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A New Car by an Old Designer, the KLINE KAR; Pullman Pedigree to Racing Success, Part 3

James Allen Kline at the Wheel of a 1912 Kline Kar known as the Meteor (Original Photo from Virginia Historical Society; Used with their Permission and Enhanced by S. H. Smith, 2013)

This 1912 Kline “Meteor” Kar is shown with designer James Allen Kline behind the wheel.  At first glance, this car could have been built in Pennsylvania or Virginia.  The reason, through October 1912 Kline Kars were built, where the cars originated, in York, Pa.; however starting November 1912, Kline Kar production shifted to Richmond, Va.

Turns out, this Meteor was actually built in York, Pennsylvania.  Recall what I noted in Part 2; newspapers from Harrisburg continuing to closely follow automobiles James Kline had a hand in creating.  This exact photograph was published in the February 3rd 1912 Issue of The Patriot, a newspaper in Harrisburg, Pa.

The Meteor was outwardly similar in appearance to the Gentleman’s Roadster that Kline had designed for Pullman.  However with Kline’s 6-60 engine, the Meteor had 50% more horsepower than the Roadster.  Nevertheless the Meteor weighed less than the Roadster due to Kline’s innovative use of lightweight steel forgings in the Meteor frame.

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 until being eased out of that company.  In part 2 of this series we learned about the immediate success of Kline Kars, designed by Jimmy Kline, at the start-up B.C.K. Motor Company in York, PA; and their use of racing to popularize Kline Kars.  In the final part of this series, I’ll get into the family history of James A. Kline, interspersed with the move of Kline Kar production from York, Pennsylvania.



After reading the feature article in the Winter 2013 Issue of Pennsylvania Heritage stating that the first competitive automobile event in Pennsylvania was won by a Kline Kar right off the showroom floor, I wanted to know more.  Historical articles on Kline Kars on the Internet, as usual, had varying discrepancies between the articles.  When that occurs, I tend to go to original sources, or articles noting their sources, to sort out the correct facts.

This time many of the Internet article variations were because published articles in newspapers, magazines and books from pre-Internet days contained those differences.  Maybe it’s the family historian in me; the one detail that bugs me is the birthplace variation of James Allen Kline.  It is listed as one of five difference places in three Pennsylvania counties:

  • Near Hummelstown, Dauphin County
  • Mechanicsburg, Cumberland County
  • Upper Allen Township, Cumberland County
  • Andersontown, York County
  • Siddonsburg, York County

The Hummelstown and Andersontown locations are hinted to be the result of interviews with daughters of James A. Kline for magazine articles.  The Siddonsburg location shows up the most in newspaper and automotive book articles.  The Cumberland County locations are birthplaces showing up the least, they are in Kline family histories; unfortunately both are not sourced and these histories also differ in the name of the father of James.

For my research I used original Census Records and several other period original records available at Ancestry.com.  Chronologically here are my findings:

  • 1870 … James and Mary Kline are living in Silver Spring Township, Cumberland County (northwest of Mechanicsburg); they have three sons: Andrew, Jacob and John
  • 1874 … James Allen Kline is born May 20th 1874
  • 1878 … Mary Kline, wife of James Kline, died March 27th 1878 and is buried in Andersontown Cemetery, Monaghan Township, York County
  • 1880 … James Kline and his four sons (Andrew J., Jacob R., John G. and James A.) are living in Upper Allen Township, Cumberland County (southeast of Mechanicsburg and adjacent to Monaghan Township in York County, where Siddonsburg and Andersontown are located)
  • 1900 … James Kline (father of James A.) is still living in Upper Allen Township, Cumberland County
  • 1907 … James Kline (father of James A.) died March 18th 1907 and is buried in Andersontown Cemetery, Monaghan Township, York County

From these facts, I think we can rule out Hummelstown.  The strongest case is for Siddonsburg or Andersontown as the birthplace of James Allen Kline; as presented by the following scenario.  Sometime between 1870 and 1874 James and Mary Kline move their family from Cumberland County to Monaghan Township, York County; near Siddonsburg or Andersontown, these two small crossroad communities are two-miles from each other.  James Allen Kline is born in 1874 and his mother Mary dies in 1878; she is buried in nearby cemetery at Andersontown.  Between 1878 and 1880 James Kline, with his four boys, move to Upper Allen Township, Cumberland County; where the father continues to reside until his death.

My next step would be to check Monahan Township land deeds, for James Kline land transactions in the 1870 to 1880 time frame to tie down the exact location.  From my experience, this can turn out to be very time consuming; for now I’m willing to conclude that James Allen Kline was likely born on a farm somewhere in those two-miles between Siddonsburg and Andersontown in northern York County, Pa.

James Allen Kline at about 30-Years-Old (York County Heritage Trust)

This photo shows James Allen Kline when he was about 30-years-old.  This is about the time James Kline makes the move from Harrisburg to York to accept the job of General Manager of the York Motor Car Company and to commence designing new and improved Pullman models.  At the time of the move to York, James had been married to his wife Dorothy for 8 years.  They had two daughters Milred and Ruth; and a two-month-old son, James Allen Kline, Jr.  The Kline family lived at 449 North Beaver Street in York, Pa.

The reputation and sales growth of Kline Kars attracted outside investors; wanting to lure the company to their communities.  Richmond, Virginia businessmen presented the most attractive offer, with the stipulation that James A. Kline agreed to continue his role in Richmond.  This offer was accepted and on April 21st 1911 the Virginia Charter was issued for the Kline Motor Car Corporation.

Kline Kar production continued in York, Pennsylvania until October 1912 while the new 80,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art, manufacturing facility was being built in Richmond, Virginia.  This facility was ready for the move of key production equipment from the York plants to Richmond during November 1912.  The service and parts departments were retained in York until sometime in 1913.

Kline Kar production continued for another 10-years in Richmond.  The post WWI recession of 1921 and 1922 contributed to the final production of the last Kline Kar in 1922.  A skeleton crew in the plant, under the direction of J. P. Harbold, continued production of Kline Kar replacement parts another two years.  James A. Kline became the managing director of the Automobile Club of Virginia and held that post until his death in 1944.

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