THE KING MIDGET HISTORY
Midget is an exceptional automobile. It was billed as both "World's
Number One Fun Car" and "World's Most Exciting Small
Car". Many people still believe it is. These people, and countless
others, helped King Midget establish an important and significant niche
in the annals of automobile history.
The automobile celebrated its 65th birthday in 2011. Among all
automobiles ever manufactured, throughout the world, King Midget holds
one untouchable record. King Midget was the only small car continuously
manufactured for nearly a quarter of a century; from 1946 until
operations ceased in 1970. In addition, Midget Motors Corporation was
the sixth largest automobile manufacturer in the United States for a
number of years.
King Midget featured it's own uniquely designed automatic transmission
at the same time the majority of larger manufacturers began introducing
automatic transmissions to the public. It offered incomparable fuel
economy. Midget Motors' use of aircraft lightening techniques and unit
body construction resulted in a strong, light vehicle years ahead of its
this makes King Midget very special.
evolution of King Midget began in 1946 when Claud Dry and Dale Orcutt,
who met while civil air patrol pilots during World War II, conceived
King Midget as an inexpensive, affordable car that anyone could buy.
They developed and sold King Midget as a single passenger kit car
in which any single cylinder engine could be installed. The kit
contained the frame, axles, springs, steering mechanism, dimensioned
patterns for the sheet metal, which could be fabricated by a local metalsmith, and an assembly book. In the late 1940’s, and through
1951, the Model 1 became available from the factory as either a kit or
as a fully assembled car with a 6 h.p. Wisconsin engine.
Sales of Model 1 King Midget kits augmented two other ongoing Midget
Motors businesses: The MIDGET MOTORS Directory and Midget Motors motor
scooter manufacturing and sales. The Directory was a bi-monthly booklet which advertised government surplus materials, like wheels, tires
and bearings, along with used engines of different make and size. Midget
Motors manufactured the Super-Cycle motor scooter. It came in two
models: the Deluxe and the Highway-Master. The Deluxe was powered by a 2
¼ h.p. engine and it would go about 35 m.p.h.; the Highway-Master, a 6
horsepower model, cruised comfortably about 45-50 m.p.h. Both of them
would carry two people and had a built-in package compartment. Directory
and motor scooter sales continued into the early sixties as King Midget
became the primary Midget Motors product.
By 1951, Dry and Orcutt had developed the second model King Midget, a
two passenger convertible offered either fully assembled or as a kit,
powered by the 7.5 horsepower Wisconsin AENL engine. This model firmly
established King Midget's reputation and incredible ability to perform
extraordinary feats. It could carry more than its own weight, it could
pull exceptionally heavy loads, it had the agility of a mountain goat;
all over arduous terrain with durability and economy for thousands of
miles. It began as the 500 pound car for $500. The Model 2 King Midget
was a basic vehicle with a hand start cable on the left, outside behind
the seat. It had a black three spoke steering wheel, brown plastic seat
upholstery, no speedometer and no reverse. However, it was this model
which first offered the optional automatic transmission, reverse,
electric starter, shatter proof safety-glass tinted windshield, top,
steel winter doors with sliding Plexiglas windows, hot air heater,
speedometer, turn signals, hand operated controls for handicapped
persons and the golf model, complete with two golf bag racks, extra wide
traction tires on the rear, special low gearing, foot rests on the front
fenders and an extra quiet muffler system. The Custom model was
introduced in 1955, along with the standard model King Midget. The
Custom got a new two spoke white steering wheel, bright red and bone
white upholstery, chrome bumper and cowl parking lights. New Philippine
mahogany doors and winter enclosures became standard for both models,
King Midget came in one color, California Cream, unless you paid $10 extra.
By 1955, the standard color was Peace Rose Cream and later became bone
white. These, and later, paint colors were the same as used by Ford
Sometime in the 1950’s, Midget Motors developed the King Midget Junior and,
later, the King Midget Trainer. Neither had a body; that was left to the
imagination of the owner. The Junior had an overall width of 32 inches.
Wheelbase is adjustable at either 42 or 47 inches. Overall length then
is 67 ½ inches or could
have been cut down to 60 inches with the shorter wheelbase. It has a
raised tubular steel frame around the front and rear, and fenders over
the wheels. Both models have square tubular steel frame construction.
The Trainer is larger and doesn’t have the raised steel frame around
the front. Its overall width is 35 inches with a 50 inch wheelbase and
overall length of 72 inches. The Junior was powered by a 2 ½ h.p. Briggs & Stratton engine; the Trainer a 3 h.p. Briggs
& Stratton. They both had an automatic clutch with a geared, reverse
transmission in the drive train. They were discontinued sometime in the
Dry and Orcutt introduced the Model 3 King Midget in 1957. The basic body
design of this model was used through the end of production. Other
significant changes included unit body construction, with the frame and
all fixed body components welded together for strength, four wheel
hydraulic brakes, and 9.2 horsepower.
As time progressed, other improvements evolved. The Philippine mahogany
doors were replaced by aluminum doors and, near the end, steel doors.
The electrical system was upgraded from 6 to 12 volts in 1961. The old
standby Wisconsin AENL engine was replaced by a 12 horsepower Kohler
K301 engine in 1966. The clicker low speed pulley was replaced by a
silent Borg-Warner one-way clutch in 1967. The brown canvas top was
replaced by a vinyl covered black or white top. An optional electric
windshield wiper was offered, along with a windshield washer, radio,
carpeted panels, floor mats, safety belts and new paint colors:
Corinthian white, Rangoon red, yellow, blue and aqua.
Throughout its history, King Midget was manufactured under the
stewardship of only three groups of people. Claud Dry and Dale Orcutt
first sold 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. In 1966, a group of
investors bought Midget Motors Corporation and Joseph C. Stehlin, Jr.
became president. The company’s financial fortunes declined, and in
1969 its assets were sold to Barthman Corporation, led by Vernon D.
Eads. Eads tried desperately to revive King Midget. He designed and
built the King Midget commuter, a molded fiberglass bodied, dune buggy
type automobile, for an American export show and eventual production. He
attempted to start a licensing operation in both Florida and Canada. A
fire at the fiberglass plant destroying 13 bodies and the mold, monetary
costs of the required new Federal crash test program, and diminishing
demand for the automobile, caused Eads to stop making King Midget.
Ironically, Eads as a college student, had worked as a consultant for
Midget Motors during development of the second model. Eads'
long-standing interest nurtured the hope that he one day could again
build King Midget.
After production stopped, King Midget Parts Co. was formed in Dayton, Ohio to continue to provide
parts support. It was operated by Eads' sister Vivian and her husband,
Bob Craven. Bob had worked hard with Eads during the last months of
production to improve assembly processes and factory output.
Unfortunately, those successful efforts were to no avail.
In 1980, John Weitlauf, of Dayton, Ohio, bought the parts which had come
from the Florida licensing operation. They had all been in storage for
10 years. Weitlauf’s sales to owners also provided King Midget parts
In 1985, Dave Stults, of Westport, Indiana, purchased Weitlauf's remaining
parts. In 1988, he bought the Craven's parts, and, from Vernon Eads, all
rights to Midget Motors, King Midget and King Midget Commuter. In 1990,
he bought the remaining Canadian licensing operation parts from Brian
Coleman and Bob Cook of Hamilton and Binbrook, Ontario. Stults, having
amassed all the King Midget parts he could find, provided owners with
parts, advice and support through his King Midget Auto Works store and
mail order business. Dave owns several King Midgets, including the last
In 1995, Alan Conley, of Waverly, Ohio, purchased all of Stults’ parts
and all rights to Midget Motors, King Midget and King Midget Commuter.
He changed the name of the business to Midget Motors Supply. In
addition, Conley expanded the number of parts available by either making
them himself or getting someone else to manufacture parts no longer
available. Conley performed King Midget restoration work, too, turning
many a rusty hulk into a beautiful auto once more.
In 2001, Mike Beebe, of Norwalk, Ohio, bought all of Conley’s parts and
all rights to Midget Motors, King Midget and King Midget Commuter.
He’s named his business Midget Motors and has announced that he
harbors hopes of building a Model 4 King Midget one day.
This is a brief historical perspective of the fascinating little King Midget
and the other products manufactured and sold by Claud Dry and Dale
Orcutt. We believe every vehicle of historical significance deserves a
champion; a steward to promote and support it. Since the factory
closure, a great deal of gratitude is owed the Cravens for providing
that role, coupled later with the efforts of Weitlauf and Bill
Hossfield, of Ringwood, New Jersey, who started and operated the first
King Midget Registry for fifteen years. Dave Stults followed by
organizing the first ever King Midget Jamboree in Westport, Indiana in
1991, for supplying the fullest parts support and information for King
Midget from 1986-1995, and initiating the actions necessary to start
this International King Midget Car Club. Alan Conley has the largest
collection of King Midgets in existence and has made a major
contribution by getting more King Midgets on the street so that they may
be enjoyed by both their owners and the general public.
There are no records to indicate how many King Midgets were made, nor how many
exist today. Both Dave Stults and Bob Vahsholtz have tried to assimilate
as much information about King Midgets as they can, including auto
serial numbers, so that a best guess can be made about the number
manufactured and a fairly accurate number still existing. Nearly every
week, another car becomes known. Vahsholtz, as a young designer, aided
Midget Motors Corporation, by mail, in design of the Model 3. He takes
great pride in his contribution to King Midget. Dave Stults continues
his desire to be King Midget’s strongest advocate and still operates
the King Midget Registry. You can reach Dave at:
Stults, P.O. Box 549, Westport, Indiana 47283, (812) 591-2719.
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