THE INTERNATIONAL KING MIDGET CAR CLUB HISTORY
America’s Number One Fun Club!
The cover of thousands of King Midget brochures touted "America’s Number One Fun Car!" A true statement then and now, and there’s a club to match!
This mail-order King Midget microcar was built in Athens, Ohio for nearly 25 years following World War II, with a total of about 5,000 produced, in three car models plus motor scooters. Though tiny and slow by today’s standards, they were street-legal vehicles you could drive anywhere, and they still are, if you can find one!
In the burgeoning hobby of collectible cars, none is more fun than a King Midget. And they’re among the least expensive antique automobiles, and easiest to restore with nearly all parts readily available.
King Midgets have always been a hoot, and the fun factor increases every year. Some ways to enjoy these tiny cars:
King Midgets are easy to work on. You needn’t be a master craftsman to restore one to original condition.
Restoring King Midgets is a labor of love. Don’t expect a profit from restoration efforts! If you don’t enjoy the challenge, buy one already restored. As collector cars go, King Midgets are a bargain, either way.
You’ll want to avoid freeway traffic and jaunts across the state, because these cars top out at about 45 mph. But wheel this puppy out of the shed and every guest will want a ride. Kids love ’em. Burbling down the street in a King Midget attracts more attention than the reddest Ferrari.
In every parade your King Midget will be a crowd pleaser. Among all the giant automobiles, a little King is just plain cute. No need to have the Rodeo Queen on board, though that’s always a good idea.
Join a Car Club
There are clubs that specialize in micro cars as well as clubs that welcome all makes, and your King Midget will be a standout. Car guys go nuts trying to figure out where it came from. The girls, young and old, love ’em.
Join the King Midget Club
The International King Midget Car Club has sponsored annual Jamborees for 25 years. Fifty to a hundred King Midgets gather to ogle each other’s restorations, challenges and latest barn-finds. Four chapters hold King Midget events around the nation.
Most fans haul their King Midget to events. Some spend thousands on an enclosed trailer. That’s nice but it’s more fun to haul your King Midget on a simple open trailer. At every stop you’ll get questions, "Did you build that yourself? What’s the engine? Is it street legal? Where can I get one?"
Learn About It
To answer all such questions, you’ll want to become the local King Midget expert. The King Midget Club publishes regular newsletters, club events are an endless source of information, visit this web site frequently, and buy a copy of KING MIDGET, The Story of America’s Smallest Dream Car, the definitive book on the subject. To restore one, you’ll need SHOP NOTES King Midget Maintenance and Restoration.
Support the King Midget Heritage
Club dues are just $15 per year, a modest sum which, combined with the work of many volunteers and some donations, supports the growing interest in the contribution Midget Motors made to automotive history.
A word of caution. There’s a downside to every hobby. King Midgets are addictive. First thing you know, you’ll be hankering to own an example of every model.
There’s plenty of King Midget activity and more than a thousand of these cute little cars around. Yet you’ll probably also suspect that King Midgets have not proven to be the answer to America’s transportation challenges. Let’s see if we can fill you in on a bit of Club history and why several hundred fans support this club and gather every year to celebrate these orphan cars.
If you click on the tab called King Midget Vehicles, you’ll find a history of the cars and how they came to be. Here we’ll focus on the International King Midget Car Club, its origin and purpose.
When King Midget production ceased more than four decades ago, most of the cars were already off the road, parked in barns and sheds. Some were dismantled for their engines, some were scrapped and many were just covered and forgotten. Most King Midgets saw little practical use as transportation. They were more in the category of today’s ATVs—fun to buzz around the neighborhood, and even street legal! But it was probably assumed by most that these cars would never amount to more than a modest footnote in America’s automotive history. A few far-sighted fans saw much more.
People like Bob Craven and John Weitlauf made efforts to secure and preserve NOS King Midget parts. Guys like Alan Conley and Gary Woods collected the little cars and one of them, Bill Hossfield, set out to identify others doing the same. He began a King Midget Registry within a decade of the cessation of King Midget Production. Vernon Eads and others dreamed of reviving the company and resuming production.
These people each had their own motivations but a common thread was the belief that the King Midget was more than just another failed attempt at producing microcars. Midget Motors showed that American ingenuity could do the impossible—start a brand new car company on a shoestring and build cars few people wanted for two decades. They advertised "The lowest priced car in the world," and yet Midget Motors made a profit, year after year, building an average of one car per day
Dave Stults pulled such threads together when he took over Bill Hossfield’s Registry and used it to create an invitation list for a meeting near his Westport, Indiana lawn and garden shop in June, 1991. Eighteen King Midgets showed up, the nucleus of the King Midget Club. Dave called the event the first King Midget Jamboree. The following year a second Jamboree was held in Athens, Ohio where King Midgets were produced. The event was hosted by Earl and Pat Funk. Pat is the daughter of Dale Orcutt, one of Midget Motors’ founders. That much larger Jamboree caught the attention of Athens’ citizenry, most of whom had not realized their town had ever hosted an automobile manufacturer.
That year, 1992, the fast-growing organization was named the International King Midget Car Club. Newly elected President Dave Stults initiated the paper work of establishing the Club as a legal non-profit organization intended to preserve King Midget cars and their heritage. From 1991 through 1996 there were many legal expenses and teething problems of starting a volunteer organization. Dues were set at $20 per year and the Club was financially sound from the beginning. As soon as prudent management would allow, dues were reduced to $15 per year where they have remained, while improvements continue to be made.
The Club has always been staffed and managed by volunteers who have devoted countless hours to the challenges of holding the Club together and building it through the years. A Jamboree has been held every year, with hosts doing outstanding work to make these memorable events. Chapters hold King Midget events throughout the year in various locations around the country, sometimes in conjunction with other events.
Newsletters are mailed on a regular basis to all members. The first website was created about two decades ago and has evolved to become a major source of the Club’s contact with the "outside world." There’s an active Yahoo King Midget Chat Room and other websites devoted to King Midgets. The Club has been active in supporting Midget Motors history by donating a sign for Athens Ohio, the cars’ hometown, putting a plaque on the factory building, restoring King Midgets for permanent display in the Market Mall in Athens museum and supporting the Midget Motors Collection in the Alden Library at the Ohio University in Athens.
Since it was formed in 1991, more than 1,200 people have joined the Club. Around 50 new members join each year and a comparable number drift away to other interests. Membership is at a peak, holding steady at about 400 active members. Most members trace their interest to those days so long ago when Midget Motors regularly advertised in the home mechanic magazines where occasional articles about the Company and its products appeared. We were mostly teen-aged boys then, and how we yearned to have a King Midget of our own! A boy-sized car with room for a girlfriend! And they only cost a few hundred dollars! But very few of us could scrape up those dollars and had to content ourselves with poring over the flyers and catalogs we could order for a quarter or a dollar from Midget Motors. Most dads admonished us that such mail-order cars were a ripoff. We thought we knew better, and for once, we were right!
Though sold mostly sight-unseen through those little ads, Midget Motors did build a good product that offered outstanding value. Now us old-timers are realizing our dream of owning a King Midget, and sharing our love of these cars with others of our ilk plus a growing band of younger people who grew up without the benefit of those little ads in Popular Science et al.
Some years ago, Paul Gerhardt said, "We call ourselves are car club, but really, we’re a people club." People who share not only a love of these cars but of the American values of hard work, thrift and honesty that enabled Claud Dry and Dale Orcutt to realize their dream of building microcars so simple and inexpensive that a boy could afford to own and maintain one.
Our greatest Club challenge is to pass that heritage along to future generations. We do so by giving kids a ride, driving our King Midgets in parades, entering them in car shows, passing them down to our kids and grandkids and bending the ears of anyone who shows an interest. They are legion. These simple cars appeal to the American "can-do" attributes that made this nation great. As journalist Mary Seelhorst said, "That looks like something I could build!" And you can.
Many people start with rust-pile Midget and restore it to like-new or better. Nearly all parts are available, reproduction or NOS. Some exercise their creativity by upgrading the power plant or other details while others honor the heritage by keeping or restoring their car to factory condition.
Increasingly, people are building King Midgets from scratch. Plans were created nearly a decade ago for properly restoring the very scarce King Midget Model 1s. Most buyers of the plans used them to build a reproduction Model 1 of their own. That led to requests for plans to build other King Midgets and the Club has produced plans enabling home mechanics to build other brand new King Midgets called King Midget Club Specials.
Fans have their own opinions on restoration. The Club takes no sides and holds no judging events. The consensus is, the best thing that can happen to King Midgets is to restore them, keep them on the road and share the heritage among an increasing band of fans. Too many rusty King Midgets wind up in the scrap yard. Shiny ones that can be driven increase in value.
You don't have to own a King Midget to join the Club, just be a King Midget enthusiast. You will receive three newsletters per year, Winter, Spring and Fall. Each will number more than 30 pages filled with King Midget stories, technical hints and lots of photos! There are experts who can solve just about any King Midget problem, and most of us are happy to pitch in, help out and welcome newcomers.
We hope you will join us in our adventures with America’s Number One Fun Car!
President: Lee Seats
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Please contact the President for technical support questions, parts information or service information
Vice President: Nicholas Barbour
Second Vice President: Bryan Kreinbrink
Secretary: Brenda Arnold
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Treasurer: René Briere
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Activities Director: Alan Day
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Newsletter Editor: Bob Vahsholtz
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Historian: Pat Funk
European Director: Ole Birger Gjevre
John White II