Serial Number 0001: 1960 Henney Kilowatt

This one is a bit of a head-scratcher in more ways than one. While a 1960 Henney Kilowatt based on a Renault Dauphine is unusual enough, the seller has this one listed as #0001 even though they started making them in 1959. One of you will know the full story I’m sure. Whatever number this car is, it’s uber-rare and it can be found here on eBay in Murray, Kentucky and the current (ah-hem) bid price is $2,001 and there is no reserve. Let’s check it out.

There’s a dingy-McDing in the leading edge of the driver’s door, unfortunately. I’m assuming that it got caught by the wind at some point and went past where it should have, but I don’t know for sure. The car looks surprisingly nice otherwise, other than having been repainted white over what would have been its original red color. The seller mentions that it was red but due to company advertising needs, a white car was required for printed material so it was quickly painted white. I prefer it in white but it wasn’t a full color-change so I’d have to either spend big bucks stripping everything out and doing a real color-change or paint it back to red again. White with red steel wheels would be a cool look with its red interior, although the red that you see on the RR wheel is surface rust, there’s a bit of it all over.

National Union Electric Company (NUEC) was the maker of Exide batteries, but they also owned such diverse companies as Henney Motor Company, a custom body maker for high-end cars such as Packards, and vacuum cleaner maker, the Eureka Williams Company. EVs have been around for a hundred years or more, but by the late-1950s they weren’t on the market as heavily as they were in the early 1900s and in the early-1970s as the US gas crunch became a real thing. NUEC wanted to make battery-powered cars in order to build up their battery market but it didn’t quite work out that way. We have featured them in the past here at Barn Finds and they’re really interesting and were quite groundbreaking at the time.

The interior looks surprisingly nice on this example. There is no back seat, it’s more of a storage area since the trunk on a Dauphine would have been in the front and that’s where half of the batteries and the chargers are located on a Henney Kilowatt. You can see the original red paint in there. The dash could use some help but overall it looks good. I love the gauge cluster with the temperature gauge.

The 1959 Henney Kilowatts used 18 two-volt batteries or 6 six-volt batteries for 36 volts and a top speed of 40 mph and a range of 40 miles. The upgraded 1960 model with 12 six-volt batteries had 72 volts and a range of 60 miles and a top speed to match. The production numbers are all over the place with 100 of them reportedly being made but only 47 of them being sold and only 15 sold to consumers. The seller of this car also has a reported prototype for sale, also listed as a 1960 model. I’m guessing that with this one having serial number 1170001 makes it the first of the 1960 models, not the first one ever? Thoughts?

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Comments

  1. Fred W

    OK, now I’ve seen it all. A car with 4 doors and no back seat, from the factory.

    6
  2. Bakyrdhero Bakyrdhero Member

    Imagine merging in today’s traffic with this thing! Never heard of not seen one. “Dingy Mcding” made the read worth it. Nice find

    3
  3. Mike

    A little too frumpy for my liking.

    1
  4. ken tilly UK

    These were delightful little (Petrol) cars when they were new but they quickly deteriorated if kept in any area that was prone to rust issues. My mother in law had one and it rusted faster than you could drive it just about.

  5. Howard A Member

    I like Dauphines, my 1st non-road car was a 4CV. Pure novelty here. A guy in my small town has a VW bug converted to electric, very similar to this set up. I’m not sure how he got it, but didn’t pay much and said, he would never pay a lot of money for one. Again( and again), it’s the batteries, we have to get past the batteries. He said, the VW is fine for a trip to the store a mile away, but he said, he’s afraid to go anywhere out of town, for fear of running out of juice, and takes half a day to recharge. Being as rare as a Dauphine is, scrap the electrics, and put a gas motor of your choice. Just no 454’s,,,

    3
    • Kman

      How about a 350

      1
      • Zack

        I was thinking 383 stroker but 350 would work to

        1
  6. Will Fox

    Doesn’t matter really. Bottom line is, It’s a Renault Dauphine, a death trap like Citroen 2CV’s.

    1
    • D Legeai

      You are correct but what does your comment have to do with this article? Nice find indeed for all gear heads; if we had to eliminate all « death trap » cars from our discussions, how much fun would that be?

      6
    • ken tilly UK

      What kind of proof do you have, to make that comment? I don’t know about the 2CV but I have never, ever, heard a Dauphine being described as a death trap.

      3
    • Kman

      Can we get BF to bring back the thumbs down button?

      1
      • Howard A Member

        No, please, I’m a strong supporter of no thumbs down, I’d rather hear what’s on your mind. Besides, they did bring back the thumbs down for a short time, and nobody used it. Will can have his opinion, and for all we know, he may have known someone that died in one. Of course, on that premise, there are lots of death traps out there. No on thumbs down, no wait, thumbs down on thumbs down. Peace.

        2
  7. Eric

    I had a (petrol) Dauphine in the ’60, it had a 4 speed gearbox and 4 disk brakes (in 1964).
    I had the same dent in my door by opening it in the wind.
    A good car, but a rust bucket indeed!
    I live in Belgium.

    7
  8. JW454

    A friend had a gas version Renault like this in the early seventies. It seemed to be a good little car. We did a lot of cruising in it for very little gas and never had any trouble with it. It was way cheaper than driving my 1967 GTO with the 400 / 4 speed.

    A gas powered one is on my list of “fun to have” but, admittedly, there are a lot of other things higher on the list.

  9. Gerard Planche

    A 2CV is incredibly agile and can swerve to avoid danger much better than many other vehicles of its era. But when one can’t avoid a collision, what makes light cars more dangerous on today’s roads are…heavy cars & trucks! It’s simply the respective amounts of energy (weight and speed square) which talk upon encounter!

    1
    • xrotaryguy

      This one has a bunch of lead added to it. Maybe it’s safer now! ;)

      • James

        In the back seat…hopefully they’re well secured!

  10. sourpwr Member

    I had a gas one. Great fun. I think the extra weight from the batteries would be about as much fun as a couple of mother-in-laws in the back seat.

    3
  11. Matt

    back in the 80s when I was in college we went on a field trip to and “alternate energy” show in western mass and low and behold there was one of these sitting there. I was told that someone purchased a warehouse that had 2000 of these that were never used or sold from a defunct venture . They were selling them for $2000 as is or completed for $7000-8000. I wanted to put one back to original with a gas motor but didn’t have the renounces. I currently own a Dauphine with a push button automatic which is a delight to drive when it wants to. It was dubbed as frail response to the VW bug

  12. steve

    I drive a Focus electric so I’m not against E-power in cars. BUT…these were light weight cars with thin EVERYTHING and the weight of those lead-acid batteries? Floors? Frame structure? Suspension? WHEELS??!! They used these cars, I’m sure, because they were light and cheap. Then they loaded them up like a dump truck….I mentioned my Ford simply because it also is a “:converted” (by Ford) car but in that case we have over half a century of building strong, stiff, light weight road vehicles and with the battery being 4-5x the capacity at 1/3 the weight, a modern chassis up to the job. Still..You KNOW this is a low mileage vehicle! You’d be torn between the historic part of the electric and swapping back in the fuel burning power plant. Tough call!

    1
    • xrotaryguy

      Well… It is a factory car. Perhaps the floor, chassis, suspension, etc were needed up. Someone may know. I don’t.

  13. Gerard Planche

    Naah..I clearly do not recommend to modify those EVs back to petrol. There are plenty of barn find “fossils” in France! If anything, buy both (and some for parts) and they both will have more value as an original pair.

  14. JagManBill

    how ’bout swapping to a modern battery pack?

    6
  15. Gerard Planche

    Yes, better: an e-restomod! But the also motor, electronics, cool rims…
    Ideally, find a destroyed Tesla and…

    3
    • nlpnt

      Nissan Leaf, keep it “in the family”.

      3
      • Gerard Planche

        Okay, okay…mildmod then!

  16. Chris Hindle

    What a cool little car. Never heard of a Henny Kilowatt until today. Did Renault sell Henny complete chassis’s in bulk without engine trans and drive train?? Hello Mr Google…

    1
  17. Jonny the Boy

    Compare with the same seller’s black Henney Kilowatt in his other auction. The numbers on the speedometer appear to be hand-painted. The black car’s are painted well, but the speedo on the white car looks like it was done after the gauge painter had a few beers!

    2
    • ken tilly UK

      JonnyBoy. I think the numbering on the white car speedometer are actually stuck on from the inside and are starting to peel off, most likely due to age or heat from the sun over the years. The black car numbers aren’t a whole lot better either.

  18. w9bag Member

    Interesting little car, but I must ask, how is Renault pronounced? Is it ruhNAULT, Rehno (long o, short e) ? As a kid, my best friend’s Dad had a ’67 R7. It was the first car I had ever seen with rack & pinion steering. It steered, even when not running, as easily as if it had power steering. They are still a solid seller in Europe. The last one I recall being sold in the U.S. was the “Le Car”, not well received here.

    • Howard A Member

      My old man called them “Raynultz”.

  19. Gerard Planche

    It is pronounced RUH-NO, both vowels short!

    1
    • Percy Hawkins

      In Johnson City Tennessee we pronounce it “RIN-WAH.”
      And we’re very cosmopolitan here, I’ll have you know.
      VERY cosmopolitan.

      2
      • Bakyrdhero Bakyrdhero Member

        Sounds like a Tombstone reference.

        1
  20. Ken Cwrney

    As a matter of fact, I do know the Henney
    Kilowatt story as my late Stepfather was
    one of the engineers on the project. As
    the author so deftly points out, this was
    indeed a joint venture between all the companies and Eureka Williams was tasked with providing a workable motor
    to move the car down the road and to
    install them at their plant in Bloomington
    Illinois. One evening in 2004, my Stepdad
    told me the story over Dinner and drinks
    and I found it to be an interesting one
    indeed. He told me that Henney supplied
    the rolling chassis for each car built to
    the Eureka Williams to be fitted with the
    Eureka designed motors, the Exide batteries, and all of the associated wiring
    that went along with it. And as many of
    you have speculated, Henney did indeed
    beef up the body and chassis with HD
    framing in key spots such as the engine
    bay, the trunk where most of the batteries
    lived, and at key stress points in the body
    as well. The engineers at Henney were
    very much aware of just how flimsy these
    cars were and tried to fix these faults as
    best they could while keeping the weight
    down to an acceptable level which would
    help improve the car’s projected range.
    But they did indeed shoot themselves in
    the foot with the use of those heavy lead
    acid batteries. Ni-cad batteries did exist
    at this point, they were quite new and untried and would’ve been really expensive venture for the new owners of
    these cars to replace when they wore out.
    And so it was decided to use a more available battery–lead acid of course.
    My Stepdad was in charge of testing and
    installing the completed motors into the
    waiting cars. He said he thought that there may have been two or three direct
    drive units built for testing as all of the
    production cars used the factory 4-speed
    non syncro gearbox that proved to be
    troublesome items and a tough selling point had the car taken off and sales
    picked up. The direct drive cars were
    quite quick and easy to drive considering
    you didn’t have to shift gears to keep the
    car moving–just push the go pedal and
    drive! He also went on to say that these
    cars had a respectable amount of torque
    for the motors they were using then. And
    yes, these cars did have rear seats in them. If this car were mine, I’d use modern electronics and lithium ion battery packs to increase reliability and
    save weight. Then, I’d preserve the rest
    as best I could for history’s sake. Just
    having this car would bring me closer to
    my stepdad and what he and his team
    tried to create.

    6
  21. Royal Ricci
  22. Royal Ricci

    ….

  23. James

    In the back seat…hopefully they’re well secured!

  24. xrotaryguy

    That sort of damage was not uncommon for any car of the era unfortunately.

  25. Michael Ridley

    we had a dolphin we used to race around our go cart track and rolled it over about 50 times. you just got out rolled it back to its wheels and kept on driving. Don’t think we ever broke the windshield or any glass. Now in my old age I feel sort of bad as we had a neighbor we got it from. he loved the cars and had a dozen. He was always coming up with some great fuel mileage add on trick. He would brag about his mileage. What he did not know was when we cut the grass we added a quart or so to his tank three or four times a week. When he got her up to about 50 mpg we started draining it out about three or four times a week. Best thing I remember was he had a toilet paper oil filter. He would pull it out cut it up and inspect his engine wear. that was cool.

    1
  26. TimM

    Glorified golf cart!!! If you can’t bring it anywhere for fear of the batteries dying it should be converted to a four or six cylinder!!!

  27. KB at Roadsend

    Always thought the Dolphine was a cute little machine I would think being electrified would be an improvement I have seen the 10s that were battery powered I think it was city of Seattle that had some .
    I have an R11 that has been a great little car 42 mpg
    But for electric I am very proud of my little EVA Change of pace ( Pacer station wagon ) Wish I knew how to improve the electronics and go to a new battery I have seen out that is a mere fraction of the weight of the 20 6v and 1 12v it has in the front and rear I think my glass might be just a little better than that on the new Tesla “pick up” I like the strange and unusual but that thing (Cyber truck) may even be too wild for me

  28. Steve RM

    He calls it a 1960. Claims it has 13 original miles. Says it has not been driven since the 70s. ???????

  29. Russell Ashley

    I grew up in Savannah, Ga. The power company there in the late fifties, Savannah Electric and Power, now Southern Company, had one of those converted Dauphines. My brother worked there and drove the car some. I remember him saying it did have good acceleration but don’t remember anything about the range on a full charge. I don’t know what ever happened to it.

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