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The Wilson's 1914 4-40 Touring

Herman, Andrew, Cindy and Quinn
Herman (the Wilson's 1914 KisselKar 4-40 Touring), Andrew, Cindy and Quinn at the Greenwich Concours d'Elegance, June 2, 2002. (Photo from Katinka DeRuiter)

This page is devoted to Herman, the name of Andrew and Cindy Wilson's Kissel Model 4-40 Touring car. The name refers to Herman Palmer, the chief engineer for the Kissel Motor Car Company (see, for example, The Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile, Vol.2, p.826).

Herman Palmer 1915 Herman Palmer 1915 Palmer and Werner 1920s
Herman Palmer in the Kissel Drafting Room in Oct. 1915 (left and center photo, 3rd from left). Herman Palmer and J. Friedrich Warner in the 1920s (right photo). (From the files of the Wisconsin Automotive Museum)

There are three Model 4-40 cars known by the KisselKar Klub to have survived to this day. They are:

  1. Herman, a Touring car owned by Andrew and Cindy Wilson (Brunswick, Maine), and the subject of this page;
  2. A Semi-Racer owned by John Quam (Montara, California); and
  3. Annie, a Touring car owned by Lynn and Jeanne Kissel (Livermore, California).

Lynn has been communicating with Andrew about KisselKars in general and Herman in particular. Andrew has graciously supplied the following images and information about this rare vehicle.

1914 Kissel Kar 4-40 Touring 1914 Kissel Kar 4-40 Touring 1914 Kissel Kar 4-40 Touring 1914 Kissel Kar 4-40 Touring
1914 Kissel Kar 4-40 Touring 1914 Kissel Kar 4-40 Touring 1914 Kissel Kar 4-40 Touring 1914 Kissel Kar 4-40 Touring
1914 Kissel Kar 4-40 Touring 1914 Kissel Kar 4-40 Touring 1914 Kissel Kar 4-40 Touring 1914 Kissel Kar 4-40 Touring
1914 Kissel Kar 4-40 Touring 1914 Kissel Kar 4-40 Touring 1914 Kissel Kar 4-40 Touring 1914 Kissel Kar 4-40 Touring
1914 Kissel Kar 4-40 Touring 1914 Kissel Kar 4-40 Touring 1914 Kissel Kar 4-40 Touring 1914 Kissel Kar 4-40 Touring
1914 Kissel Kar 4-40 Touring 1914 Kissel Kar 4-40 Touring    
Current images of Herman (Photos by Andrew Wilson)

still from movie
A frame from a movie with sound of Herman's running engine that Andrew posted in June, 2011, on YouTube.

Andrew believes that the car was originally sold out of Hartford, Connecticut.

He doesn't know too much about the history of the car before 1959, but thinks that a restoration was performed about 1957. That's the date on the drawing of the transmission by John Millerbough. John was the owner of the vehicle at that time and it's reasonable to assume that he created the drawing when he took the transmission apart. John may have purchased the car from the (now defunct) Powers Auto Museum in Southington, Connecticut, about 1957.

John's early restoration has held up well for over fifty years, as evidenced by Andrew's current pictures. For this restoration, Herman was painted with a brush, the way the car was originally painted at the Kissel factory.

Herman in 1957 Herman in 1957 Herman in the Power Automotive Museum about 1957  
Circa 1957 pictures of Herman while owned by John Millerbough (left, center) and while in the Power Auto Museum (right). (From the files of the Wisconsin Automotive Museum)

1914 Kissel Kar 4-40 transmission drawing
John Millerbough's 1957 drawing of a 4-40 transmission (Image courtesy of Andrew Wilson)

Herman was purchased from John Millerbough by Robert T. DeForest (Andrew's grandfather) in fall of 1959. However Robert didn't take delivery of the car until the spring of 1960.

Andrew's grandparents regularly showed the car and participated in several Glidden Tours in the 1960s and 1970s. Some of the major work performed on Herman by Robert follows.

  1. The engine was rebuilt in 1972-73. A compression (explosion) whistle was added to #1 cylinder around this time.
  2. The rear-end gears and axles were replaced in early 1980s after an axle broke. Robert was in Vermont on a tour and sheared teeth off the gears down shifting while climbing a hill.
  3. New wheel bearings, an exhaust system and rear battery cables were installed in the spring of 1995.
  4. The crankshaft broke on the way to a car show in September 1998; it took two years to fix. A new crankshaft was fabricated by Moldex (Dearborn Heights, Michigan).
Delivery to RTD, Apr 1960 Delivery to RTD, Apr 1960 Delivery to RTD, Apr 1960 Delivery to RTD, Apr 1960
On the day in April, 1960 when Robert T. DeForest takes delivery of Herman. (Photos courtesy of Andrew Wilson)

Robert T. DeForest with Herman at June 1960 car show Herman in 1961 Herman in 1968 at Glidden Tour Herman in 1978
Robert T. DeForest with Herman in June, 1960 at (their first?) car show (left), in 1961 (left-center), on the Gidden Tour in 1968 (center-right) and in July, 1978 (right). (Photos courtesy of Andrew Wilson)

Andrew had been maintaining and exercising the car regularly since 1994, and he inherited ownership of the car in 1999.

The photo at the top of this page shows Herman, Andrew, Cindy and Quinn at the Greenwich Concours d'Elegance (Greenwich Connecticut) on June 2, 2002. This event is an
invitation only show established in 1998. A car is only allowed to be displayed once every 3 years. Herman was invited in 1998 and displayed in 1998 & 2002.

More recently, the Wilsons exhibited Herman at the 2015 Greenwich Councours in May, 2015. They trailered Herman from Maine to Connecticut and drove to the show some four miles from the hotel.

Here is the link to an on-line Hemmmings Motor News article on the event, which appeared in the print edition (HMN, Sep. 2015, p.44). Herman also appears in a YouTube video of the show at about time mark 1:30 as a passing reflection off of a black Lincoln Navigator.

Andrew tells Lynn that "this kind of media coverage is better than wining an award to me."

Since becoming the owner, Andrew has performed the following repairs.

  1. The magneto was rebuilt and and the valves were ground in 2002. The valve job resulted in a noticeable increase in compression and performance. Previously it had been very hard to get the car going fast enough to shift out of 2nd gear.
  2. The transmission case, which had been filled with plain motor oil, was drained and refilled with with 600-weight lubricant, which is the correct weight for this car. The heavy oil slows down the gears for smoother and faster shifting.
  3. The engine and starter were rebuilt, clutch was relined and the brake bands were relined in 2005.

The 1914 Kissel 4-40 has an interesting electrical system. It utilizes 6V for lighting and has a 6V dynamo/generator. The car has two 6V batteries that are wired in parallel for running the lights and charging. For starting, a mechanical transfer switch reconfigures the two 6V batteries into a series circuit to power the 12V starter motor.

Andrew uses two 6V car batteries (NAPA part number BAT 7244) under floor just inside the right-rear door, the standard position for this car's batteries. There is a removable panel under the carpet to access the 6V batteries. Under ideal circumstances these two 6V batteries will start the car.

The car also has a third 6V battery (NAPA part number PSB 6N6-3B for a motorcycle) under the front driver's seat. This 6V battery is used for crank starting the car and is an assist source for the spark when using the electric starter.

Andrew uses a 110V 12/6V charger in his garage to keep these 6V batteries fully charged.

Herman is a long-time member of the Wilson family, and Andrew has not known life without him. He is a wonderfully built car and Andrew finds Herman a pleasant challenge to drive, an act that has become second nature after 25 years. Still, on modern roads with impatient drivers in a hurry, motoring with a 96-year-old, 40-horsepower car can be nerve wracking, needing Andrew's vigilance and keen attention to what's going on around him.

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Copyright © 2018 Lynn Kissel
Last updated: Sep. 8, 2015