1923 Kissel Speedster
Model 45 "Goldbug"
6 cyl. -- 41 hp
Owned by Amelia Earhart
her parent's divorce, Amelia, her mother and sister Muriel decided to
move to Massachusetts. Muriel went ahead by train to begin summer
classes at Harvard and established a home near Boston. Amelia and her
mother remained behind in Los Angeles for a time.
was when Amelia bought her Kissel. She did not like the idea of
traveling by train across the country and thought that the car
excursion would be second only to her dream of flying across the
continent. She often called her car the "Kizzle," but later referred to
it as the "Yellow Peril." The name seemed quite apt. Those who knew her
said she was quite the speedster around town. Amelia confessed that she
learned how to fly before she learned how to drive a "motorcar."
and her mother left Los Angeles for Boston in May 1924, traveling
through Sequoia, Yosemite, Lake Louise and Banff. They drove across
Canada and arrived in Boston 6 weeks later.
found the bright yellow car, unremarkable in Los Angeles, to draw
attention across the country. "The fact that my roadster was a cheerful
canary color may have caused some of the excitement. It had been modest
enough in California, but was a little outspoken for Boston, I found."
the condition of roads at that time and the rarity of mechanical help,
especially in the more remote areas, this was a daring adventure
covering 7,000 miles and covering the car with tourist stickers.
Cross-continental travel by automobile was still a novelty, so Amelia
and her mother were continually stopped by people and asked many
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More About the Kissel Kar
June 5th, 1906, Louis Kissel and his sons decided to get into the
automobile business and formed the Kissel Motor Car Company, based in
Hartford Wisconsin. Their first car, The Kissel Kar, was offered in
1907. The Kissel Kar had a conventional four-cylinder, 35-horsepower
water cooled engine. They were a bit unusual in that they began making
almost all of the components for its cars themselves, including the
engines. In 1909, a six-cylinder model was introduced, electric
starters were added in 1913, and a short-lived Double Six V-12 was
introduced in 1917.
1921 Kissel Tourster
company's reputation was based on quality, durability, advanced design,
outstanding performance, and dependability, which they were able to
provide because they were a low production company. The name Kar was
dropped during WWI, as anything that sounded German was unpopular at
produced a model called the All-Year. It had a removable hardtop with
glass windows and curtains. It made the Kissel into a closed car, and
passengers enjoyed the protection from the elements.
Kissel's look began to change in 1917, under the guidance of Conover T. Silver,
the New York Kissel distributor and part-time designer. With his
encouragement, Kissel developed the Kissel Kar Silver Special Speedster
in 1918, named after Mr. Silver himself.
Kissel Gold Bug was born when the Kissel chrome yellow became so
popular that it was made the standard color. The nickname “Gold Bug”
stuck, though it was never the official name. Kissel referred to them
Gold Bug was indeed a sporty roadster with a special flair. – cutaway
doors, wire wheels, bullet-shaped headlamps, nickel-plate trim,
convertible tops with portholes and pull-out drawers containing a
fold-up seat. It was a rather frightening and uncomfortable ride,
seated outrigger-style outside the car's body, so this feature was
replaced in 1924 by a conventional rumble seat. Automobile Quarterly
Spring 1917 called these seats “neat and practical at the sedan speeds
at which cars were driven in town in those days, but surely a hairy
experience in the country.” (Gold Bugs were reported to hit 70 mph! )
it's bright yellow color and stunning good looks, the Gold Bug became a
favorite with celebrities, such as Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks,
Fatty Arbuckle and William S. Hart.Singer Al Jolson and popular
bandleader Eddie Duchin owned one. Boxer Jack Dempsey, and auto racer
Ralph De Palma drove Kissels.
The Kissel's were in many films, but achieved stardom in "The Eddie Duchin Story" starring Tyrone Power and Kim Novak.
Kissel company was hurt badly by the post-WWI recession, but continued
to produce the glamorous Gold Bug. Never a large producer, it sold
2,123 vehicles in 1923, but sales dropped disastrously to 803 in 1924.
A straight-eight cylinder engine was introduced in 1925. Kissel started
buying its cylinder blocks from Lycoming, rather than making their own.
Kissel continued to add the quality touches they were known for.
Floundering, Kissel made the last Gold Bug in 1927. The Great
Depression and a calamitous deal with Archie Andrews, a high-flying
entrepreneur, sent the company into receivership in late 1930.
Though the Gold Bug was never as fast as a Stutz or Mercer, it's classy
lines and brilliant yellow paint made it an endearing car. It's the
Gold Bug that is the automobile that Kissel is best remembered for.
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The Amelia Earhart Story