1957-1966 King Midget
The 1957-1966 King Midget series started off with a new King Midget that was introduced in mid-1957. This "third-series" K-M was improved in many ways. The styling was all-new. With squared fenders and hood, it bore a strong resemblance to a Jeep in miniature. Wheelbase now measured 76 1/2 inches, while overall length increased to 117 inches, up more than a foot from the second-series cars. A rear-mounted, air-cooled Wisconsin single-cylinder engine was again used, now with 9 1/4 horsepower.
When the 1961 King Midget premiered at the
International Automobile Show that year, it was
described as "a compact-compact car."
Bumpers were larger, front and rear tread were both up two inches, to 44, and tire size was increased to 5.70 x 8. Bodies were now of unit construction, with frame and body components welded together for improved strength. Brakes were hydraulic to all four wheels. As in the past, the new K-M came with a six-volt electrical system. Weight was up, to about 700 pounds. Prices increased, too, ranging from $825 to $950, but most imports cost at least twice as much. Domestically, there were no real competitors. All in all, this was the nicest and best finished King Midget ever.
Dale Orcutt and Claude Dry continued to make improvements to their baby car. The Philippine mahogany doors were replaced by aluminum doors (and, later, by steel). In 1961, the electrical system was upgraded to 12 volts. A new model, called the Driver Training Car, came without a body, just a chassis and seats, and was offered as a low-cost vehicle for high school driver training courses.
An incident that occurred in Northern Alaska, near the Arctic Circle, was to have a profound and lasting effect on the future of King Midget. A young executive named Joseph C. Stehlin, Jr., with the Rootes Group of England, was on assignment in the Great North supervising the shooting of a promotional movie about that company's Hillman cars. Down the same rough Alaskan road he was traveling came a pair of King Midgets. They weren't there for any special testing; they were the daily transportation of two locals.
The enthusiastic owners impressed Stehlin with tales of the rugged yet parsimonious manner of their cars. Stehlin later flew out to the factory to take an investigative look at the company and its product, talking to dozens of K-M owners and reading hundreds of fan letters that buyers had written over the years.
It was enough to convince him. In 1966, Stehlin managed to put together a group of Eastern businessmen to buy out the company, making Orcutt and Dry an offer that was too good to pass up. Stehlin masterminded the buyout and became the new president of Midget Motors. Orcutt and Dry stayed on at the company as consultants.
For more information on cars, see: