In the wake of World War II auto makers were having a field day. The U.S. had enormous manufacturing capacity that was no longer needed for the war effort and G.I.s returning from service were flush with cash that they were anxious to spend. If you had cars to sell, finding buyers was not a problem. Consumers were snapping up anything on wheels.
It was into this milieu that Claud Dry and Dale Orcutt introduced what they called the “World’s Most Exciting Small Car” – the King Midget.
Orcutt and Dry, who met while serving as Civil Air Patrol pilots during the War, saw a need for a small car that almost anybody could afford. Their initial effort, the King Midget I, was a one-passenger open car that looked for all the world like an early race car. It was sold as a kit that included a bare chassis and suspension with patterns for fabricating its body. The buyer was responsible for installing the engine (any one-cylinder engine would do) and finding a local tinsmith to build the body.
In 1951 the company introduced a second model, a two passenger drop-top that more closely resembled a real car. That model was offered either as a kit or fully assembled and came with a 7.5hp Wisconsin engine. According to the International King Midget Club, this second model “could pull exceptionally heavy loads [and] had the agility of a mountain goat”. Tough as it may have been, it was still pretty basic with a hand-pull starter and no speedometer or reverse gear.
The pinnacle of King Midget development came with the 1957 introduction of the Model 3, which stayed in production until the company closed its doors in 1970. The Model 3 sported an all new body, unit construction, 4-wheel hydraulic brakes and a 9.2hp Wisconsin engine. Further improvements came with the introduction of a 12-volt electrical system in 1961 and a 12hp Kohler engine in 1966.
In addition to its main-line cars, the company also produced two different motor scooters and a couple of go-kart sized cars that were offered without bodies. Two different wheelbases and lengths were built, the Junior with a 2.5hp engine, and the Trainer with 3hp engine. These were probably meant for children and a promotional photo shows the Junior being piloted by a couple of joyful lads.
Incredibly, the King Midget actually sold fairly well and for a long time. The company remained in business from 1946 until 1970. It outlasted many other brands that were on the market after World War II including Crosley, Kaiser-Frazer, Packard, Studebaker, Rambler, Hudson, Nash – well, you get the picture. Increasingly stringent safety standards and changing consumer tastes eventually killed the King Midget but in the hands of Mike Beebe and Rick Burkholder, Midget Motors Supply still exists to supply parts for Midget collectors.