The Kissel Motor Car Company of Hartford, Wisconsin, operated from 1906-1930. Founded by Louis Kissel and sons William and George, the vehicles produced by Kissel are now unknown to most Americans. Over a period of 25 years, Kissel hand produced about 26,000 cars, trucks, ambulances, hearses and taxis. Although production numbers were low, Kissel was a highly respected producer of well built, beautifully styled cars. Kissel stopped production in 1930 due to the Great Depression and loss of market share to less expensive, mass produced vehicles.
About 150 complete Kissel vehicles are known to exist in the world today. The most famous Kissel model is undoubtedly the Speedster, a sporty roadster featuring “racer cut” sides and a bumble-bee or turtle-back rear deck. This design was the concept of Conover T. Silver, a New York City distributor for Kissel, and Kissel designer J. Frederick Werner. In 1918 the company introduced the Kissel Silver Special, which was received with great enthusiasm at auto trade shows. By 1920 this body style was simply called the Kissel Speedster. W. W. “Brownie” Rowland was an automotive writer for the Milwaukee Journal. As a promotion Brownie drove a chrome-yellow Kissel Speedster around Wisconsin for a month, calling attention for the need to improve the poor roads and inviting his readers to name the car he used. A young girl allegedly coined the name “Gold Bug” referring to the car’s color and shape. Popular with movie stars and other celebrities, starting in 1923, Speedsters had ﬁttings to strap a golf bag to each rear fender.
Less than 2700 Kissel Speedsters are believed to have been produced over 14 years, but only 30-some are known to survive today.
Many celebrities owned Kissel Speedsters in period including: Fatty Arbuckle (comedian), Bebe Daniels (actress), Ralph DePalma (racecar champion), Eddie Duchin (band leader), Amelia Earhart (aviator), Douglas Fairbanks (actor), Greta Garbo (actress), Gladys George (actress), Ruby Keeler (actress), William S. Hart (actor), Al Jolson (singer), Mabel Normand (actress), Mary Pickford (actress), and certainly not least-Rudy Vallee (singer)
The Kissel Model 6-55 is designated as a Full Classic™ by the Classic Car Club of America.
This exceptional example has a known history to new. It was originally sold to Australia, hence the RHD which had ceased to be the norm in the US after 1920 or so.
Ownerhsip history is as follows:
1924 – Manufactured in Hartford, Wisconsin for export to Australia. Transported by rail to New York, by steamship via the Panama Canal to Brisbane, by coastal freighter to Bryne Motor Company, Rockhampton, QLD. Sold to Fred Shuﬀener, owner of a saw mill and joinery in Rockhampton. First of twelve Kissels exported to Australia. (Original colors: chrome-yellow body, black fenders, green wheels and green leather interior)
c1940 – Rear deck is chopped to form a “ute” (utility vehicle) while still owned by Fred Shuﬀ ener.
1962 – Rescued by Bob Schutt from a farm in Jambin (90 miles west of Rockhampton). and Sold to Ed Ubergang, then sold to Ron Griﬃ-ths. Moved to Ipswich (west of Brisbane).
1965 – Ron completes restoration using a 1940 Chevy roadster for missing rear deck. Reﬁnishes body and fenders in the original colors, with a black interior.
1966 – Sold to Frank Illich. Car moved to Sydney.
1976 – Sold at auction to Wil (Bill) Trollope. 1981 – Bill completes a mechanical overhaul of the drive train and reﬁnishes body. (Colors: light-yellow body, white wheels, black fenders and interior)
2005 – Sold to Current Owner. Car moved to California. 2006-2010 – Current Owner undertakes serious body-oﬀ restoration, returning car to original colors and conﬁguration.
Subsequently the car completed the Pebble Beach Tour and appeared at that legendary Concours in 2010. The car has received awards at many Concours including Best of Class at Ironstone, Most Exciting Open Car at Ironstone, Best of Class at the Niello Concours, the Chairmans Award at the Hillsborough Concours, and the Forgotten Treasure Award at the Marin-Sonoma Concours- among others.
The car has successfully completed 4 multi-day HCCA and VMCCA tours, and has been featured in many articles in publications such as the Wall Street Journal, the Bulb Horn, AutoWeek, Hagerty Magazine, and the NorCal Classic Overview.
This is without a doubt one of the finest and well sorted of the less than 40 Kissel Speedsters in existence. Still ready for the most demanding Concours or most grueling rally, this car represents a rare opportunity to acquire one of the true icons of Roaring 20's automotive design and engineering.