Pimp my cart: These golf carts are all the rage

Cruising along in their golf cart, waving at neighbors — that’s Adam Chabira in the passenger seat (he drives the blue one below) and Kurt Smith at the wheel.

Riding in style in White Rock Valley

There is an emerging vehicle of interest cruising quaint, family-centric neighborhoods. It is not the latest SUV or a modernized minivan — it is the relatively inexpensive, often meandering, golf cart. The vehicle made for moving golfers and their gear from one hole to the next — later used in industrial settings, college campuses and around retirement communities — increasingly is spotted cruising tree-lined residential streets, mom at the wheel chauffeuring youngsters to school, pool, playground or ice cream shop.

Lake Highlands dads Kurt Smith and Adam Chabira — each with a garage outfitted like a high-end detail shop, complete with speedy motorcycles and man-cave essentials — noticed the trend taking off a few years ago in White Rock Valley, Smith says.

So when, for a mere $300, he located a beat down, steel body, 1995-built cart with a faded aqua green paint job, he jumped at the opportunity to modify the “completely terrible” machine.

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“I gutted it, ripped it up and sourced the needed parts.”

Today — with reupholstered black seats, swapped-in silver body, polished aluminum wheels wrapped in street-oriented rubber, chopped top and LED lights — it looks like a low-key, retro-new hot rod. Thanks to fresh shocks and close scrutiny of the wiring, the battery-operated auto runs as fine as she looks.

Smith, his wife and children travel by cart to soccer practice, school, Shady’s burger joint or to visit friends. “My two girls love being on it,” he says, and it often serves as a conversation starter with other neighborhood families.

Understated lettering aside the passenger’s right foot reads LHC — that is, Lake Highlands Carts, the small garage-based business born out of this initial experiment.

“It’s just two guys who like working on stuff. We’d be doing this anyway, so why not make a few bucks while doing it,” Smith says of the decision to turn golf-cart building into a (if all goes well) for-profit company.

His business partner’s cart is a flashier version — a metallic blue, jacked-up model with all-terrain wheels and upgraded rear springs.

The varying styles, in a way, represent the buddies’ personality differences.

Smith, who owns Ten Flat Detailing, considers his work on cars a craft and a calling. The vehicle is a canvas upon which he casts his long-acquired skills.

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“I found the passion washing cars as a kid for extra money,” he says. “It is not only cleaning or restoration — it is art.”

As Smith waxes poetic about vehicle enhancement, etcetera, Chabira chuckles and ribs him about his sentimentality.

“You can see how into this he is, right?” Chabira says. The enthusiastic Smith is the “brand master,” Chabira says. “I wanted to wait before publicizing this. We were just getting started.”

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Smith adds, “He wasn’t keen on putting up the Facebook page so soon. But it got traction right away … you know, we each do what we do.”

Not everyone is going to like the idea, and there are arguments out there (mostly in Florida newspapers, where the golf cart movement is massive) that golf carts can be risky.

The guys install seatbelts and talk to customers about safety, laws and insurance related to the vehicles. Chabira notes that there is a fine line between fun and obnoxious. Lake Highlands Carts aims for the former, not the latter, and they want to make something residents already ostensibly enjoy into something creative and accessible that invites connections among neighbors.

Contact LHC via Facebook, here.

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