Go-kart drivers the world over rely on good reputations in manufacturers, and one such company that has been delivering solid karts for generations is Margay Racing. In this article, I’ll delve into the history of Margay Racing and look at 3 of their most iconic karts on the market today.
History Of Margay Racing Karts
Margay Racing started under the name Mar-Kart after being founded in 1964 by Elmer Freber. The manufacturer started by designing and building gearboxes specifically to be used in go-karts, the first time this ever happened since go-karting’s inception in the 1950s. These gearboxes were quick-change varieties, which are still used in shifter karts to this day.
After two years of producing these gearboxes and other small components to be used in karts, Freber decided that the karting itch became too strong and he invested in becoming part of the kart manufacturing business at large. He did this by buying King Kart, based in Milwaukee, WI, in order to jump into the chassis building side of karting.
A Name Change
And so, in 1966, the company’s founder decided to change the name of his business to better encompass everything he wanted to achieve. This was the first instance of the word ‘Margay’ being associated with the company in full, and done by calling the business Margay Products.
This choice was made for the rather simple yet effective reason that Margay are a breed of small wild cats, similar to the Jaguar, who can run at top speeds of 80 mph! This was a pretty fitting name for a company that had grown into one of the biggest kart manufacturers in the United States.
The First Margay Karts & Innovations
After becoming a fully-fledged kart manufacturer, Margay Products quickly began work on designing their entrance chassis and inventions to start revolutionizing the market. It’s unclear precisely when they released their first kart to the public, but it’s safe to assume it was during the late 60s (likely 1968).
The New Breed
This was called the New Breed, and it was purposely developed to be used with the Margay Quick Change gearbox. Because they were able to make purpose-built parts and components for go-karts, Margay soon found that they’d dominated a corner of the growing kart-making market. Buying a New Breed shifter kart with its pre-installed gearbox became a no-brainer for kart drivers in the US.
Shortly after the success of the New Breed kart, Margay released the Sidewinder. This kart was yet another industry first due to how the engine was mounted beside the driver as opposed to behind them. Overall, this small design change gave the Sidewinder a lower center of gravity and, due to how stripped-back karts are, it gave the driver better handling than other karts on the market.
Key Fact: To this day, karts are made with the engine mounted beside the driver due to Margay’s early innovations!
The successes and business profits didn’t stop there. Throughout the 1970s, Margay designed and produced many more award-winning chassis that employed all of their research and innovations. Names of these chassis included the Cheetah, Puma, Cougar, Lynx and Panther X – all with the theme of big cats that inspired Margay’s own name. These were some of the best-selling karts of all time too, not just in Margay company history!
The mid-1970s saw the passing of the Margay torch from Elmer Freber, the founder and manager of the kart manufacturing company, to his son, Don Freber.
Under new management, Margay continued to produce its products designed for karts and various chassis with mounting success. This was due to Don’s background as a kart racer. He was the primary test subject for the chassis that his father made, such as the New Breed and Sidewinder.
Hungry for yet more success and innovations for the kart manufacturing business, Don made the decision in the late 1970s to start the production of purpose-built 2-cycle kart engines. This engine was named the LMR 100 and, with rigorous testing, it was mounted on Margay karts that went on to start dominating the US kart racing scene in the early 1980s.
The most notable success came from Scott Pruett after he won the Long Beach Grand Prix with the power of a purpose-built Margay enduro kart.
This was just a small snapshot of the rising influence and respect that Margay karts started to garner in the world of karting, and Don was rewarded for his efforts in 2009 by being inducted into the World Karting Association’s Hall of Fame. His father, Elmer, found a place there in 1989.
Another Change In Management
In the year 1990, leadership of Margay passed once more down the family line to Keith Freber, son of Don. Although his dad found success in kart racing, Keith was on another level entirely.
He started kart racing aged 7 in sprint races, and progressed into enduro karting where he won both national and international titles. To this day, Keith still races in enduro karting events and uses it as pivotal points for his research and development process in Margay. In his own words, racing gives him “better insight” into the production of karts.
The third generation of the Freber family still owns and manages Margay, named Margay Racing during the 1990s as the company continued to rack up victories from their karts competing in races around the country.
Notable Margay Kart Drivers
Even from the early days, Margay have partnered with and brought big motor racing stars to victory with their innovative karts at the starts of their careers. Some of the most notable of these drivers include:
- Scott Pruett – Kart Driver
- Scott Goodyear (yes, that Goodyear!)
- Jamie McMurray – NASCAR Driver
- Kevin Harvick – NASCAR Driver
The 40+ years spent manufacturing karts and revolutionizing the motorsport have skyrocketed Margay to become the pinnacle kart manufacturer in the US, and a leading manufacturer worldwide. I’ve had the pleasure of driving some of Margay’s karts, so my picks for their best karts at the moment were pretty easy to make. I go into more detail on them below.
KEY POINTS• Margay have built more than 20,000 chassis since the late 1960s
• They are one of the top karting manufacturers in the USA
• Many notable racing drivers have raced in Margay karts
Margay Racing’s Current Range: 3 Karts Reviewed
1. The Wildcat Kid Kart
One of the best times to get into karting is when you’re young, and one of the best karts currently out there for teaching your kid the ropes is the Wildcat, which was developed over the many years of kid kart racing in Margay’s history.
You have the choice to purchase it as a roller, a kit package with uninstalled elements, or as a track-ready package, with varying price points. Margay can also make adjustments to the kart to perfectly fit the child driving it, and it has a whole host of other extras to make it a dream to drive.
- 100% TiG welded, 4130 chromoly chassis construction (guaranteed for one year against breakage)
- Unique pedal platform assembly allows easy pedal position adjustment (no aftermarket pedal risers required)
- Margay 17 mm billet, heat-treated spindles (shafts are guaranteed for life against bending or failure)
- Adjustable front ride height
- Adjustable wheelbase & adjustable rear ride height
- MCP Hydraulic brakes
- Two position steering hub
- Fully adjustable, rubber isolated upper seat mounts
2. The Ignite K3
Karting with your kids can often become quite the expensive process, between buying them new karts every time they enter different age categories and the various accidents they’ll probably have while learning. Margay understands this fact, and they designed their Ignite line of products to serve both Juniors (12-15) and Seniors (15+).
As with all of their products, you have quite a few purchase options, between the roller, kit package, and track-ready package, meaning it’s perfect to suit any budget. This flexible yet highly competitive kart will make for a mainstay in your garage, and the recommended engine of a 4-stroke LO206 will save you a fortune in repair/maintenance costs.
- Adjustable Ackerman
- Adjustable front ride height
- 2-position steering hub
- 4-quart fuel tank with integral pick-up & vent
- KG BDE lightweight bodywork (black, red or silver)
- MCP 2 piston caliper (‘no shim’ gap adjustment)
- Braided stainless brake lines
- Heat-treated billet 17 mm spindles
3. The Brava 125
This kart chassis series was first introduced back in the late ’80s/early ’90s, and it has grown with innovations and absolute racing edge ever since! The 125 model is for usage in 125cc categories of race, and the recommended engine is the ever-reliable 2-stroke IAME X30.
You can choose between a roller, kit package, and a track-ready package, as with every other kart that Margay makes. As the latest iteration of the winning Brava series, this kart celebrates the many historic victories afforded by the manufacturer’s dedication to racing. It’s easily the most competitive kart that Margay offers, and it’s perfect for all serious racers out there!
- Adjustable front & rear ride height
- Sniper SA1 linear caster/camber adjusters
- Angled 2 position steering hub
- 8.5L liter fuel tank with integral pick-up & vent
- KG ‘FP7’ lightweight bodywork (black or red)
- G-Seat ES1 fiberglass shell seat
- 2 supplemental seat braces
- TruSpeed Magnesium low volume wheels: 130 mm x 212 mm
A brand that has been on the scene for almost 60 years, Margay Racing have truly dedicated themselves to the karting industry, and it shows in their attention to detail for racers to get the best out of their karts on every occasion.
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