Athens, Ohio is a small town in the southeastern part of the state that, from 1946 to 1971, was home to a small car company: King Midget. Advertised to do-it-yourselfers in the back of magazines like Popular Mechanics, buyers received a chassis and suspension components, as well as plans for the sheetmetal bodywork.
When we say a small car company, we mean a small car company. King Midgets were initially single-seaters, designed for single-cylinder engines. Early advertising billed them as a 500 pound car for $500. They're understandably rare, and they don't pop up for sale often.
However, one did pop up for sale recently on Bring a Trailer. Currently registered in Vermont by the third owner, this 1946 King Midget shows off one of the more interesting aspects of the breed: owner customization. Remember, these early cars were shipped as kits without bodywork. Many owners opted to modify the design to suit their tastes or abilities.
The original owner had a local shipbuilder complete the bodywork with a wider cockpit area for added comfort, a feature the current owner maintained when he stripped and repainted it over the last couple of years, finishing it off with an original King Midget badge for the mock radiator grille. It's all fitted to an oak frame in period-correct fashion with the humble powerplant mounted out back.
In addition to the sheet metal, the seller also had the Wisconsin seven-horsepower engine rebuilt and added a 12-volt electrical system to run the lights. The single seat was also reupholstered in brown with white piping.
According to the seller, this King Midget is capable of a respectable 50 miles per hour. Still, in this day and age, we'd prefer to find ourselves enjoying this curiosity in a museum, rather than risk being run over by an SUV...or a Corolla.