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A New Car by an Old Designer, the KLINE KAR; Pullman Pedigree to Racing Success, Part 1

Lower Part of Kline Kar Ad in November 1909 Issue of Cycle and Automobile Trade Journal (Collection of S. H. Smith)

The Winter 2013 Issue of Pennsylvania Heritage has a feature article on the history of Motorsports in Pennsylvania.  That article states the first competitive automobile event in Pennsylvania was won by a Kline Kar right off the showroom floor; a Buick came in second.  Kline Kars were first built in 1909 by the B.C.K. Motor Car Company in York, PA.

I remembered that I had a 1909 Kline Kar ad in my collection, however I wanted to know more.  This post is part 1 of 3 parts; tracing the Pullman pedigree to racing success of Kline Kars and exploring the family history of the car designer James A. Kline.


The quote “A New Car by an Old Designer” is contained within the 1909 Kline Kar ad.  The old designer refers to James Allen Kline; born May 20th 1874.  Therefore at the time of the November 1909 ad, the “Old Designer” is 35-years-old.

James’ first business venture involved making and dealing in bicycles; his establishment, in Harrisburg Pennsylvania, grew and prospered.  During an 1899 trip to New York City he witnessed a demonstration of a Locomobile horseless carriage; James immediately became hooked on these mechanical contraptions.

James became a self-taught automotive mechanic with the purchase of a Locomobile; he eventually disassembled it, devised improvements and produced a handful of cars to his own design.  In a few years he had developed a reputation as not only a master mechanic but also an innovative designer.  He opened a car dealership in Harrisburg selling the Locomobile, the Oldsmobile and the Franklin.

During this same time period in York, PA, around 1903, industrialists Albert P. Broomell and Samuel E. Baily started to develop a six-wheeler car, the Pullman, which turned out to be impractical.  They put together a brochure in 1905 to test the sales potential of a more conventional four-wheel car design; which they called the York.  James Kline saw potential in the York and accepted an offer in June 1905 to oversee the further development and production of the car at the York Automobile Company.

Samuel Baily was president and James Kline was general manager with the incorporation of the company as the York Motor Car Company.  The cars were sold by the earlier name; Pullman.  James Kline took the reigns at designing new and improved Pullman models.

The Bank Panic of 1907 forced the York Motor Car Company to seek outside financial help.  The new financial backers from New York, Thomas O’Connor and Oscar Stephenson, eventually eased Samuel Baily and James Kline out of the company by early 1909.  Almost immediately Samuel E. Baily and Joseph C. Carrell partnered with James A. Kline to form the rival B.C.K. Motor Company in York, PA.

Upper Part of Kline Kar Ad in November 1909 Issue of Cycle and Automobile Trade Journal (Collection of S. H. Smith)

The new car company set up shop in an old carriage shop owned by Samuel Baily; located at the corner of East Hay and Franklin Streets in the east end of York.  First car production occurred later in 1909.  The upper part of the 1909 full-page ad for the car produced by the B.C.K. Motor Company in York, PA proclaims their car is called the KLINE KAR.

This post has been revised 2/21/13: … Upon researching the follow-ups, I discovered the Cycle and Automobile Trade Journal ad, which I purchased on eBay, as a 1910 ad, was actually from the November 1909 issue of that journal.  Other sources also confirmed Kline Kar production started in 1909.  Appropriate corrections have been made throughout this post.

Check back next Tuesday for part 2 and next Friday for part 3 of “A New Car by an Old Designer, the KLINE KAR; Pullman Pedigree to Racing Success.”

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