King Midget

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King Midget (Model III)
ManufacturerMidget Motors Corporation
Production1946–1970
Classmicrocar
Body style2-door convertible
Engine1-cylinder air-cooled
Transmission2-speed automatic
 
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King Midget (Model III)
ManufacturerMidget Motors Corporation
Production1946–1970
Classmicrocar
Body style2-door convertible
Engine1-cylinder air-cooled
Transmission2-speed automatic

King Midget was a kit car produced between 1946 and 1970 by the Midget Motors Corporation. Claud Dry and Dale Orcutt first sold the King Midget as part of their Midget Motors Supply operations in Athens, Ohio. By 1948, they began to use the name Midget Motors Manufacturing Co., too. In about 1956, Dry and Orcutt changed the name of their company to Midget Motors Corporation.

The King Midget was a very small car and it used a one-speed[1] automatic transmission of their own design. It drove only one rear wheel, eliminating the need for a differential. Dry and Orcutt designed the Midget while working as Civil Air Patrol pilots during World War II. The car used many aircraft techniques to reduce weight.

The first generation was offered only as a kit, with a US$270 instruction manual, chassis, axles, steering assembly, springs, plus dimensioned patterns for the sheet metal.[2] It would accept any one-cylinder engine.[2] Through 1951, the Model 1 was also available in assembled form, powered by a 6 hp (4.5 kW) Wisconsin engine.

In 1951, the Model 2 was developed. It was a two-passenger convertible offered either fully assembled or as a kit, powered by a 23 cu in (0.4 L)[2] 7.5 hp (5.6 kW) sidevalve[2] Wisconsin AENL engine. With a 72 in (1,800 mm) wheelbase (8 in (200 mm) less than a Crosley 4CC),[3] it measured only 102 in (260 cm) overall. The Model 2 was still a very basic car; it had no speedometer or reverse, but it was light, strong, and available for just $500. In 1955, a custom model of the Model 2 was introduced. It lasted through 1957, with the price remaining under $550.[2] By contrast, a four-passenger 1952 Crosley CD sedan could be had, fully assembled, for US$943, and a wagon as low as US$1002.[4]

In the 1950s, Midget Motors developed the Junior and Trainer. Both were without a body or even a design for one. It was up to the owner to design and build. The Junior was powered by a 2.5 hp (1.9 kW) Briggs & Stratton engine, while the Trainer used a 3 hp (2.2 kW) Briggs and Stratton. Both had an automatic clutch with a geared, reverse transmission in the drive train. They were discontinued in the early 1960s.

In 1957, the Model 3 was introduced. On a new, 76.5 in (1,940 mm) wheelbase,[2] and now measuring 117 in (300 cm) overall, it was still smaller than a Crosley.[5] It now had four-wheel hydraulic brakes and was powered by a 9.2 hp (6.9 kW) engine. The 1958 price approached US$900.[2] (The much bigger Rambler American started at US$1775.)[6] Midget production lasted through the 1960s, and eventually almost 5,000 were built.[7]

Midget Motors fell on hard times in the late 1960s. Sales dropped off so much that the company had difficulty paying taxes. By 1969, the company was forced into bankruptcy. Production manager Vernon Eads bought the remains of Midget Motors under the name Barthman Corporation. He drew up plans for a new model, the Commuter, a one-piece fiberglass car that resembled a dune buggy, but a fire at his newly-built Florida plant destroyed the only body mold. The 1970 run comprised only 15 cars, including the only three Commuters ever built. The costs of rebuilding after the fire, combined with new safety and emissions standards, were more than Eads could bear, and he closed the company in 1970.[8]

Notes

  1. ^ Flory, J. "Kelly", Jr. American Cars 1946-1959 (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Coy, 2008), p.1011.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Flory, p.1011.
  3. ^ Flory, p.86.
  4. ^ Flory, p.412.
  5. ^ Flory, p.411.
  6. ^ Flory, p.930.
  7. ^ Flory, p.1012.
  8. ^ by the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide (2007-09-04). "HowStuffWorks article on King Midget". Auto.howstuffworks.com. http://auto.howstuffworks.com/1946-1970-king-midget.htm. Retrieved 2011-11-05. 

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