Carson Steen has a simple explanation when people ask if his Indian Land family is, well, just plum crazy.
“We’re just country folk,” the patriarch said. “We are not smart enough to know what we can’t do. ... We like to do things nobody else does” – like drive a golf cart at world-record speeds.
Robby Steen, Carson’s 53-year-old son, has twice set the Guinness World Records mark for fastest golf cart – 103.65 mph in 2013 and 118.76 mph in 12.24 seconds in 2014.
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To meet Guinness’ standards, the Steens – Carson, Robby and his brother Rick – used a 2010 E-Z-GO golf cart. They estimate about 90 percent of the cart was stock – the body, the disc brakes and the tires. It was ready for the links as there were two golf bags full of clubs, a ball washer and golf tees in the cart. The tees, however, were glued into the cup holder.
The two visible non-stock additions were 80 pounds of lead on the front bumper to keep the cart stable and two sets of over-the-shoulder racing safety harnesses to keep the driver and any devil-may-care passenger secure.
Underneath the seat and body were the major modifications – a small bank of lithium battery cells connected to a high-performance motor engineered by the Steens, and a high-voltage, high-amp Zilla motor controller. That’s what turned the E-Z-GO into a Fast-As-You-Want-To-Go cart.
“It was a scary ride,” Robby Steen said. “There was nothing around you to protect you.”
The cart easily had enough oomph to hit about 130 mph, he said, since it used only 80 percent of the battery’s power at 118 mph. But at that speed, the ride was so skittish that Robby Steen said he prayed that if there were one more fast run, he would shut it down.
“We put the man upstairs first,” Carson Steen said. “Faith can carry you in a big way.”
Carson Steen was on “pins and needles” for the last ride at Darlington Dragway in the fall of 2014. “It was more dangerous than people realized,” he said.
The father had some indication of what his son was experiencing. During an earlier test run, he sat beside his son, testing the voltage drop-off as the cart accelerated. Carson Steen wore a helmet without a visor and, as the cart accelerated, “I felt like my head was going to pop off.”
The top speed for that run was about 95 mph.
All the same, they hope to return to Darlington this fall with the goal of driving 130 to 150 mph. After that, they are working on a dragster-like cart for a 200-mph try. The base for that run is a tubular frame similar to those on drag racers, including a roll cage to protect the driver. The cart likely would need three motors to reach the 200 mph goal and a parachute to help the cart stop.
The quest for the world’s fastest golf cart started out, in part, as a way to promote their business. Plum Quick Motors makes high-performance engines that will give carts a top speed of 25 mph, 30 mph or 40 mph, depending on what motor you buy – and what changes you make to the cart’s battery, brakes and tires.
“Everyone who has a golf cart wants to go faster,” Carson Steen said. “It’s human nature.”
Residents of nearby Sun City Carolina Lakes are good customers, Carson Steen said, but most of the company’s business comes through its website – plumquick.com – and from international customers.
While Plum Quick Motors is the result of natural aptitude and curiosity, it’s also grounded in education and experience working for others.
Carson Steen worked for Springs Industries for 23 years before starting his own machine shop. He took courses at York Technical College to increase his electrical and mechanical knowledge.
Rick Steen, 55, played quarterback at Indian Land High School and attended Newberry College.
Robby Steen worked at Springs Industries on the second shift, repairing weaving looms while still in high school at Indian Land.
The Steens, under the banner of Steen Products, did a variety of work – from repairing textile machines to designing and building electric riding lawnmowers and medical testing equipment.
Now, of course, their focus is on golf carts. And on keeping their trade secrets secret.
That, they say, is one of the benefits of working with family. Just like the Colonel’s secret chicken recipe, the Steens are tight-lipped about exactly what they do.
All Carson Steen would reveal is, “We just, ah, tune them up.”
Don Worthington • 803-329-4066 • firstname.lastname@example.org