Hershey | Lot 223
1911 Kelsey Model M Motorette
$41,250 USD | Sold
| Hershey, Pennsylvania
9 October 2015
- Formerly of the Remy Baker Collection
- Excellent older restoration
- AACA National Senior award
- Iconic and rare
10 hp, 72.2 cu. in. two-cylinder two-cycle water-cooled engine, two-speed planetary transmission, solid front axle with full-elliptical leaf springs, single rear wheel with double quarter-elliptical leaf springs, and driveshaft and rear-wheel drum brakes. Wheelbase: 74 in.
Cadwallader Washburn Kelsey was a visionary. Alas, his visions never really took hold, but along the way, he left some very interesting machines. His first ride in an automobile came in 1897, when a banker named Robert Glendenning took him for a ride in a new Panhard. This inspired him to build his first car, a two-cycle, single-cylinder affair that proved to be a failure, but he kept many of the parts. Enamored of the Léon Bollée tricycle, he joined with a classmate, Sheldon Tilney, to build a three-wheel car called the Autotri, now said to be at the Smithsonian Institution. He became an agent for Autocar in Pennsylvania and continued to build cars of his own design before selling Maxwells, and then he became sales manager for Columbia in Hartford, Connecticut. In 1910, he attempted a startup with the Spartan car at Hartford. It was stillborn after a single prototype.
It was the Motorette that finally went into production. Kelsey again embraced the three-wheel formula, with a single rear wheel and a two-stroke 10-horsepower engine. After air-cooling proved insufficient, he switched to thermo-syphon water cooling and birthed the Motorette at $385 F.O.B. Hartford. With a 74-inch wheelbase, it weighed just 700 pounds, delivery models being slightly heavier and more expensive. Unfortunately, in 1912, he endeavored to cut costs with outsourced engines, which proved to be very poorly built. By the time the problems were solved, the Kelsey Manufacturing Company was in dire straits and went into receivership. A concept for an automobile drivetrain with enclosed friction discs failed to gain traction, although he endeavored to produce it in an otherwise conventional Kelsey car in 1920/21. Carl Kelsey spent most of his subsequent career with the very successful Rototiller company in Troy, New York. In the 1960s, he patented the Skycar, a two-passenger vertical-takeoff helicopter. He died in 1970, aged 89.
The Motorette being offered here has been the subject of a meticulous restoration, earning it well-deserved AACA National Senior honors in 1997. It was owned by Elisha Remington “Remy” Baker III, a long-time collector and AACA member. After retirement in 1976, he established a small museum in Liberty, South Carolina. Many of his cars were unusual, the likes of Woods Mobilette, Sears Autobuggy, Milburn Electric, and Custer Car. The Kelsey Motorette was a logical companion for them.
Although the restoration is more than 15 years old, it looks more like it was completed yesterday. The black finish is excellent, accented with gold coach lines. The brass, too, is very good, including the radiator mounted behind the seat. The seats are upholstered in black buttoned leather, and a folding top provides modest shelter in bad weather. It has right-hand tiller steering.
Total production of the Kelsey Motorette was some 200 cars, so survivors are very scarce. This car represents a rare opportunity.