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The King Midget makes a return, sort of, for its 70th anniversary

Published in blog.hemmings.com

Provided photo.

No factory has been constructed. No supplies stockpiled. No new engines developed, not even an LLC formed. Still, an effort to revive the two-seater King Midget will launch next month in conjunction with the American microcar’s 70th anniversary celebrations.

Three members of the International King Midget Car Club who are behind the revival – Bob Vahsholtz, Lee Seats, and Randy Chesnutt – decided to relaunch the Model 2 in a manner entirely consistent with the original ethos of the car: as a set of do-it-yourself plans that any handyman with a drill and a wrench should be able to follow.

“We set out to create an updated and simplified version of the King Midget Model 2 that shares the simplicity and clean lines of the original, but performs better, is easier to drive and best of all, can be built by a home shop mechanic for a couple of thousand dollars,” Vahsholtz said. “We’re not claiming perfection but it’s a pretty darned nice little car that we expect will improve as King Midget fans build their own versions in the years ahead.”

The original King Midget, known these days as the Model 1, debuted in 1946 as a kit car advertised in the pages of publications like Popular Mechanics and Mechanix Illustrated – thus helping establish Midget Motors and enabling the small Athens, Ohio-based carmaker to go into full-fledged automobile production with the Model 2 and Model 3 – and came with at least some of the car’s basic components, including front and rear suspensions and the stamped grille shell.

newKM_02 newKM_03

The new King Midget Club Special, however, will come merely as a set of plans and instructions. The standard build plan calls for a body similar in appearance to the Model 2 (and uses reproduction fenders and grille for that model), but optional build plans mimic the Model 3 and a never-was two-seater Model 1. The club already offers similar plans that make it possible to build a new single-seater Series 1 from scratch.

According to Vahsholtz, it can be built using readily available parts – most notably oak rails for the frame and 13hp electric start Honda knockoff engines – and requires some skills with a welder and a lathe. “The hood is easily shop-formed,” he said. “Much of the body is wood, which we’ve adapted for a ‘woodie’ look.” Top speed with the 13hp engine should be about 40 MPH.

newKM_01

From left: Chesnutt, Vahsholtz, and Seats. Provided photo.

The trio have already built a Club Special from the plans, which Seats was able to license in Tennessee, though Vahsholtz said that licensing completed Club Specials may be an entirely different process from state to state. In the long term, he said, the group is hoping the Club Specials will become road-legal under Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 500, which applies to road-going golf carts and other similar vehicles with 25 MPH top speeds.

The completed Club Special is scheduled to go on display at this year’s King Midget Jamboree, the annual gathering of the International King Midget Car Club, when the plans will go on sale. This year’s Jamboree, which will return to Athens for the first time in 10 years, will also feature the grand opening of the King Midget archives in Ohio University’s Alden Library, a 100 mile per gallon challenge, and a hill climb up Athens’s High Street.

The Jamboree is scheduled for August 11 to 13. For more information, visit KingMidgetCarClub.org.