Jeep Commando and “Mini Me”

Jeepster and its Mini Me

Alright, so maybe a 1957 King Midget isn’t exactly a “Mini Me” version of a 1967 Jeep Commando, but we just couldn’t help ourselves given how uncanny the resemblances are. The King Midget and the Jeepster that this Commando evolved from were introduced just a few years apart and would make for a better comparison, but these two are for sale right now and are close to the same price. Take a look at the bigger Jeep here on eBay and then take a peek at its miniature, the King Midget here on eBay. Thanks Jim S for tipping us off to the King Midget!

1967 Jeepster Commando

If you know your Midget and Jeepster history, you will recall that the King Midget actually hit the market two years before the Jeepster. Some might say that the Jeepster should really be the King Midget’s “Giant Me”, but that wouldn’t exactly be accurate if we look at where this design really came from. The Jeepster was one of Willy’s civilian takes on the Military Jeep they built during WWII. Early Jeepsters had much more defined fenders, which made them and the King Midget look even more similar. By the time this Commando was built, it was a Kaiser Jeep and the overall design was more conservative. Perhaps it’s the overall shape or the color that makes the King Midget look like a shrunk down version of this Jeep, albeit with wooden doors.

1957 King Midget

We don’t know whether the Midget Motor Company copied the Jeep design or not, but we wouldn’t blame them if they did. Their goal for the King Midget was to offer a cheap vehicle that was still handsome and practical, which happened to be the same goal Willy was trying to achieve with their Jeep. They went about achieving their goals in very different ways, but at the end of the day, this basic design was about keeping production expense as low as possible. Every bend and curve costs time and resources, so keeping things as simple as possible kept costs down.

Motor comparison

While there are lots of visual similarities between the two, mechanically they couldn’t be further apart. The Jeep is powered by a 225 cui V6 mounted in the front, while the Midget is powered by a 23 cui one-cylinder mounted in the back. The Jeep’s Dauntless mill currently runs, but the seller admits it needs work and the car will need a complete restoration before it’s street worthy. They also don’t state the condition of the transmission or four wheel drive system, so assume the worst and hope for the best. The Midget on the other hand, is already road worthy and the seller claims that they use it on a regular basis for short jaunts. It wasn’t ever meant to be used for much more than short trips, so it’s possible that the 4,000 miles on the odometer is accurate.

Interior Comparison

The differences continue into the cockpit, where the Jeep’s added size offers more features and space. It is a proper car, with bucket seats, a complete dash, and ample leg room for any full size adult. Both interiors look to be in good condition, but could both use a good cleaning. Typically a Jeep would win in the simplicity category, but the King Midget takes minimalism to new heights. With the top up, we would rather be in the more spacious Jeep, but there is something exciting about climbing into a drop top micro car and setting off on a short journey.

Tailgate Comparison

Whether you agree with the King Midget being the Jeep’s miniature clone or not, it is amazing how different they can be while looking so similar. Obviously, each one has its pros and cons, but there’s no arguing that the Jeep would be the better choice if you are looking for a project that you can use for more than short drives around town. Given the Midget’s condition, it would be better for those looking for a car to enjoy right now with little or no work needed. Personally, we would love to have both, even if it’s to just park them next to each other for a good laugh. Which one would you prefer?

Fast Finds

Comments

  1. Mark E

    I wonder if the King Midget is home-built? I’ve never seen one with wooden doors before! They are funny little cars, more like Crosleys. You can forget about going out on a higway with one…they are safest and most comfortable putting around town. Oh and if you are wondering, the factory claimed they would go 55mph but with those tiny wheels and lightweight body, I don’t think I’d even want to try 45. Oh and I also remember reading an amazing story about how one owner drove one of these from the East coast down to Mexico and back. Something like 8-10,000 miles and his gas costs were peanuts due to the mileage this gets.

    • Brian

      I’m glad you mentioned the aspect this being homemade. I always assumed they purchased as complete cars, but a quick check of my Standard Catalog of American Cars (love that book) shows they were, indeed, available as a kit, so this one could very well have been put together at home.

      The very first King Midgets looked more like mini 1930s Indy racers and a few years after, they were changed to resemble a mini Jeep. The Catalog also said the creator also developed an automatic transmission for it. I can only imagine that made the power so anemic that the car would hardly move!

    • geomechs geomechs Member

      I remember King Midgets being advertised in Popular Mechanics and Mechanix Illustrated back in the 60s. Being only 10 when I first saw them appear, I thought that they were a glorified go-cart and wanted one. I was surprised to find out how old the company was.

  2. Dolphin Member

    Love the writeup, Josh. A funny and interesting comparison.

    Most times I have seen King Midgets has been when they’re driven in loops and circles by Shriners in parades down main street.

  3. Brooklands

    Actually, the Jeep was built by the Willys car company, not Willy. The company had been founded in 1908 by John Willys. It is always confusing and seems incorrect.

    Thanks for the fun comparison between the two. I would probably pick the King Midget for its rarity, and need for less storage space.

  4. Brian

    Although both are very interesting vehicles, I would have to go with the Jeep for usability. I know a friend of a friend who has a King Midget. I’ve never driven or rode in it, but I have followed him while he drove it down a main street. They are surprisingly quick (at least his is, not sure if he’s made any preformance modifications to it) although they hit top speeds quickly. The size is pretty close to a golf cart and appears to handle about as well. Even a 20 mph crash would spell catastrophic bodily injuries…it’s cool to see but I’ll pass on the test drive.

  5. David Wood

    Only the series 1 was available as a kit. The Series 2 and 3 were factory built.

    • Brian

      Interesting! I guess they found after the first year that offering a breakdown kit ate into the already slim profit?

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