January 30, 2017


Kissel Motor Car Co. (1907-1931)

Hartford, Wisconsin

This is the first Kissel Kar radiator emblem (1908-1910)    mjs
Size: 184mm wide 56mm high

Production of the Kissel Kar began in 1906 for the 1907 model year. The Kissel Kar was initially a 30 hp four-cylinder touring car but grew to a 40 hp model in 1908 with a wider range of body styles and by 1909 a six-cylinder model joined the line. Kissel used its own L-head long-stroke six-cylinder engine, which lasted with only minor changes from 1915 to 1928. The Kissel was known as Kissel Kar until 1919 when the word "Kar" was dropped, because in the wake of the First World War, it sounded too German for the American market.

The sportiest Kissels before the 1920's were the custom-built Kissels designed with Conover T. Silver, which for a while carried his name in addition to Kissel. The Kissel Kar Silver Special was introduced at the New York Auto Show in January 1918 but all Kissel Kar production ceased in April 1918 when Kissel began production of trucks for US government use in World War I. Kissel developed the Silver Specials into a model line, including a smart looking speedster called the Gold Bug, and the Silver name was dropped by January 1919. Kissel used the term "custom built" for its smarter cars, which were bought by several celebrities of the day. But Kissel was in trouble and motor car production was in decline after 1926.

Kissel also built commercial vehicles. The first Kissel truck was mounted on the passenger car chassis but by 1910 Kissel was offering large trucks up to 5-ton capacity with chain drive on the larger models. During World War I, Kissel contributed to the design of the "Liberty" truck and from April to November 1918, Kissel production was moved to building F.W.D. trucks for the war effort. During the 1920's Kissel made a range of conventional trucks in the 1-ton to 5-ton range and in 1923 Kissel introduced the 18-passenger "Coach Limited" bus.

Ambulances and funeral cars became a major part of Kissel production from 1926 to 1929. National Kissel funeral cars were distributed through the National Casket Company (see National-Kissel). Kissel also built 285 taxicabs during 1929 through an agreement with Bradford Motors of Chicago. By 1930 financial difficulties became too much for Kissel and, after an unsuccessful attempt to keep going with the support of Archie Andrews in exchange for a commitment to build the Ruxton car alongside the Kissel (see Ruxton), bankruptcy was declared in 1931.


The following review of the emblems used by Kissel was assisted by papers and private communications from Lynn Kissel (see References page).

The earliest Kissel Kars (1906-1907) did not carry a radiator emblem but are likely to have had hub caps displaying the name Kissel Kar and may have had a radiator script but this is not confirmed. The Kissel Kar brochure for 1907 shows a large "KK" device displayed on the radiator core, see below, but I cannot confirm that this device was ever used:

This shows a "KK" script on the radiator in the 1907 Kissel Kar brochure    sfam

The first Kissel Kar radiator emblem appeared in 1908 and was a rectangular cast brass nameplate attached to the radiator tank top and is rare, see example at the top of this post and below:

This is a Kissel Kar radiator nameplate (1908-1910)   conceptcarz.com
Size: 184mm wide 50mm high

This emblem is shown on the Kissel Kar brochure for 1908, see detail below:

This illustration showing the rectangular radiator emblem is from a 1908 Kissel Kar brochure    sfam

In 1910, Kissel introduced a new style of radiator with a circular enameled emblem mounted in the top left quadrant of the radiator. The emblem displayed the word "Kissel Kar" on a plain background and was attached to the radiator by threaded rods passing through the radiator core. This radiator emblem is rare, see example below:

This is the first enameled Kissel Kar radiator emblem (1910-c1912)    mjs
Size: 75mm diameter   MM: None

This emblem is shown displayed on the radiator core in the 1910 Kissel Kar brochure, see below:

Detail showing the first enamel radiator emblem from the 1910 Kissel Kar brochure    sfam

In the same period (c1910-c1912) a different, more interesting radiator emblem was used on some Kissel Kar cars. This emblem shows the front of a Kissel Kar with a winged motometer on top and has a measuring tape displaying the Kissel slogan "Every Inch A Car" at the bottom. This emblem is very rare, see example below:

This is a Kissel Kar radiator emblem (c1910-c1912)   mjs
Size: 75mm diameter   MM: None

In 1912 a new radiator emblem was introduced. This was the same design as the first enameled emblem but now with the slogan "Every Inch A Car" in an arc following the bottom edge of the emblem. This emblem was used into 1918 and is easier to find but is, nevertheless, scarce, see example below:

This is a Kissel Kar radiator emblem (c1912-1918)    mjs
Size: 75mm diameter  MM: None

In 1918, Kissel produced a few custom-built Kissel Kar Silver Special cars designed with Conover T Silver. The Kissel Kar Silver Specials carried a unique radiator emblem with the name Kissel Kar in a more floral font type and the Kissel slogan replaced by "Silver Special". The Kissel Silver Special was produced for only about four months between January and April 1918 and, as a result, the radiator emblem is extremely rare, see example below:

This is a Kissel Kar Silver Special radiator emblem (1918)    mjs
Size: 75mm diameter   MM: None

Another special Kissel Kar radiator emblem exists with the words "Hughson Special" in place of the Kissel slogan. It is thought that this emblem was used for some special custom-built Kissel Kars made for William (Billy) L Hughson, who was a major auto dealer in California and Head of the Pacific Kissel Kar Branch. It is likely that the Hughson Specials were made early in 1918, because the design of the lettering is exactly like the Silver Special emblem. Further details are as yet unknown. The Hughson Silver Special radiator emblem is extremely rare, see example below:

This is a Hughson Silver Special radiator emblem (c1918)   sam
Size: 75mm diameter  
MM: None

When Kissel production began again in December 1918, the car name had changed to "Kissel" and an entirely new radiator emblem appeared. This was a circular nickel plated emblem depicting the Roman god Mercury. This emblem was used for about ten years but is, nevertheless, a scarce emblem, see example below:

This is a Kissel radiator emblem (1918-1928)   mjs
Size: 76mm diameter  MM: None

In the second half of 1928, production of the Kissel White Eagle began and the circular Kissel radiator emblem was replaced by a large, pressed brass, spread-wing eagle mounted across the top of the radiator, see photo below.

This is a Kissel White Eagle showing the radiator emblem (1930)    wam

The Kissel White Eagle radiator emblem is rare, see example below:

This is a Kissel White Eagle radiator emblem (1928-1931)   mjs
Size: 370mm wide

Kissel also built trucks and other commercial vehicles. Early Kissel Kar trucks and some later Kissel commercial vehicle used the same radiator emblems as the Kissel passenger cars. A 1913 Kissel Kar brochure shows Kissel Kar trucks with the white enamel emblem on the radiator core and a "KISSEL" nameplate placed on the side of the truck under the driver's seat.

In the 1920's, Kissel trucks and fire engines carried a cast Kissel nameplate, often mounted at the rear of the vehicle, see example below:

This is  a cast Kissel truck nameplate (c1920)   mjs

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