Its not every day Kettle Moraine Preservation & Restoration gets a phone call asking to take care of a vintage racing machine for an undetermined amount of time.
With that said, a call came to us back in August when our friend Jim Liska wanted a place to showcase and house his King Kobra enduro kart, which was purchased from Milwaukee-based King Products in the winter of 1966.
The original asking price: $229. It rolled out the door for $200, thanks to Liska’s mother Dolores talking the price down with King’s John Dentici in fine fashion. That equates to roughly $1,536 today accounting for inflation. A good deal for a new racing kart of any kind. The Kobra enduro kart was Liska’s second King Kart- he raced a King sprint kart starting in 1965 at the Badger Kart Club in Dousman, Wisconsin.
But the price isn’t what is so special about this particular chassis. This exact Kobra was the final customer chassis sold by King Karts before the stock and tooling was sold to Elmer Freber to start production of a brand that exists and thrives to this day: Margay Racing LLC.
Liska’s King Kobra was first raced in July, 1967 at Meadowdale Raceway in Carpentersville, Illinois. It was equipped with a McCullogh Mc91A engine coupled with a Horstman oil-can style muffler. Wheels were made by Precision Wheel, while the Pavesi brothers, who worked for Excalibur’s Brooks Stevens, made the fuel tanks for King. The Liska family team also added side rails to keep their ace driver from sliding around, as there had not been any considerations for that from King.
In 1968, Liska achieved the Sr. Reed Valve High Points Championship at Wisconsin State Fair Park, a three-race enduro series promoted by Badger Kart Club. Three top-five finishes locked up a hotly contested title. Following that, the kart was raced by Liska at the Fair Park in 1969 to a fourth, and would have recaptured his BKC championship at the Mile in 1970 had he been a member of the club.
That would spell the end to Jim Liska’s time on the track for a while- but not for his King Kobra. Ed Liska, Jim’s father, loaned the chassis to a family in the Milwaukee area to run at local enduro events. A new front porch was added, along with Margay spindles, Margay Type 24 wheels and a front bumper from a Margay Concept.
The kart would go on to race at Blackhawk Farms and Road America a few times before finally being parked sometime in the mid-1970s.
Today, the kart has been restored as it last raced, but with the Mc90 engine package from Liska’s King sprint chassis. It only makes sense that the last specimen from one brand has several add-ons from the new brand attached. The kart serves as a bridge between the old guard of King and new breed of Margay, forever linking the two brands and a place in-time.
P3 in CF today. Started P2 overall as some were late to the grid, was P2 in-class going into T1 and played it cool while things got a bit dicey.
Had a chance to regain the lead when yesterday's polesitter caught us due to the short grid and attempted to pass the leader in T1, only to get pinched down into the grass. It was very nearly a massive wreck.
All told, it was a good run. Car worked as was designed, we need a bit more seat time to develop some areas of the handling.
Anytime you can roll the car into the trailer in one piece at the end of the year, it was a good year.
Former AAR draftsman Alan Burke hung out with us today, so we had him sit in Eagle DGF #005, as he also used to race a sister DGF. It was a pleasure Alan!
Today we started dead last, 24th. Skipped qualifying this morning due to some off-track issues that make racing seem rather insignificant.
After six laps, #46 finished 10th overall, fourth in CF. Kept our nose clean and had some fun battles with drivers I haven't run with before. Cheers everyone, that was a hoot.
Start sixth overall tomorrow afternoon, third in CF.
We had a great time at the Milwaukee Concours yesterday. Thanks to all of the volunteers, exhibitors and everyone who came to the event for helping support the local charitable causes. The Milwaukee Concours is a very well run event, and there is no mystery as an entrant as to where and when we needed to be at our assigned place on the field.
It was a pleasure to have the Thames on the show field with so many magnificent creations from all corners of the earth, some that were probably at some of the same race circuits as the Thames in the day.
Although we decided not to enter judging, we had a number of people tell us that the truck and Stanguelli combo was their favorite entry at the event.
Thanks for the love Milwaukee.
At the 1963 SCCA Chicago Region June Sprints, a Stanguellini placed third in the Formula Junior category, raced by our friend Bob Birmingham.
While the borrowed Stang' we had on display today atop our Thames wasn't his old car, it still brought a smile to Bob's face.
Even more so when we told him that during our research, we found he had the last ever podium finish for a Stanguellini in SCCA national competition in the Formula Junior class.
If you dont know Bob, you should. His kindness and willingness to share his personal accounts of not only races, but of people long since passed is something we treasure.
It is one thing to create a memory, it's another to keep it alive. Bob is working on three books as we speak to do just that.
The Thames and Stang combo is all set and ready here at the Milwaukee Concours d'Elegance. Stop on by!