The Next Big Thing: 1959 King Midget

030816 Barn Finds - 1959 King Midget 1

Well, maybe this particular car isn’t the next big thing, but I predict that small, relatively inexpensive cars like this will be big in the collector car market in the coming years. This 1959 King Midget, found on eBay, wouldn’t be a big project for someone to restore and the price of $3,500 shouldn’t take too big of a bite out of anyone’s wallet. With a length of less than 10 feet it’ll be easy to squeeze onto your golf cart trailer to bring it to shows once you’re done restoring it.

030816 Barn Finds - 1959 King Midget 2

Midget Motors Manufacturing Co. in Athens, OH started off small (you see where this one is going), selling government surplus items and manufacturing small scooters called the Super-Cycle. They also started offering the “Model I”, a small car in kit form that was available through ads that the founders of the company placed in the back of magazines. Eventually, the Model 1 was offered as a fully-assembled car and these were meant as an inexpensive alternative to other cars of the day. The founders of the company ran Midget Motors on a strictly supply and demand basis, they didn’t build up an inventory and then send out a sales force to get people to buy them. When orders would come in they would manufacture the cars in Athens, Ohio and ship them either in kit form or as completed cars, up until the Model III cars when they were all sold as completed vehicles. Pat Foster wrote the definitive history of the King Midget if anyone has any interest, it’s a great book.

030816 Barn Finds - 1959 King Midget 5

As you can tell from the photos, this wasn’t a fancy car with a high-level of design, at least in the way that we think of design when it comes to cars. These cars had a high-level of engineering and manufacturing design, it wasn’t a sleek or slick car and it wasn’t meant to be. This particular car is a Model III, the last of its type, and it looks like it’s in good condition overall and the body panels and floors looks really solid.

030816 Barn Finds - 1959 King Midget 7

Unfortunately, the original 9.2 hp Wisconsin engine isn’t included as this car now has an OMC engine in the rear where the ‘Sconnie should be. That hurts the value, in my opinion. This one will most likely need a rebuild, according to the seller. But, the whole car needs work so what’s one more thing on your to-do list? The founders of King Midget invented their own style of transmission and as you can see it’s somewhat related to what we know from the snowmobile industry. Or, almost an early version of the CVT, in a way.

030816 Barn Finds - 1959 King Midget 3

There is no power equipment here and you’ll never have to wonder if your “A/C needs charged”! A 12-volt system was added in 1961 but some owners may have changed their earlier models over by now. This one has a radio but it definitely doesn’t look like a factory original one. They also offered an electric wiper and washer in the later cars. The Model I was a single-seater but the Model II and III were two-seaters so you could take one of your friends along for the ride; the slow, conspicuous ride. There’s no hiding or fitting in with your surroundings when you’re driving a King Midget.

030816 Barn Finds - 1959 King Midget 4

It’s hard to believe that this car was designed for actual use on actual roads. In fact, you could still license it and use it as a daily-driver today, but you’d be braver than I am. I would absolutely love to have one of these someday, I think they’re super cool and they are a big part of the history of the US auto industry, on a small scale. Do you have enough room in your garage for a King Midget?

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Comments

  1. Fred

    My memory of the King Midget- from Popular Mechanix

  2. Cattoo CattooButt Member

    It’s almost a Ute.

    • George Livesley

      Not even close. A ute is produced by GM or Ford in the 30’S into the 50’s. They were full sized cars. The king midget is more akin to something your Dad may have built in the garage assuming he had a modicum of skills and a source for parts. A better comparison is to the Cushman direct drive motor scooter-and they cost about the same. I’m remembering that they could be had new for $300. I was just a kid, but I wanted a King Midget.. Now that I am old, I want a 48 Mercury Ute

  3. Bill

    one word: Hyabussa.

    • Kornmanone

      I’m with Bill that would be so cool

  4. Corky

    I lived in Athens , Ohio for 37 years …the plant is still there although used for other things . They bring the King Midget car show to Athens ever couple of years, and all of the cars try to make it up the original hill that was used to judge if the car was powerful enough to go on the road , after being built !!! Great fun !!

    • jim s

      where or on what street is the hill located? thanks

  5. JCW Member

    In August 2016 the club will have a jamboree in Athens. Good fun people. The radio was not a option as far as I know fun cars sold the Harley and got a King Midget loads more fun.

  6. Corky

    My problem now is I retired and moved to Colorado !!! but you guys have fun !!!

  7. Corky

    I knew that you were gonna ask me that , let me ask my friends in Athens , I know its up behind Ohio University , I just cant think of the name of the street where the hill is .

  8. Corky

    High St. in Athens , Ohio !!

    • jim s

      thank you very much. i plan on visiting the factory site and high st next time i pass thru that area.

  9. R Daves

    Wow, so cool to see these pics! I actually purchased this car on eBay and had it shipped to me. I’ve done a lot of work to make it road worthy and plan to do a total off frame restoration in a couple years. For now, my daughters and I absolutely love this thing and have more fun just driving around the block than any other jalopy I’ve owned!
    R D

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Palmer Staff

      Congratulations! Be sure to share some pictures!

  10. Rich Hammond

    I own a 1963 model 3 and restored from ground up with all new body panels 2 cylinder motor and all led lights took 2 years and probably one of the finest projects I’ve done the is a gentleman in Ohio who restores then all year long for our club we have been to Athens and did the hill climb

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