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100 Year Anniversary Celebration
of the Kissel Motor Car Company
June 17, 2006

Lynn's reformat of the cover page of a flyer announcing the 100 year anniversary celebration

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June 17 in Hartford — Be There Or Be Square!

As the astute reader of these pages will know, the Kissel Motor Car Company was formed by Louis Kissel and sons on June 5, 1906 — 2006 is the 100-year anniversary of the marquee. So it came as no surprise to Lynn when he received a mailing from Gary LeMaster announcing the plans for the Kissel Kar Klub to celebrate this landmark event. This was quickly followed by a flyer and registration form from the Wisconsin Automotive Museum. The Museum and Dale Anderson will be hosting a celebration in Hartford, Wisconsin on June 17, 2006. This will be 'way cool!'

If this were the 100-year celebration of Ford or General Motors, one could imagine the likelihood of thousands of cars and tens of thousands of spectators. With lavish corporate sponsorship and promotion from the still operating companies, the event would need to be held at a large convention center.

Lynn is unsure exactly what to expect for the Kissel 100-year anniversary celebration. The promotion of the event is likely to be typically Kissel Kar Klub low key. This now defunct marquee produced about 35,000 then-state-of-the-art vehicles over its 25-year history. Yet fewer than two hundred vehicles are thought to have survived to this day. It is hard to imagine that more than a few tens of owners will be able to transport their cars to the site. Will more than a hundred spectators come?

Lynn doesn't care. He has wanted to visit the Wisconsin Automotive Museum and see the Kissels that are on display there. He's also learned that some of the other Kissel owners that he's only virtually met in cyberspace will be attending. Lynn will be able to put face and form to these individuals that have helped him with the ownership of his Kissel. He would also like to take a look at the files that the museum maintains on the Kissel Motor Car Company to see what tid bits of history he can uncover. This is the perfect opportunity.

Getting There Will Be Half The Fun

Lynn and Jeanne are planning to take two weeks of vacation in June to support the road trip to Hartford. They will be using the Beast (their Ford F-250 truck) to tow Bullet (their enclosed car trailer) and Bugsby (their 1924 Kissel Speedster) the 2200 miles from their home in California. It has been awhile since Lynn has had a cross-country road trip like this, and he's excitedly looking forward to the drive and to the event.

Lynn has only one small problem, Bugsby has been completely disassembled. All the wiring has been ripped out, the engine has been taken apart, the interior trim has been removed, and the body is off the frame and it has been stripped to bare metal. Other than that, Lynn is ready to go!

Lynn has made a deal with himself not to rush his serious freshening of the car. Lynn thinks that he will be welcome to participate even if he arrived with only a hubcap in his hands. But Lynn plans to be better prepared than that. He expects to have the engine reassembled, installed and running in the car. With luck, Kevin Schell will even have completed the body work. Lynn doesn't expect to have the interior restored, nor the new top constructed in time for June 17. Nevertheless, Lynn hopes to have a creditable presence at, and make a noticeable contribution to the celebration.

Lynn and Jeanne's son Andrew is also planning to participate. He will be flying to Chicago and driving to Hartford in a rental car. This will be a real family vacation for the Livermore Kissels.

A Special Treat For Lynn In Hartford?

Lynn has been exchanging email messages with John Lewis about the history of the Australian Kissels and Bugsby. While it is very unlikely that John will be able to travel to Hartford (John lives near Brisbane, Australia), he's preparing some new detailed information about the Australian Kissels in honor of, and for release at the 100 year celebration. Further, John tells Lynn that there will be some new and exciting information about Bugsby's history.

This is an unexpected twist and welcome news. It further adds to Lynn's growing anticipation for June 17.

Rollin' Rollin' Rollin'

Lynn is fully consumed with reassembly of Bugsby for a full month before the event. The efforts are so intense that Lynn has created a separate page devoted to describing it. For all the gory details see Crunch Time — The Big Push For Hartford.

ON THE ROAD: Bullet (2004 Pace American Shadow GT 20' enclosed car trailer) is connected to the Beast (2003 Ford F-250 truck) (left). Bugsby is loaded and tied down (center). Parked at a motel while on the road, the Beast, Bullet and Bugsby take up 5 regular parking space.

After the mad effort to get ready, the trip to Hartford is relatively quiet, even contemplative. The Beast performs flawlessly, consuming 236 gallons on the 2,347 miles to and around Hartford. That works out to be 10.0 miles per gallon, to be expected one supposes for hauling car, trailer and truck down the highway at 70 MPH.

The trailer also perfectly behaved, riding so smooth that sometimes one could almost forget that it's there.

The only unhappy camper is Bugsby. Every time Lynn opens up the trailer after being on the road, he's greeted by a strong odor of gasoline. He scrambles around the car in the trailer, but Lynn can't pinpoint the source of the leak. Bugsby continues to weep coolant into a plastic bucket which sometimes splashes the sticky coolant on adjacent body parts or on the trailer floor.

The only other issue involves one of the Kissel Kar signs that Lynn's attached to the sides of the trailer. Somewhere in the middle of Wyoming, with severe cross winds buffeting the rig, the leading edge of the sign on the left side of the trailer comes loose. The 0.040" aluminum sign is immediately folded backwards to the next set of screws, then madly slaps against the side of the trailer. Lynn stops and removes the sign and fortunately only a small bit of cosmetic damage is done to the finish of the trailer.

This problem is really Lynn's fault. When he attached the sign to the other side of the trailer, he located the metal frame of the trailer and inserted the screws to hit the frame making for a very secure attachment. But this was hard work and Lynn decides that it is overkill. On the side that came loose he simply attaches the sign to the exterior panels of the trailer, purposely missing the trailer frame.

Lynn makes a mental note. Sure, it seemed like overkill connecting the sign to the trailer frame while the whole rig sat quietly in Lynn's driveway. But it is an entirely different situation when the rig is out sailing down the road, being buffeted by cross winds and the wake from other traffic, possibly being pelted by rain or struck by flying objects. Under these more severe circumstances, overkill is a good thing to have.

When Lynn finally pulls into his hotel in Hartford, he's greeted in the parking lot by a fellow Kissel owner even before he can park the truck and trailer. This turns out to be Joe Leaf! Joe and Lynn have been exchanging email and telephone calls for months, but they had not yet met face-to-face. It was a real pleasure to be greeted so quickly and warmly on his arrival to Hartford. Looks like this IS going to be a lot of fun!

Showboat Sets Sail!

(Follow this link for more on the other cars and owners at todays event.)

EARLY ARRIVAL AT SHOW: Lynn arrives around 7 am, planning to work on Bugsby for an hour or more. But other interested parties are also there and Lynn soon has a small crowd around the car.

It's June 17, day of the long awaited event. The plan is that people who have brought cars are to pull them in front of the museum for display starting at 10 am. Lynn has a few last minute things that he wants to do to Bugsby, so he gets up earlier and arrives at the museum at 7 am, thinking that he'll have an hour or two to himself.

Wrong. Before Lynn can get all four of Bugsby's wheels on the pavement, a small group of owners and spectators have gathered. Ken MacKinnon is one of early spectators. Ken and Lynn had been communicating electronically and so here is a second person that he can finally put a face to the name.

GOING FOR A SPIN: Lynn and Glenn go for a spin around the parking lot in Bugsby.

Lynn meets Glenn and Shirley Slack from Oregon City, Oregon, owners of a 1915 Kissel Model 6-42 Gibraltar 7-Passenger Touring car. It turns out that it is Glenn's birthday and their trip to Hartford was one of Glenn's presents. Shirley really admires the Kissel Kar signs that Lynn has on his trailer and arranges to buy one of his spares as another present for Glenn. Glenn is a lucky guy to have a woman that cares for him this much.

LYNN SETS UP: While his iPod plays 1920's music in the background, Lynn works the crowd giving away copies of his brochures, business cards and tid-bits of Kissel trivia to any and all that wonder within range.

Lynn barely has enough time to do one or two things on Bugsby, setup his display materials and change into his costume before the show starts.

What display? What costume?

When Lynn was an active member of LUNAR, the Livermore Unit of the National Association of Rocketry, the other club members would tease Lynn about his showy displays at the club launches. In fact, some of the members began to call Lynn "Showboat" because of this. It's no different here.

Lynn has an iPod connected to a boombox playing 1920's music. He has a custom display stand that he built with storage for color tri-fold brochures, business cards and a notebook with various educational and reference material on Kissel and Bugsby.

Lynn has a outfit that includes a Derby hat (also known as a Bowler hat), patterned vest, ruffle-front antique replica shirt, sleeve garters, authentic Waltham pocket watch imprinted with the Kissel logo, authentic 1920s sterling silver watch chain and fob, suspenders, wool pants and spectator shoes. It's a hot day in Hartford and Lynn sheds the vest before the day is through.

IS BUGSBY CONFIGURATION HISTORICALLY CORRECT? Lynn finds these photos while trawling the Kissel archives. They are apparently images of Kissel mechanics on test drives. Wouldn't you agree that the current configuration of Bugsby with bare chassis and bench seat looks very similar to these historical photos of Kissels?

Needless to say, Lynn is irrepressible. He's been intensely studying the history of the Kissel Motor Car Company and his "Gold Bug" Speedster for the last year. As a former scientist, he is trained to study a subject in exhaustive detail, exploring every little bit of information that he can uncover. Lynn still has lots to learn about Kissels, but he freely and enthusiastically shares what he knows with anyone that doesn't keep moving when they come within range. Lynn is enjoying himself immensely.

(Here's a pedantic bit of historical trivia that the casual reader can safely ignore. Spectator shoes are the "opposite" of saddle shoes. Saddle shoes have a white toe and heal, with a dark piece of leather across the center "saddle" of the shoe. Spectator shoes have dark toes and heals, with white leather in the middle. As a well healed spectator at a polo match walking across the grassy grounds, you don't want unsightly grass stains on the toes and heals of your white shoes — the dark toes and heals of spectator shoes are designed to hide these inconvenient stains. Lynn's read that spectator shoes mimic the appearance of "spats" which were popular during the late 19th and early 20th century. Spats are fabric covers that attached to the top of the shoe and cover the lower part of the leg. Originally designed to keep the ankle and lower leg warm or clean, spats came to become a part of the typical dress of a wealthy man of the time.)

The Event Gets Media Coverage

There are multiple representatives of the media at the anniversary celebration. Lynn is interviewed by Zak Mazur, a GM Today staff writer. (GM stands for Greater Milwaukee.) Zak goes on to write an article that appears online on the GM Today website, Kissel car show also a family reunion, dated June 19, 2006. Here is a PDF version of the article. This article also appears on page A3 of the June 19, 2006 issue of the Hartford/West Bend Daily News. Zak was kind enough to send Lynn a copy of the paper.

On June 15, two days before the celebration, an article about the upcoming event is written by Phillip Herman, GM Today staff writer. This article can also be found online on the GM Today website, 100th anniversary fuels Kissel car homecoming. Here is a PDF version of the article. Lynn suspects that this article should have appeared in the local paper, too.

A full-page article on the show appears in the Aug. 17, 2006 issue of Old Cars Weekly (Vol. 35, No. 33). Pictures appear of Bugsby, Bob Lew's 1918 6-38 Roadster, Joan Rosenberg's 1909 LD-9 Touring, DeWayne Ashmead's 1925 6-55 Speedster, and Bonnie Schauer-Strand's 1929 8-126 White Eagle Brougham.

KISSEL DVD: The cover of the DVD created by the City of Hartford containing interviews and scenes from the 100 year anniversary celebration is show in the image on the left. The DVD was edited by Jack Ewing, whose business card is shown in the image on the right, and Sally Jensen.

Hartford Channel 11 also has a reporter and cameraman at the celebration. Sally Jensen conducts on-camera interviews with a number of the owners and the cameraman takes many great shots of the cars that are on display. Lynn was pleased to see that his interview with Sally and shots of Bugsby made it to the video. The entire video runs about 16 minutes.

A PDF form for ordering copies of the video is available on the Hartford Cable TV Dept website. DVD copies of the video are available at the cost of $19.50 ($16 + $3.50 S&H). Specify that you are ordering the Kissel Anniversary event coverage.

As an extra bonus, the DVD that Lynn receives also contains a copy of the 5 minute general-information video on the Kissel Motor Car Company that Dale Anderson shows on a TV monitor in the museum.

2011 Set As Date For Next Hartford Meet

COLLECTABLE CHAMPAIGN GLASS: An unexpected treat is this commemorative champaign glass for each banquet guest.

The car show runs from 10 am until about 5 pm, but the days events are not over. The Wisconsin Automobile Museum hosts a reception and sit-down dinner for about 100 people later that evening. There is a really good prime rib dinner that includes a bottle of sparkling apple juice and champaign on each table. A particularly welcome feature of the dinner is a 100-year commemorative champaign glass for each guest.

Following the dinner there is a Kissel Kar Klub business meeting and an educational presentation. George Carr spoke about his exploits with two experimental cars that Kissel built in 1933. Built for the A. L. Powell Power Company, these prototype cars featured Lever engines, an engine design that significantly increased the torque output from a low RPM motor. If Lynn understood it correctly, George is the owner of both of these experimental cars.

The date of the next Kissel Kar Klub meeting was brought before the assembled membership. Some of the West Coast participants felt that it should be held sooner, but the five years was finally established for the next meeting. So 2011 has been set for the next gathering at Hartford. With luck, Lynn will be able to participate with a complete Bugsby, body and all.

The Thunder Down Under — A History Of Australian Kissels

A HISTORY OF AUSTRALIAN KISSELS: It's with great pleasure that Lynn receives a personal copy of this history of Australian Kissels written by John Lewis.

One item of the business meeting that riveted Lynn's attention is the announcement by Dale Anderson of a detailed history of Australian Kissels that has been created for release especially at this event by John Lewis. Dale shows the booklet that John produced to the 100 or so guests and encourages them to look at his copy later. Interested parties were encouraged to contact the author for their own copy. A copy of the history from John is presented to Lynn by Dale.

Photo from Bob Schutt

Photo by Bob Schutt

Photo by Ron Griffiths

Painting by Alan Puckett
BUGSBY THROUGH THE YEARS: These four images capture the major changes in appearance of Bugsby over the years. Left to right: 1925 — at age 1, Bugsby's image is captured at Fairy Bower, Gracemere, QLD, Australia, a popular picnic location outside of Rockhampton; 1962 — as found by Bob Schutt on farm in Jambin, likely the low point in the cars condition; 1965 — after restoration by Ron Griffiths; 1986 — after further improvements by John Trollope.

This is the special treat that John had promised Lynn earlier. John's history runs to 68 pages and features no less than 10 pages on Lynn's car. John has uncovered eight historical photographs of Bugsby from the 1930's, 1960's and 1980's. Apparently Bugsby is the first of only twelve Kissels to have made it to Australia. John has established almost the entire history of Bugsby, clear back to its original importation and sale by the agency of Byrne Motors in Rockhampton, state of Queensland. The car was sold to Fred Shuffener, a well-to-do owner of a saw mill and joinery.

Bugsby (not its name at the time) was well known in the Rockhampton area. In his booklet, John retells a story of how the car was driven as a promotion to Yeppoon Beach, a coastal town about 25 miles east of Rockhampton. Jack Dempsey (a mechanic from Byrne Motors, not the prize fighter) drove the car at 60 MPH along the beach as a demonstration of its speed and grace. While it doesn't sound like such a feat today, it was a note worthy event in rural Queensland at the time.

John documents Bugsby's conversion to a utility vehicle during World War II when the rear deck is cut off and subsequently lost. Rescued from a farm, its restoration by Ron Griffiths was completed in 1965. Through years of research, John has accomplished most of one of Lynn's original goals for the car, to establish Bugsby's complete 81-year history. Indeed, this IS a special treat for Lynn

Trawling the Kissel Archives

SPEEDSTER BROCHURE: Lynn finds a sales brochure for a 1923-24 Model 6-55 Speedster. Note the large single rear hatch in these images from the brochure.

FACTORY PICTURE: This image (left) is a factory photo of the 1923-24 Speedster that Lynn has not seen before. It joins the factory photo (right) that Lynn already had in his possession.

WELL ACCESSORIZED SPEEDSTER: This interesting image from the archives shows a very well accessorized Speedster. Lynn sees central driving/spot light, horn, small marker lights/turn signals on front fenders, and windshield wipers. This appears to be the 1925 Kissel owned since new by G. P. Hovey as noted in "The Kissel Kar Klub," in Antique Automobile, Vol.25, No.2 (1961). Does anyone know who the current owner is?

1924 Speedster in New Zealand: According to the caption on the lead photo of the article "The Kissel Kar Klub," in Antique Automobile, Vol.25, No.2 (1961), this is a picture of Michael J. Robinson, racing his car in Auckland, New Zealand. The car is currently owned by Rob Williams of Bosie, ID. The handwritten notes on the back of this picture read... "This was taken during local hillclimb at speed. Car holds cup for vintage class. Extra lamp is 'Liberty spot light.' Badges are 'Automobile Association' and 'Vintage-Veteran Car Club of New Zealand.' Car holds road well. Note heavy shingle. Note also bonnet strap required by regs. for racing." Lynn doesn't recognize what is meant by "heavy shingle," but subsequentsly learns from Doug Wheeler (a Kissel owner in New Zealand) that shingle, gravel, and metal all refer to the material topping an unpaved road.

KISSEL FACTORY: The notation on the back of this photo says "Kissel Motor Car Co. This view had to be taken after Dec. 1 of 1922. The new power house was expected to be completed by Dec. 15th of that year. You can sell see the stacks that were part of the old power house. It looks like they were in the process of dismantling the stacks. What year picture was taken I'd say sometime in 1923-1924?"

KISSEL FACTORY: The notation on the back of this photo says "Kissel Motor Car Co. circa 1923. Note new power house and smoke stacks with Kissel on it. Also notice they were in the process of dismantling the 4 smoke stacks from the old power house. Lower far right cars for shipment."

Lynn spends Sunday afternoon at the Wisconsin Automobile Museum looking through the Kissel archives. Lynn finds hundreds of interesting articles and photos that he wants to get copies of, but he doesn't feel that a simple photocopy will be that useful.

While Lynn brought a laptop computer with him, he did not pack a scanner. Lynn resolves that the next time he visits the Kissel archives he'll be packing both.

It suddenly occurs to Lynn that the two digital cameras that he has with him are also high quality digital scanners/imagers. Rushing back to his trailer, he retrieves a tripod and uses it to hold the camera as he takes photos of many of the items that interest him. He uses the natural fluorescence lighting in the room (not the best possible source but he seems to get better results than using a flash) and sets the 3-exposure auto bracket feature on his Panasonic Lumix FZ10 camera hoping to get at least one image that he can use. This features automatically takes a nominal exposure, plus one over- and one under-exposed image every time the shutter button is pressed. He creates a makeshift holder for the item to be photographed so that it is propped up in front of the lens with minimal glare from the ambient lighting.

This juryrigged arrangement turns out to be amazingly effective for obtaining detailed digital images of material from the archives. The images above are just a small sample of the interesting material Lynn was able to capture. Next time Lynn come here, he'll also be packing a better setup for holding and lighting the material.

Hartford, the Windy City

KISSELS IN HARTFORD? Lynn and Andrew stand next to a historical marker in a city park which summarizes the relevance of Kissel to Hartford's history (left). Jeanne enjoys a summer rain on a walking tour of downtown Hartford (center, right).

Sunday, the day after the event, Jeanne, Andrew and Lynn enjoy a happy Father's Day brunch at the Mine Shaft restaurant in Hartford. After their mini celebration, they enjoy a walk around the city under a light summer rain.

Later in the day, Lynn spends the afternoon at the museum photographing items from Dale Anderson's archive of Kissel records. Jeanne and Andrew are out of town on a sightseeing drive to the Lake Michigan shore. Unknown to them a tornado touches down in Hartford causing some significant damage. Some days later, Lynn finds this article, "Hartford tornado struck out of nowhere" on the GM Today website. Here's a PDF copy of the story.

Lynn clearly heard the sirens wailing outside, but erroneously assumed that these were from the neighboring fire station responding to a fire. In hindsight, Lynn should have been sensitive to the different tone of these sirens and at least have wondered out of the archives and ask someone if they knew what was afoot. According to some of the accounts that Lynn has read, may of the local residents were also unaware of the significance of the sirens and went about their business, unconscience of the danger in the area.

Home Again, Home Again, Giggity-Gig

GOING HOME: Lynn consults his map in Badlands National Monument (left). Jeanne poses with presidents at Mount Rushmore (center), and rides a wild jackalope at Wall Drug (left).

Andrew flies home to California on Sunday night, while Jeanne and Lynn set out in the Beast towing Bugsby in Bullet on Monday. Jeanne and Lynn spend the next five days on the road taking a more northernly route to stop briefly at Mount Rushmore for a visit.

The drive home is even more uneventful than the ride out to Hartford with truck and trailer continuing to provide excellent service. Partly from the desire to get home, and partly from the growing confidence in the trailer and truck, their average return speed has increased to about 75 MPH. Not surprisingly, the fuel consumption of 256 gallons to go 2,353 miles yields a lower fuel economy of 9.2 miles per gallon. So the increase in average speed from 65-70 MPH (Livermore to Hartford) to 70-75 MPH (Hartford to Livermore) has resulted in an 8% decrease in fuel economy.

Lynn uses the time on the road to try and isolate the source of the gasoline leak(s) from Bugsby. Lynn places paper towels in various locations under the car as "witness plates," hoping that dripping fuel will leave a trace. Indeed, the towel directly under the fuel tank show Lynn that the gas cap and fuel gauge opening are the main sources of the raw fuel leaks.

It will take Jeanne and Lynn much of the next month to work through the backlog of tasks at home and work that have accumulated in their absence. Further, the weather has entered a prolonged period of record high temperatures, with readings over 100°F for much of the next month. It will be well over a month before Lynn finally finds the time to update his website with a report of 100 year celebration.

In the end, was all the effort and expense of taking Bugsby and the family to Hartford worth it? Lynn strongly feels that it was. The event has been indelibly imprinted in Lynn's memory and he feels that the contacts that he's established or strengthened will continue to reward him for years to come.

Lynn is looking forward to the call for participation in the next Kissel Kar Klub gathering set for 2011 at the June 17, 2006 business meeting.

Some of the participants at Hartford talked loosely of trying to sponsor a meet on the west coast sometime in the next few years. Lynn eagerly supports this idea and hopes that the concept doesn't die. He will be doing what he can to keep it alive.

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Last updated: Feb. 20, 2012