Home » Have A Meaningful MLK, Jr. Day!: Cold Start

Have A Meaningful MLK, Jr. Day!: Cold Start

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It’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day here in America, and that’s an important day, so we’re mostly taking it off. I say mostly because we have a Canadian and Australian on staff who aren’t bound by our American customs, being trapped in the Commonwealth and all, so there may be a few stories up, but for the most part, we’re taking today off. But before I let you go, I felt you should be aware of the little-known carmaker that shared a surname with MLK, the King Motor Car Company. Yes, I’m talking about “The Car of No Regrets.”

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King Motor Company existed in Detroit from 1911 to 1923, then briefly in Buffalo, New York in 1923 before going out of business. The original car built by the founder, Charles Brady King, was in 1896, and was the first gasoline automobile to drive in Detroit; it’s said that a young Henry Ford rode a bike behind it on its maiden voyage, even. You’d think this alone would have made King a better-known figure in the automotive world, but, well, that didn’t seem to happen.

King cars had some interesting technical details, like a flywheel that also acted as an oil pump. From 1916 on, all Kings had V8 engines, after transitioning from four-cylinder engines made by marine engine builder Gray Motor Company.

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This old ad suggests that the King was the first car in America with left-hand drive, something that may be possible, but I’d want to confirm. Still, a bold claim!

Anyway, I hope everyone has the best possible MLK day! We’ll be back in full force tomorrow!

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The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
3 months ago

They’re right about V8 superiority.

I wonder if the one in Venezuela is still running.

Thomas Metcalf
Thomas Metcalf
3 months ago

The wording in the ads is very strange. I feel like it was a person trying to sound more intelligent than they were.

Amberturnsignalsarebetter
Amberturnsignalsarebetter
3 months ago

This old ad suggests that the King was the first car in America with left-hand drive

Jason, you’ve fallen for the oldest trick in the marketing handbook – when they say the King was “first in America with en bloc motor, left side drive, center control, and Cantilever Springs”, it can easily be assumed they mean the first with each of these features but thanks to that sneaky Oxford comma we can infer it actually means the first with all of these features.

it’s like when Bricklin tried to sell the SV-1 Chairman as “the first car to come with V8 power, pop-up headlights, and a gold jumpsuit.”

Toecutter
Toecutter
3 months ago

I tried finding additional specs on the King Eight but was unsuccessful. For the time period, 60 horsepower was about as much as you could get without shoving an airplane engine into the car. I wouldn’t be surprised if this car could reach 75 mph, which for the era, would make it one of the fastest things on the road.

I love learning about these ancient relics. They’re sort of a guide post regarding what cars might have to become if we end up in a resource-scarce future. Out of necessity, cars in such a world would be simple like the early 20th century machines, where anyone can work on them, similar in many ways to bicycles and motorcycles, but with greatly improved aerodynamics, build materials, component longevity, and even simple electric drive systems that are designed to be mostly analogue.

Mike B
Mike B
3 months ago

Our “American customs” are working through most holidays.

I’d guess hardly anyone other than state/federal employees actually get MLK day off.

I’m in manufacturing and we’re working today.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
3 months ago
Reply to  Mike B

I’m in building materials, we’re working, but most of my customers aren’t, so I got a panicked phone call from my boss this morning asking why it looked like our scheduled shipments were so low today. Gee, did you look at a calendar?

The Matts
The Matts
3 months ago
Reply to  Mike B

Same. I’ve actually never had MLK day off in my life, school or work.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
3 months ago

So I have heard that this was a great car. The company was founded by Larry King’s grandfather.

“Hello caller, is the caller there?” / s

Last edited 3 months ago by Col Lingus
Thomas Metcalf
Thomas Metcalf
3 months ago
Reply to  Col Lingus

1911 could have been larry King’s father. Larry himself must have been born around 1902 (this is a complete guess based on what he looks like).

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
3 months ago
Reply to  Col Lingus

Pretty sure Larry King took his driving test in one of these, and his instructor was Abe Vigoda

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
3 months ago

First car with left-hand drive. That sounds so sinister

Mr. Asa
Mr. Asa
3 months ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

This is gonna be unappreciated. But I saw it. I appreciate it.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
3 months ago
Reply to  Mr. Asa

Thanks. I wondered if it might be too far out in left field.

The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
3 months ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

That is a dexterous use of language

Guido Sarducci
Guido Sarducci
3 months ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

Also sounds rather gauche.

IRegertNothing, Esq.
IRegertNothing, Esq.
3 months ago

The car of no regerts, you say? I’ll bet the owners were full of regert when the brand went under and they found themselves owning orphan cars.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
3 months ago

I’ve always wondered what it was like being in enthusiast back in the (pre-internet) day when your car’s company shut down.

How many hours would they spend engaging people they knew, writing letters, later calling on the phone to try to track down parts to keep their beloved whatever going before finally having to sadly give up? When would optimism begin to fade to grim acceptance that the end was near?

It’s our nature to look back on the past with rose-colored glasses, but in this respect, things certainly seem better now.

IRegertNothing, Esq.
IRegertNothing, Esq.
3 months ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

I have to think it’s terrifying the moment it happens, because this is probably a car that you rely on and now you have to worry about replacement parts and the value possibly tanking if you decide to unload it now. The people who keep Packards and Studebakers on the roads today get the utmost respect from me. It’s a labor of love to go hunting for increasingly scarce parts if you want to keep it original, and not go the SBC swap route once the engine has a major problem.

Clark B
Clark B
3 months ago

I have major respect for anyone who keeps a car from a long-dead brand alone. I’ve got an air-cooled VW and it’s ridiculously easy to get parts. There’s still a shop around here that sells them. I just walked in one day and bought a set of cylinders, pistons, and cylinder heads right off the shelf.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
3 months ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

Well, cars also didn’t stay on the road as long then, both because of wear & tear, and because rapidly advancing technology rendered designs obsolete more quickly, especially for medium priced and higher models. And a lot of smaller companies were more assemblers than manufacturers, buying components off the shelf from parts companies, so there often was some degree of interchangeability on crucial wear items with other brands

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
3 months ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

Great point – I hadn’t considered that things were much less siloed by firm back then so parts were more universal in nature.

Amberturnsignalsarebetter
Amberturnsignalsarebetter
3 months ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

It can’t have been any worse than being a Cadillac XLR owner and having your car totaled because a taillight cracked.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
3 months ago

I always forget about that…I guess the original target audience wouldn’t likely have that much connection to their cars, but to be an enthusiast who owns one must be fairly nerve-wracking in ways the rest of us don’t really worry about.

Chronometric
Chronometric
3 months ago

I am the caretaker of the only existing Stephens automobile delivered with a Continental 7N engine so I have done some research on this topic. Two years after inception in 1916, Stephens (part of Moline Plow Co) built their own Stephens Salient 6 overhead valve engine and dropped the Continental. I do wonder about those early adopters because car manufacturing was a gold rush at the dawn of the 20s. Carmakers were doubling production every few months and taking out huge loans to build more factories. It would not surprise me if support for the earliest cars was lacking, although they would service it at the factory in Freeport, IL. Stephens, a brand you never heard of, sold 25,000 cars in just 9 years and then, like many of the other 200+ automotive brands, folded in 1925 during an economic downturn.

Last edited 3 months ago by Chronometric
The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
3 months ago
Reply to  Chronometric

Username checks out

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
3 months ago

It probably didn’t matter. Most of the cars in those days were so simple you could repair or tune them up with a ball peen hammer.

Fuzzyweis
Fuzzyweis
3 months ago

Um, many freed slave families kept the names of their owners, including MLK Jr…..so….may not be a good connection there.

Maybe feature the Patterson-Greenfield?

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
3 months ago
Reply to  Fuzzyweis

Well, Charles Brady King’s father was a fairly noteable Union general from New York, FWIW

Fuzzyweis
Fuzzyweis
3 months ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

Cool so probably not THAT King family, no regerts!

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