocated speeding on the streets.
The first ever National kart races were scheduled to be held at the Go Kart Raceway during the summer of 1959. That year Bug team driver Dick Geer won the Grand National title and Faye set the fastest time in the A class qualifying beating the track record by one full second. Faye went on to win her first heat, broke her chassis in race two and placed second in heat three, taking second place overall. Actually Faye taking part in the racing at that time was a milestone. In America sixty years ago racing was a sport that considered women to be signs of bad luck especially if they were found in places where they could possibly interfere with operations. Faye recalled on an occasion being asked to leave the pits at Indianapolis for that very reason!
During the early days of karting at the start of the sixties decade Faye ‘Ladybug’ Pierson, as she was known and her Bug karts traveled extensively throughout the United States and as far away as Europe racing in England and Italy. Back at the time of the English race, September 1961, she was one of only a few women to have her photo appear on the front page of the London Times. The photo, which also featured the World Champion at that time, teenager Bobby Allen, was snapped when the two disembarked together from the aircraft after landing in England on their way to the Banbury race at Shenington airfield.
Faye was very much accustomed to travelling by aircraft; both Tom and Faye held pilot licences and at weekends they would load her kart into the back of their Cessna and off she and husband Tom would go to wherever there was a kart race in the western part of the United States that warranted an appearance by Bug Karts. Faye can most certainly be described as a pioneer of the sport because she was there at the beginning and thus instrumental in the involvement of women in karting. She was intelligent as well as being extremely easy on the eyes and soon she was appearing in television quiz shows filmed in studios associated with the Hollywood movie industry. Despite her celebrity status Faye remained a most approachable and helpful individual who always looked like a million Dollars.
Because of Faye’s iconic status she was chosen in 1962 to participate in an experiment sponsored by an American motoring magazine to determine the capabilities of kart drivers in sports and Formula Junior cars. The driving took place at the now defunct Riverside International Raceway. Faye put in some scorching and faultless laps in a Lotus 20 and then repeated her performance in a Lotus Junior. A three litre Austin Healey sports car was unfortunately her undoing, she lost it in a big way in the fast ‘S’ section and wrote the Healey off. A broken jaw and facial lacerations requiring 300 stitches were treated at the local hospital and thanks to skilful surgery Faye was soon her smiling self again. The accident put an end to her racing career by orders from husband Tom.
Twenty four years later in 1986 she was back in a competition kart at a track in Redlands, California, to prove that neither gender nor age were limiting factors particularly in the world of karting; Faye finished fifth that day. Since then a lot of water has flowed under the bridge at Bug Engineering. The manufacturing plant on Irwindale Avenue was relocated to a purpose built facility at 950 West Foothill Boulevard, Azusa, California. Sadly Faye’s husband Tom died on 26 October 2000 leaving her solely in control helped by her sons Tommy and Jon. Not quite two decades later Faye had to deal with further bereavement when Tommy passed in September 2017.
From 1959 to 2014 the doors remained open at K & P Manufacturing the new name for Bug Engineering. During that time karts were manufactured across all the disciplines although a Bug was never homologated at the CIK. In the middle 1990’s Bug produced a model known as the FF-1 which was influenced by European design of that time. Around then the company also represented Birel and for decades beginning in 1978 K & P also acted as distributors for Bridgestone kart tyres. Later the main business for K & P was tire sales plus manufacturing replica copies of the rear engine Bug Sprint chassis that was first introduced in the middle 1960’s and the Stinger sidewinder kart from the early 1970’s. As well the fabrication of associated parts sought after by vintage karting enthusiasts to keep their historic Bug karts running also featured as a prominent part of the business.
In the beginning the Bug title was actually arrived at after a brain storming exercise to come up with a name for the Pierson kart; no suitable names were forth coming and Faye was reported to have said that the exercise was bugging her hence the name Bug!
As the years rolled by Faye thought that she was pretty much done with racing karts competitively but her long time friend, the late Tom Medley, the well known hot rod and karting writer at Petersen Publications, encouraged her to get involved with vintage kart racing. Faye returned to competition at the late Gus Traeder’s first Vintage Karting Olympics held at West Quincy, Missouri, in 2002. Since then she has been a regular on the Californian vintage kart scene and was guest of honour at the 2008 Numurkah Vintage Karting Grand Nationals held in Victoria, Australia. Faye has also on occasions attended Jeff Brown’s vintage extravaganza held each year in June at Mark Dismore’s pristine karting facility located at New Castle near Indianapolis.
For many years Faye hosted the karts of the Australian contingent who have competed at the Vintage Karting Association Reunion held each year during early February at the Adams Motorsport Park in Riverside, California. The event is actually called the Faye Pierson Vintage Kart Reunion in her honour. Faye generously allowed the Australians to use the Bug premises for their race preparation and helped with the transportation of their karts to and from the track.
Faye, who became a nonagenarian in 2018, was an inspiration to all who had been fortunate to have met her decided to finish up K & P as a manufacturing plant in the middle of 2014. Faye however had no intentions of disappearing from the American vintage karting scene; she retained part of the upstairs level of the old Bug plant and turned that area into a private museum dedicated to Bug karts.
Faye’s meritorious induction to the World Karting Association’s Karting Hall of Fame in 1989 as well as her induction into the Karting Hall of Fame in Talladega, Georgia, is proudly recorded in a section of her museum. ‘Ladybug’ continued to participate at vintage karting events close to her Californian home right to the end.
The sport of karting gave Faye Pierson hundreds of fantastic stories and experiences collected across a sixty year period. The Adams event named after her will always be a lasting memorial to Faye ‘Ladybug’ Pierson the Queen of Karting.
This year, 34 sponsoring tracks across the country will be hosting VKA Karting Events including 18 Sprint and 16 Enduro.
Although most are driving events, the Kart Show at these events is where 100% of our members, guests & the public, can participate by viewing the workmanship in our members’ karts, vote for their favorite go kart, meet our members and enjoy the social side of our great organization.
VKA Kart Shows run the gamut from simply lining up our karts for viewing, to organizing full blown social celebrations. In 2020, VKA members and our sponsoring tracks came up with the following enhancements that added a lot of pizazz to everyone’s benefit:
Pre-kart show, early-arrival, dinner/social
Wine & beer tastings
Cheese & snack platters
Singer for the National Anthem
Introduction of special guests
Enhanced 50-50 raffle prizes
Acknowledgements for farthest traveler, oldestdriver, youngest driver
To support our Kart Shows, VKA Guidelines call for a committee of volunteers to help our members and sponsoring tracks organize the most fun Kart Shows possible with advice & organizing suggestions, but also to learn new ideas that we can share with all the other Kart Show volunteers.
Members & promoters interested in upgrading your 2021 VKA Kart Show(s), please email us with your name & phone number along with the name & date of your event to VKAKartShow2021@gmail.com .
Sal Palatucci Volunteer National Kart Show Director
I may have jumped the gun with my initial announcement last month of the International Kart Day, but in my defense, it was necessary. The part I didn’t explain in the December announcement was that the process started in 2019. There is a website that manages/publishes a calendar of “National Days.” They made it clear they get thousands of requests every year. (Keeping in mind we have national pizza day, national lemon meringue pie day, national hot dog day, and even national clean out your refrigerator day [right before Thanksgiving], it is no wonder they get thousands of requests.) They also made it clear they don’t notify applicants until it is approved…. and they didn’t. They also said they would not accept applications from “individuals.” I submitted the request as “Editor, VKA FirsTurn,” but I guess that didn’t carry any weight. Go figure. So, I asked Gary Wlodarsky, VKA President, if he would sign a “Declaration” that established the day. He was agreeable and the VKA Board approved. I re-applied in November.
On Dec. 1 we hosted a zoom meeting and invited Regional Coordinators, track owners, promoters, as well as representatives from other vintage karting organizations. Another meeting is scheduled for December 15. As you might expect there was plenty of discussion and differing points-of-view. All of them needed to be heard.
Kart Day Vs Kart Month
The issues that were raised included the date, primarily the perceived conflict for the inaugural event with the 20th Anniversary of 9/11; how to include/excite modern karters to celebrate the day; the need for a mission statement that can be taken to national modern event organizations and others; some suggestions for what modern event could include to recognize the heritage we all share. Too much to discuss here, so stay tuned or visit Facebook.*
International Go Kart Month is a time to celebrate the people, the events, the equipment, memories, the innovations…our history, and to make people aware of all of that.
Hopefully, the official announcement will be made in the home-state of karting at the Adams Kart Track in Riverside, CA, at the first 2021 VKA event February 5. 2021. Throughout the year, we hope all VKA events will honor the inaugural event by holding a 5-minute session where all the karts parade the track with a small American flag. Also, modern karting events will be encouraged to include Parade Laps to recognize the history their karts share with Art Ingles’ creation. On September 11, 2021, join the fun at Oreville, PA, for a special event, on this special day.
Check out the Facebook page (International Go Kart Month – September) too. It will be updated as this concept takes shape.
Rolf Hill, Executive Director International Go Kart Month
REMINDER!!! Procedure & Rules Updates for 2021
As you can see The VKA Board is upgrading its operations for 2021 with a new website and a digital version of FirsTurn. The primary goal is for you, the VKA member to have a better experience as a participant at VKA events, and as a vintage karting enthusiast in general. To make this happen, we need your help. Simply put, without information on you and your karts, we cannot do any meaningful event coverage. We need to be able to identify your kart by either a number panel when on the track or a show entry card with a visible number on it. Then we need a corresponding race or show entry form with as much info as possible about the kart and yourself, like where you live. Without this we can only run random photos with no captions that have no relevance.
Karts will NOT be allowed on track at any time without number panels
Only event photos with captions will be considered for FirsTurn publication
PLEASE fill out both the show or race entry form with as much information as possible including the best way to contact you. The FirsTurn editor may be contacting you for more information or photos of your kart.
You must be a VKA member in good standing to participate in the driving or show portions of the events
Helmets will be checked for Snell Approval dates. Only Snell 2015 and later helmets are acceptable
Hoosier R60 compound tires are no longer on the modern kart tire list. They have been replaced by the Hoosier R70s
Vintage 4-Strokes have been added into the Classic class structure
Hopefully, we will close out the Covid 19 pandemic in 2021. Until that is a reality, let’s protect each other and our ability to hold events with common sense protective measures.
Rolf Hill here… I’m fried. Stick a fork in me … I’m done. Len Emanuelson is taking over as Editor, but he’s doing the electronic version. For those of you who still want a paper copy, we’ve heard you and you will still be getting paper until your membership runs out or I run out of gas … and my tank is nearly empty. I’m only good for a few more issues, but that’s it.
We’ve had some people who have helped with writing event summaries and some technical articles along the way, and even had an editor for a year. I’ve appreciated all the help. So now VKA needs a Print Editor for those who still want paper.
There were 134 who sent in the post card and requested paper. I’m still not sure how many of those are 36-month members, but my tank is going to run out well before those memberships do. So, if anyone wants to be the guy (or gal) who puts together the print version, now is the time to step up. The alternative may be to offer pro-rated refunds, but that’s up to the Board, not me. (Better to get Print Editor. Send me an email: KartNumber4@yahoo.com)
Len and I have a plan … I think. Anything I get, I will send to him. He will put it into the e-FirsTurn. In the interim, I will continue to put together the event summary tables of demo and show winners for both versions. All other input including pix needs to go to Len effective with Jacksonville and Riverside … and beyond.