“My son Andrew gave me a framed 1920 Saturday Evening Post magazine page with a large Kissel ad.” That gift hung on the wall of his office, a daily reminder that Kissel cars had existed.
Eventually, Kissel started doing some research and discovered that the Kissel Motor Car Co. was founded in 1906 by German immigrants in Hartford, Wis. During the next 25 years the company manufactured about 26,000 cars, trucks, hearses, ambulances and taxicabs before the Great Depression brought about the end of the company.
“Only about 150 complete Kissels are currently known to exist,” Kissel says. However, he persevered and in the autumn of 2008 he acquired a 1914 KisselKar Model 40 from the estate of the late Ann Klein. The history of the car has been traced only as far back as to 1949 when it was being used to operate a Wisconsin farm saw. The original mileage is thought to be only 6,900 miles.
The 1914 car was at the auction of antique automobiles conducted in Hershey, Pa., but the bidding failed to reach the reserve level. Kissel pursued the 1914 KisselKar to St. Louis, Mo., where he finally purchased it. He had it trucked to the Wisconsin Automotive Museum in Hartford, Wis., where it was exhibited until June 2009.
While at the museum, Kissel arranged to have maintenance work done on the car, including the replacement of all fluids, cleaning and repacking the wheel bearings and installing new batteries. A new electric fuel pump and an inline filter were installed.
During a mechanical inspection it was discovered that the cam lobe for the intake valve on cylinder No. #2 had come “unpinned” from the camshaft. The loose lobe was repinned to the shaft, with the cam still installed in the engine, through the bottom of the engine with the oil pan removed.
From the museum it was transported to Kissel’s home in Livermore, Calif. Since then, Kissel has replaced the original leather upholstery that covered the seats. Additionally, a new rear compartment rug was fabricated, as well as a matching front floor mat. A new boot was made to cover the top when it was in the lowered position.
Once the KisselKar arrived in California, Kissel and his wife took part in a four-day touring event sponsored by the Eureka Horseless Carriage Club. “The car successfully completed all four days of the tour,” he is pleased to report.
The 40 horsepower, 334-cubic-inch, four-cylinder engine with the cylinders cast in pairs, is well ventilated by the 13 louvers on both sides of the engine hood.
Mechanical brakes on the 12-spoke rear wheels work to halt the 3,880-pound touring car. The manual transmission offers four forward gears. Beside the big headlights, the car is also equipped with a pair of cowl lights.
The luxurious car rolls on a lengthy 121-inch wheelbase supported by large diameter 35×5-inch tires mounted on 25-inch wheels on a semi-elliptical leaf spring suspension.
Kissel reports that total KisselKar production for 1914 was 896. Cars included Models 40, 48 and 60 and a line of trucks from 1,500 pounds, 1.5-ton, 2-ton, 3-ton, 4-ton and 5-ton sizes.
Records indicate that the KisselKar 40 Touring Car sold new in 1914 for a base price of $1,850. Kissel equates that figure to approximately $85,000 in today’s dollars.
“With a last name of Kissel, how could I not want to own one?” Kissel asks. He is always looking for more KisselKars or parts. — Vern Parker, Motor Matters