The Big Car Database


The Kelsey car company was founded in 1897 by Cadwallader Kelsey in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It lasted until 1902, then was brought back in 1920 and survived until 1924.

In Philadelphia 1897–1902

In 1897, Kelsey, at the age of 17, built his first car. It was a small four-wheel car. Then, while at Haverford College, he built his second car with a friend named Sheldon Tilney. It had a 5 hp single-cylinder engine and only three wheels. They called it an Autotri. At this point, they decided to go into full manufacturing, but their fathers thought the automobile was an "instrument of the devil" and so sent the two young men back to studying at college. It was not until 1901 that Kelsey built another car. It has four wheels and two-cylinders. After graduating from college, he sold these cars in Philadelphia. Then his father gave him money for a service shop in Germantown so he would stop making cars. In 1902, he built his last car in Philadelphia, a four-cylinder car.

In between

From 1902 to 1920, Kelsey worked as sales manager for Maxwell-Briscoe, and also designed cars for them.


In 1920, Kelsey started up a new company in Newark, New Jersey. Adds claimed huge saving in fuel costs. The company went into receivership in 1923. In 1924, a group of attorneys demanded increased production or bankruptcy. Kelsey had enough, and left the company to the attorneys. It was gone one month later. Kelsey died in May, 1970.


Model(year) Engine HP Wheelbase
GW(1920-1921) 6-cylinder 46 116 in (2,946 mm) 
1922 6-cylinder 46 119.5 in (3,035 mm)
G(1923-1924) 4-Cylinder 35 111 in (2,819 mm) 

At least one Kelsey model had a friction drive mechanism instead of the usual gearbox.VHS HFv