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1911 KELSEY MOTORETTE TRIKE Chassis no. 290

Estimate: US$70,000 - US$90,000
Lot 163

Chassis no. 290

72ci Two-Stroke Opposed 2-Cylinder Engine
Single Carburetor
Approximately 10bhp
2-Speed Planetary Transmission
Leaf Spring Suspension
Mechanical Brakes

*Exciting motorcar from the pioneer age
*Beautifully restored
*AACA Award Winning example
*One of just over 200 Kelsey Motorettes produced
*Innovative piece of American automotive history


A great deal of imagination, drive and determination were the marks of the motoring industry's pioneers.

Some were spectacularly successful. Others, surely as talented and insightful, somehow missed making their mark on history. Cadwallader 'Carl' Washburn Kelsey was one of the latter and if enthusiasm and vision alone had been sufficient to bring success he would be better known today. He built his first car in 1897 before entering college, his second as an undergraduate at Haverford College. He became the most successful dealer for Maxwell, eventually becoming Maxwell's sales manager. When he and Maxwell's Ben Briscoe fell out he returned to his passion, established the C.W. Kelsey Manufacturing Company in Hartford, Connecticut and introduced the Kelsey Motorette, a trike powered by an opposed twin. Over the next three years just over 200 Kelsey Motorette trikes were built.


This beautifully presented 1911 Kelsey Motorette is reputed to have a 10hp engine with the two-speed plus reverse planetary transmission. Featuring a chain drive arrangement to the single rear wheel, brakes on both the driveshaft and the rear wheel and right-hand tiller steering, it offers a very special and unique driving experience. The radiator is the brass-trimmed slab behind the side-by-side seats, and the engine fires by a starting handle located on the side. The rear wheel is suspended on a pair of quarter-elliptical leaf springs, which also locate the axle.

A 1997 AACA Senior National First Prize winner, the quality of the restoration and subsequent care the trike has received is evident in its beautiful presentation today. The black finish with gold coach lines on the bodywork against black painted wood spoke wheels gives the car a very period look. The two bucket-style seats are upholstered in black leather, and the Kelsey is fitted with the optional black folding top.

Kelsey's ads from the era note that these innovative motorcars featured circulating oil lubrication, as opposed to the then-common full loss oiling. As presented here today, the Kelsey is a gorgeous, intriguing little thing that will always attract enthusiastic, positive attention. The colorful story of 'Carl' Kelsey, which continued through another car company and culminated in the design of the 'Skycar' helicopter in the 1960s when Kelsey himself was in his eighties, only adds to its appeal and the many conversations this veteran car will start, and introductions it will make to curious onlookers. There is a whole fascinating narrative about American automobile pioneers wrapped up in this Kelsey Motorette.

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