Rare Electric: 1960 Henney Kilowatt

Although the Electric car was born more than 100 years ago, it is still a rather uncommon sight to come across a classic electric. Scarce, with some interesting key players in its development, the Henney Kilowatt was an American converted electric that was coveted for being the first “Transistor-based” electric car. With only a whopping 47 cars built, this later version 72-volt car offers speed of nearly 60mph, and a range of nearly 60 miles. Having spent much of its life with the original owner, a lucky gent found this car at an estate sale, to which the current seller purchased it. With very few specimens remaining over time, this cool Renault Dauphine based electric is currently bid up to $1,425. Check it out here on eBay out of Laguna Niguel, California.

Packing a very American and very recognizable G.E. motor, this 72-volt generation Henney was the model to have versus the previous 36-volt cars.  The 72-volt machine had an acceptable speed and range compared to the 36-volt cars that needed a charge after 40 miles with a top speed of 40 mph. It is unclear how many of the 72-volt cars were built, but it seems like these cars were a hard sale for the time and competition. The owner has hooked up a battery to this Henney and the motor does run forward and backwards, so there is a flicker of hope for revival.

The 72-volt cars use (12) 6-volt batteries hooked up in series to provide power for the G.E. motor. I am assuming that the original Renault Dauphine transmission was used with an adapter plate to mate the two together.

Certainly aged, but not terrible, the interior could stand some upholstery work and some general cleaning. Mounted in the center of the dash is console with two gauges showing volts and amperes. There is also a forward and reverse switch much like a modern day electric golf cart.

In original condition, there is still a lot of potential for this early electric. The body is in fine shape with only a few minor dings to be found. One concern the seller mentions is that the front floors suffer from rot, and will need to be replaced. Pictures would have been a welcomed addition to this auction. Some neat details about this car are tastefully done Henney emblem, as well as the Kilowatt emblems. Personally I think restoring this car would be a mistake, as the condition overall isn’t particularly bad. A gentle cleaning and a rebuild of the brake system would get this machine moving again. I would be a stickler and double check the wiring, as well as the transistorized controller for the engine. Clean up the interior, reupholster the seats, and you would be left with a very cool and unique piece of history. What do you think this low production French-American electric will sell for?

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Comments

  1. macvaugh

    I recall the Dauphine as having its gearshift lever upright and centered between the front seats. No such lever appears in the posted images, so I am thinking it is not used in this conversion.

  2. PDXBryan

    Perfect base for a Tesla powered ICON Derelict! ;^)

    1
  3. Rube Goldberg

    I’d rather just have a regular Dauphine, equally as rare. This looks like an electrical nightmare. Another “swing and a miss”, with a trunk load of batteries. The Dauphine was a good car, and while not overly popular here, 2,150,738 Dauphines were made world wide in it’s 10 year run. This was probably more a promotional tool for the electric company, than anything else. Just try and find a Dauphine today. I’d cash in the copper, and put it back to stock. There are vintage Renault fans out there with lots of parts. Just might take 6 months to get it.

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  4. Gaspumpchas

    I always liked the looks of these, but a wise old mechanic told me that they made Renaults out of Prince Albert Tobacco cans. If you put some juice to this one I’d stand back and watch it go up in flames. Novel idea. Good luck to the new owner.
    Cheers
    GPC

    1
  5. Kenneth Carney

    OMG!!! I WANT THIS CAR!!! My stepdad was one of the original engineers that
    worked on the project. He told me the story over dinner and drinks in 2004 while
    on a visit to see my parents. He told me that the cars were assembled at the
    Eureka-williams plant in my hometown of Bloomington, Illinois. He went on to
    say that the smaller motors were made by Eureka in the electric motor building
    on the corner of Bell Street and Morassy Drive. When they found out that 36 volts Wouldn’t move the car, they did indeed switch to GE motors to power them.
    The car was a joint partnership between Henney Coach and Eureka-Williams. And if you guessed that Eureka also made vacuum cleaners, you’d be right too.
    The company was into many different projects back then–including nuclear
    weapons! Having this car would make things come full-circle for me. I’d have a
    piece of auto history, and more important than that, I’d have my stepdad with
    me forever.

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    • Rube Goldberg

      That’s pretty cool, Kenneth. With 22 bids and only at $1,525, ( going up $25 bucks at a time), I’d say you’d have a pretty good shot at it.

      6
    • PDXBryan

      Wow, great story Kenneth! You MUST get this. Go Fund Me or whatever it takes! I’ll be bummed if you don’t.
      I wonder if the guys at EVWest could help you get it sorted as a bit of a promotional thing? They sell repurposed Tesla batteries etc. it could be very cool, just sayin……

      4
    • Ken Nelson

      Hey Kenneth, I might have actually ridden in your father’s electric Dauphine. The spring of 1970, fresh out of grad school, I drove from Chicago to Detroit to try to get a job at Ford. Somewhere along the way I somehow ran into some guys with one of these electric Dauphines, and got invited to lunch. My Master’s thesis I had worked on back then involved a plastic car I had designed – all injection molded – and battery powered. Maybe that’s how I connected with that bunch and got that free lunch! Just don’t know what happened to the car, but I didn’t get a job with Ford, yet ironically ended up being involved with introducing Ford’s first plastic intake manifolds on their 4.6 L V8 and later built their first vibration welded nylon intake manifolds on the 3L Vulcan V6s thru my job with Dupont plastics.

      BTW, i know a guy with a Dauphine in Ca. which has an electric automatic!

      Hope you get the Renault Kenneth!

      2
    • Rodney - GSM

      Kenneth, sometime fate hands you a gift. This feels like Christmas.
      Clearly, your car.

  6. Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

    No comments about the “P” word? 😱🤣

    1
    • Ralph

      Whats the P word?

      • Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

        “P” word=“Patina”-it’s a controversial conversation starter on this forum, I’ve learned..
        Some folks consider it cool to leave the paint untouched or clear coat it, others think it’s crazy not to clean it up and then others want to completely redo some or all of the vehicle!

        1
  7. Andrew S Mace Member

    I don’t know why, but the Dauphine has always intrigued me! (It might be because they were very popular “back in the day” in the Albany NY area.) The Henney Kilowatt version (I do love that name!) just makes it even cooler. And I have enough land to build a small farm of solar panels to create my own charging station, so… ;)

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  8. SC/RAMBLER

    Back in 1978 a friend of mines Grand Parents had a regular Dauphine sitting beside the barn I remember looking at the engine and laughing at its breadbox size ( I had my SC/RAMBLER at the time) it looked like it had been sitting for years back then probably just a pile of rust at best or maybe a soup can by now. Cute little car though this thing I would be afraid to plug in might get fried Lol. It’s amazing what I have learned about some of my fellow B.F. readers. Thanks for sharing your story Kenneth I hope you get this car.

    1
    • Andrew S Mace Member

      I have to laugh at this, because you “finished the thought” that I neglected to do in my original post. By the late 1960s / early 1970s, it seemed that every other barn in upstate NY had a Dauphine parked next to it! :D

      1
  9. Rube Goldberg

    The Dauphine was a pretty popular car in Milwaukee. It was the foreign car for people like my old man, that wouldn’t allow a German, Italian or Asian car in their driveways. I kid you not. In the 60’s, there was still a large group, mostly vets, that felt that way. The old man had 2 Dauphines, and a Caravelle.( and a Peugeot 403, I think my old man felt sorry for the French, seeing what they went through 1st hand) The guy across the alley had a brand new ’64 or ’65 Dauphine, that was pretty peppy. It had slightly more power than a VW, 4 doors, and a real heater. My 1st car, that I only drove up and down my parents driveway, was a ’59 4CV, so Renaults have been in my family. I thought they were good cars. I wonder if it still has the “city/highway” horn?

    1
  10. Ken Carney

    Thanks fellas! I want this car in the worst
    way. Hopefully, I can raise enough cash to make it all happen. I just reopened my
    art shop today. So between that, and that
    Go Fund Me thing you spoke of, I might just make it. Would’ve done it sooner, but
    my heart started acting up again and that
    brought things to a screeching halt. As
    for the car, I’d have to update the car’s
    battery packs and charging systems while keeping as much of my stepdad’s
    engineering ideas as possible. Andrew,
    you’re not too far off on that solar farm
    you mentioned. Once I had the car in
    driving condition, I’d build a solar carport
    around back to charge it up when parked.
    Might have to replace the manual trans with a direct drive unit so Mom and Sis
    could drive it, but other than that, the car
    would be very near stock. Oh yeah, after
    Dinner and drinks, my stepdad surprised
    me again when he brought out his portable drafting table for me to use while making some car prints for the kids,
    and a portrait of a 1960 Chevy Impala ragtop for my Uncle Bud, who actually had one back in the day. What a great
    vacation that was! Seeing this car brings
    it all back.

    • Gaspumpchas

      Good luck, Ken- definitely would stand out at a car show and cruise. Didn’t know these were mass produced. With some state of the art deep cycle Lithium batteries you have something. Leave the outside as is!!
      Keeep us posted. Sounds to me you shouldn’t let this one slip thru your fingers. Get what you want- this aint no dress rehearsal.
      Cheers
      GPC

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