1911 Kelsey Motorette
CCadwallader (Carl) Kelsey had been building cars since his schoolboy days before the turn of the century. After college, he began selling automobiles, becoming sales manager for Maxwell-Briscoe, and was principally responsible for the success that Maxwell enjoyed in those days. After a disagreement with Benjamin Briscoe, he left to form his own company and become a manufacturer. His first effort, a four wheeler called the Spartan, never reached production, as Henry Ford had just slashed the price of the Model T, and Kelsey could not compete. He decided to go after Ford by producing a car that was significantly less expensive than Ford's. The first thing he did to slash costs was to eliminate one of the wheels! Most manufacturers had given up on the three wheeler by this time, but not Kelsey. His three wheeler might lean, but it would not tip over, he devised a "stabilizer" (really an anti sway bar) connecting the front axle with the frame. The car was unveiled on New Year's Eve 1910, at Grand Central in New York City. Although it was a little car, it was "built like a big one, with a pressed steel frame like a Packard's, an I Beam front axle like Pierce Arrow, and Vanadium springs like a Locomobile". Kelsey used this name dropping in an attempt to shrug off negative impressions of his motorcar. Ever the promoter, Kelsey sent one Motorette across the country in the dead of winter, and had another pulling a three ton Alco truck through the streets of Philadelphia. A strike a t engine producer Lycoming effectively put an end to the Motorette, and approximately 210 were built before production ceased in 1913, and these cars were shipped throughout the USA as well as Denmark, Canada, Mexico and Japan. Power was supplied by a 2-stroke 2-cylinder engine that was initially air-cooled in the first models switching to water cooled engines by 1911. The engine drove the single rear wheel via chain drive and steering was controlled by a tiller device. In addition to the standard version a delivery van was also created as was a rickshaw model that was exported to Japan. The car on offer was displayed in a museum for several years until recently when the collection was dispersed. The car has been restored, but we have not attempted to run the engine. This is a significant early automobile, and is a great car for the museum or for your living room!
Source: private party
Posted: 15 Jan 2007
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