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A New Car by an Old Designer, the KLINE KAR; Pullman Pedigree to Racing Success, Part 2

“Jimmy,” a Kline-Kar Special-Racer, introduced in June 1912 (Photographed At Auto Races in Benning, Maryland; from Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)

The Library of Congress has a huge Online Catalog of Prints & Photographs. That’s where I found the photos of the Kline Racing Kars used in this post. The “Jimmy” is the Kline-Kar special-racer built in York and introduced in June 1912; it was named after its designer James A. Kline, or as he was most commonly known as, Jimmy.

In part 1 of this series we learned that James A. Kline had been the general manager and respected designer of Pullman cars at the York Motor Car Company.  In the book “History of the York Pullman Automobile 1903-1917” by William H. Shank and published in 1970, he noted; “Easing Kline out of Pullman was felt by many to be a tactical error on the part of [new financial backers] O’Connor and Stephenson.”

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.  Auto historians agree that the Kline-Kar business skyrocketed primarily due to efforts and reputation of James A. Kline, while Pullman’s business went into decline during the O’Connor era.


The career of James A. Kline had early success in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; where he opened the first automotive dealership.  James also developed a reputation as not only a master mechanic but also an innovative designer.  After leaving town, newspapers from Harrisburg continued to closely follow automobiles James Kline had a hand in creating; first with Pullman cars, then with his Kline-Kars.  The November 24th 1909 Issue of The Patriot, a newspaper in Harrisburg contained such an article that is a good continuation from where I left off in the first part of the series on A New Car by an Old Designer, the KLINE KAR; Pullman Pedigree to Racing Success.

B. C. K. Motor Car Company Breaks All Records for Instantaneous Success—November 24th [1909]

Organized six months ago, today shipping high-grade automobiles to all parts of the United States and turning thousands of orders away—this is the brief history of the B. C. K. Motor Car Company of York, Pa., manufacturers of the high-grade six-cylinder Kline-Kar that is selling for $2,500 and also of a four-cylinder car and commercial cars of every description.

Each day finds dealers from all parts of the country requesting the agency for the Kline-Kar and each day the management is compelled to turn down orders that are simply swamping the sales manager and showing what a phenomenal success has been made by this new company in the automobile industry.

How did the B. C. K. Motor Car Company go from a start-up to shipping product to all parts of the United States in less than 6-months?  The main reason was the rapid design and production outsourcing of a six-cylinder engine plus a transmission that would become the backbone of the unintended and planned Kline Kar racing programs; both driving demand by the public for the Kline Kar.  In June 1909, B. C. K. bought the Kirkham Motor Manufacturing Company of Bath, New York, and set it up to make all of the Jimmy Kline designed Kline-Kar engines and transmissions.

To expand production in 1910, B. C. K. set-up two car body plants to assist the primary assembly plant in York at the corner of Franklin and Hay Streets; these were former carriage plants of Samuel Baily, one was in York and one was in Lancaster.  Less than one year from organizing, the B. C. K. Motor Car Company had four production plants contributing to meeting the demand for Kline-Kars.

Early on, Kline-Kar customers were taking their right-off-the-showroom-floor cars and winning races.  B. C. K. seized the opportunity and got into the racing business; winning many endurance and trophy races in 1910 and 1911.  In 1912 the company started to campaign pure racing versions of the Kline Kars, of these the most famous were the “Jimmy” and the “Jimmy Jr,” the latter named after James’ 7-year-old son.  The magazine The Sphere, in its July/August 1912 issue, contained an early article on the “Jimmy” and “Jimmy Jr.”:

Kline Kars Win at Wildwood, N.J.–July, 1912

The Kline Kars covered themselves with glory July 4th in the races over the famous speedway at Wildwood, N.J. winning 1st and second places in their classes and setting one new record, all at the hands of John W. Menker, the Kline driver, who not only did some daring driving but cleverly left the field far in the rear.  In the race, one mile from flying start, Menker in the six-sixty “Jimmy” won first place and it was in this race that the record for its class was made.

The “Jimmy” is the Kline Kar special racer, which is bound this year to make it-self felt in the racing game throughout the East.  It was first demonstrated at Belmont tracks several weeks ago and today was a repetition of the same splendid record.  The four-forty car, which took second place, is known as the “Jimmy Jr,” and is a racing mate of the six-sixty model.  For speed it has been a decided revelation to those who built it and at the races it surely outclassed those of the same size and power.

“Jimmy Jr,” a Kline-Kar Special-Racer, introduced in June 1912 (Photographed At Auto Races in Benning, Maryland; from Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)

The “Jimmy” had a 6-cylinder, 60-horsepower engine and the “Jimmy Jr” had a 4-cylinder, 40-horsepower engine.  Production Kline Kars, in 1912, were offered in a variety of engine sizes from 30-horsepower to 60-horsehower.  As a comparison, in 1912, Pullman’s top engine, a 4-cylinder, 40-horsepower engine, was offered in its Roadster; all Pullman models covered engine sizes from 20 to 40-horsepower.

Kline Kar advertising indicated the race engines in “Jimmy” and “Jimmy Jr.” are built to the same design and with the skilled workmanship found in production Kline Kars.  Their racing program was not necessarily showcasing speed, it was highlighting the reliability and workmanship of Kline Kars; two points that were the downfall of many early automotive manufacturers.  Looking at the photos, the Kline racecars do have aerodynamic design features on the body and wheels that appear to be quite innovative for the time period.

This Friday, in Part 3 of A New Car by an Old Designer, the KLINE KAR; Pullman Pedigree to Racing Success, I’ll get into the family history of James A. Kline.  I’ll also include the move of Kline Kar production from York, Pennsylvania to an 80,000 square foot, state-of-the-art, manufacturing facility in Virginia.  This facility was built specifically for Kline Kar production on 15-prine-acres that fronted Northwest Boulevard and opposite the State Fair Grounds in Richmond; where Kline Kars had raced many times.

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