Kissel 6-55 Gold Bug Speedster

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6-55 Gold Bug Speedster





The Kissel Motor Car Company was an American automobile and truck manufacturing company founded by Louis Kissel and his sons, George and William, on June 5, 1906 in Hartford, Wisconsin. The company custom built high-quality automobiles, hearses, fire trucks, taxicabs, and trucks from their plant at 123 Kissel Avenue, Hartford. Kissel manufactured trucks of 3/4, 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 tons, and maintained a sales office at 2515 Michigan Avenue in Chicago, Illinois in early 1913. During World War I the company produced trucks for the military and prospered after the war but with stiff competition and the Great Depression, mounting losses, and an attempted hostile take-over by New Era Motors' president Archie Andrews forced Kissel to file for receivership protection in November, 1930.

Advertised as "KisselKar," of the 35,000 automobiles the company produced, only 150 are known to exist today. By 1909, there were Kissel Kars available in several sizes and models priced from $1350 to $3000, and a six-cylinder model was soon introduced. For 1910, Kissel offered the LD-10, a 4-cylinder 30hp 5-passenger Touring car, alongside the D-10, with a 50hp four and offered either as a 4-passenger Toy Tonneau or the 5-passenger Touring as seen here. A larger F-10 model, also powered by a 50hp 4-cylinder, was offered with a choice of 7-passenger Touring or 4-passenger Toy Tonneau bodies; the even larger 6-cylinder Model G-10 offered a staggering 60hp in either the larger Touring or Toy Tonneau body styles.

Various sources differ on the wheelbases offered by Kissel; they reportedly range from 112 to as long as 132 inches, depending on the model. The D-10 is understood to have been built on a 120-inch wheelbase frame, and had a huge, 532 cubic inch engine, its cylinders cast in two pairs.

Their initial effort was quite an undertaking - a four-cylinder 30hp car in 1907; shortly thereafter, in 1909, a 6-cylinder model was introduced, and the ambitious company even produced a V12 powered car in 1917. But it would be their L-head long-stroke six, introduced in 1915, that would prove to be their most venerable product, staying in production till 1928.

The most famous car was one the company donated to Hollywood actress Anita King for her transcontinental trip in 1915 that marked the first-ever such trip by a female driving alone.

Kissel's most famous and enduring product, the "Gold Bug" Speedster was actually the mastermind of one of the company's dealers. New York distributor Conover T. Silver commissioned the Speedster to his own design. The sporty Silver-designed Kissels even carried his name for a time. The "Gold Bug" designation came from a naming contest for the sports car organized by Kissel and was chosen from over 500 submissions.

The Kissel Speedster's sleek two-seat body with its sporty cycle fenders wrapped the proven Kissel drivetrain and chassis. The stout Kissel-built long-stroke six powered the machine. This reliable engine made over 60hp and offered strong torque, the result being snappy performance thanks to its lightweight two-place body. The engine runs through a three speed transmission and is mated to a rear axle with sufficiently tall gearing for the daring high-speed motorist. The two passenger Gold Bug was owned by famous personalities of the time such as actor Fatty Arbuckle and aviator Amelia Earhart.

Beginning in 1927, Kissel also produced the sporty White Eagle Speedster.

Kissel used Mercury as its logo. In the late 1930s, Henry Ford requested use of the logo for a new marque the Ford Motor Company was planning to introduce, and permission was granted.

Although Kissel built high-quality automobiles, it struggled through the late 1920s and filed for bankruptcy in 1930, its last efforts being large 6- and 8-cylinder vehicles for the 1931 model year.

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