Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

1946-1970 King Midget


1967-1968 King Midget

A great change came to the 1967 King Midget. K-M claimed almost 100 improvements to the third-series models, "most of them in 1967." The Wisconsin motor was replaced by a Kohler engine, still only a one-lunger, but with 29.07 cubic inches and 12 horsepower at 3,600 rpm. The heavy-duty industrial engine came with an exhaust valve rotator and counter-balanced crankshaft.

1970 King Midget
The side-marker lights on the fenders of this
1970 King Midget were required by the feds
since 1968.

Performance was improved, but according to factory literature, owners could still expect "up to 50-75 miles per gallon (some report as high as 93 under ideal conditions)." Speeds of 50-55 miles per hour were easily obtainable, though K-M was a bit more modest, claiming "SPEED APLENTY -- Up to 40 to 50 miles per hour."

Safety, undoubtedly a concern to potential buyers, was handled thusly: "King Midget is more and more recognized as a solution of the teenage driver problem. This beautiful little sports car that is safe by its very design, fills the need for the unusual and gets the youngsters out of hot rods and high powered family cars." And although efficiency was touted, style wasn't entirely overlooked: "We believe you'll agree that its graceful continental lines give it that 'chuck-full-of-power' appearance that make it King of small autos."

King Midget defended its short 90-day guarantee, noting that "Actually the cars have proven very rugged and trouble free and there have been very few occasions where it was necessary to use any guarantee."

Meanwhile, the cost of the 1966 buyout had one unfortunate side effect -- it increased the company's break-even point. An ex-employee recalls that the factory usually employed about 21 assembly workers. Some men worked a night shift welding up chassis, others worked days assembling the cars. According to this ex-employee, the factory was building at the rate of about 1 1/2 cars per day, which was no longer sufficient to meet its fixed daily cost of operation.

The solution seemed simple enough: raise production without increasing employment, have the same number of employees build more cars. A new production manager, Vernon Eads, went to work immediately to increase productivity. He had worked earlier at K-M and knew the processes. He spotted some production line bottlenecks, mainly it seems, in the painting procedure, and worked the kinks out of the system. By 1969, K-M was building four complete cars per day. That's when it all hit the fan.

King Midget never had a dealer body. For years Claude Dry had been able to sell the minuscule output with his own methods. One story illustrates how it once was: A lady from California flew into the tiny airport near Athens, took a cab to the plant with the intention of buying a new car and driving back to California that day. Trouble was, she hadn't ordered a car and hadn't told anybody she was coming. To complicate matters further, it was a Saturday, only a few workers were on the job, and there was exactly one car in stock. But it was sold. In fact, it was in a crate awaiting shipment on Monday. The workers uncrated the car, she took possession, and left for Lotus Land. That's how it was in the old days at K-M.

For more information on cars, see: