Kissels were built in Hartford, WI, between 1908 and 1931. Amelia Earhart, Al Jolson, Jack Dempsey and Fatty Arbuckle all drove Kissels. This car was owned and restored by tire manufacturer Tom Lester. Marketed as 'The Custom Car,' each Kissel was ordered from the factory with a choice of: Pancake, drum or bullet headlights; one, two or three bumper bars; running boards or step brackets; leather or fabric upholstery; side or rear mounted spare wheels; golf bag brackets; and rear seat placement. This example is one of six 8-75 Speedsters known to survive. By Daniel Vaughan | Mar 2007
Cars for the Starts Founded in 1907, the Kissel Kar Company was established by two grandsons of German immigrants in Hartford, Wisconsin. The Kissel family had become successful as hardware merchants, property owners, land developers and lumber mill operators in the late 19th Century. When they decided to enter the automobile business they immediately hired Herman Palmer, another German immigrant with an engineering background and J. Fredrich Werner, a German coachbuilder who was living in America.
In 1918, the word 'Kar' was replaced by 'Car' in reaction to the post World War One anti-German sentiment. The Kissel Car Company produced cars, trucks and ambulances. With a reputation for building sporty and fast vehicles, they began supplying vehicles to many of Hollywood's premier movie stars including Fatty Arbuckle, Al Jolson, and Mary Pickford. Production of automobiles came to an end in late 1930.
This sporty example is the only known speedster built on the Model 8-65 chassis. It is powered by an inline, eighty-cylinder engine which was rated at 65 horsepower.
Louis Kissel and his sons, George and William formed the Kissel Motor Company of Hartford, Wisconsin in 1906. Their vehicles were custom-designed, hand-built of varying kinds that included fire trucks, hearses, taxicabs, automobiles, and utility vehicles. The company produced vehicles for many years before going into receivership in 1930 after building about 35,000 automobiles. Only about 150 Kissel automobiles are known to exist today.
The Speedster was their most popular and best-known Kissel model and was given the nickname 'Gold Bug.' They were built from 1918 to 1931. Early Speedsters featured outboard seats that pulled out from the body in front of the rear fenders. Later models replaced the seats with fittings to strap golf bags in that position. Beginning in 1925 a ruble seat could be ordered as well as six- and eight-cylinder engines.
The Kissel Speedsters were popular with Hollywood celebrities including Fatty Arbuckle, Douglas Fairbanks, Greta Garbo, Mary Pickford and Ruby Vallee.
In 1925, Amelia Earhart drove her Kissel Speedster from Boston to San Francisco with her mother.
This particular example was restored by the owner from a car that had sustained fire damage in the 1970s. The restoration was completed in 2009.
The Kissel brothers lived in the town of Hartford, Wisconsin where they made their living by creating engines and farm equipment. In 1906 they shifted their priorities to the evolving automobile market and created the Kissel Motor Company. The company was owned by Louis Kissel and his two sons, William and George. In 1907 their first vehicle, the Kissel Kar, went on sale. It was powered by a four-cylinder engine that produced 35 horsepower. The engine was water-cooled and L-head configuration. In 1909 a six-cylinder engine was introduced and by 1913 electric starters had been adapted to their line of vehicles. In 1917 a Double Six V-12 became available. Many of the Kissel cars used the Warner 4-speed selective sliding gear transmission. Solid rubber tires with wood spokes were not uncommon on the Kissel Kars.
Another famous Kissel car was the All-Year featuring a removable hardtop, glass windows, and curtains. Among its innovations was the illuminated instrument panel, technology they claimed to have created.
Throughout the years the company had its share of ups and downs. The reputation and prosperity of the company was founded on quality, durability, advanced design, outstanding performance, and dependability. They were able to maintain this reputation because they were a low production company. With the onset of World War I, the name Kar was dropped from the line-up because of resemblance to German words. The company and its 1400 workers once again switched priority to producing trucks for the Army.
The Great Depression was responsible for the demise of the Kissel Automobile Company. In 1935 the company was reorganized and named Kissel Industries where they produced motors for Sears, Roebuck and Company. In 1942 George Kissel passed away and the company was sold to West Bend Aluminum Company. By Daniel Vaughan | Jul 2009
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