1920 Kissel 6-45 "Gold Bug" Speedster

Gene Husting driving his 1920 Kissel 6-45 Speedster (chassis 451964)

This 1920 Kissel 6-45 speedster (chassis 451964) was often seen at early VMCCA events because its owner that the time, Gene E. Husting (1910-1997), kept the car at the Larz Anderson carriage house - the headquarters of the VMCCA at the time. Gene Husting was a VP at the First National Bank of Boston and an avid antique car guy.

The idea for the Kissel speedster (later nicknamed the Gold Bug) came about in the late "teens". It was a popular undertaking by New York dealers to create custom bodies for the various brands they handled to provide something unique to their clientele. Many brands were subject to this activity (with strikingly similar bodies), such as Marmon, Willys-Knight, Danials, Noma, Oakland, Apperson, and Kissel. According to Mark Theobald, it was Conover T. Silver who originated the design that would be adopted by Kissel. Silver left Buick in 1909 to take on the New York dealership for Oakland. In 1915, he started experimenting with custom bodies (Oakland, Peerless, and Willys-Knight) and in 1917 he added the Kissel line and applied his custom designs to thier chassis.

The Motor Age, January 23, 1919

The Motor Age of February 6, 1919 - reporting on the special bodies at the New York Armory Show - stating, "New York dealers have found it extremely profitable to have special bodies built practically creating a new line of cars such as the Silver-Apperson or Silver-Kissel." The publication goes on to say "Some of the special bodies and painting jobs included... a Kissel roadster of sporty type in canary yellow..." Apparently, Kissel saw the value of this sporty style and adopted it (largely unchanged) for the 1919 model year. The speedster was listed for $2850 (same price as the touring) in 1920 and featured a side-valve 6-cylinder (61 hp) and Houck wire wheels.

The Hartford, Wisconsin company had always built commercial vehicles (trucks) along with cars and The Motor Age of April 24, 1919 noted the Kissel's challenge in meeting the demand for its cars due to its commitments in supplying the government's war needs (WWI) - "The best Kissel can promise the customer is delivery in three weeks... Of course, the Kissel factory is still on Government work, but it is expected here that it will be through in about three weeks..." The company would end up yet another victim of the depression and close its doors in 1930. 

This car (chassis 451964) is said to have spent 37 years in the family of the first owner - originally purchased by Charles Bent (of RI) to take his new bride on their honeymoon to Niagara Falls. Gene Husting would have acquired the car in the mid-1950s and he restored the car to working order. Interestingly, the car was purchased from Hustings for inclusion in the famed Harrah collection. The car has been through many hands since, and been the subject of a major restoration in the early 1990s, recently being offered for sale for $395,000 (www.classiccars.com).

The Motor Age, January 23, 1919

1920 Kissel 6-45 Speedster (chassis 451964) today (photo credit: www.classiccars.com)

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