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Olympia Hotel Limousine – The Most Handsome Thing of its Kind

Kelly-Springfield Bus

Looking like it is straight out of a Jules Verne novel this Kelly-Springfield limousine-bus with coachwork by Irvin Robbins & Company must have certainly stopped people in their tracks the first time they laid eyes on it.

The truck company was located in Springfield, Ohio, and the coachbuilder in Indianapolis, Indiana. The chassis is a K-30 one-ton model that sold for $2000. How much the coach cost the Olympia Hotel of Winnipeg, Canada, we can only guess at, but it was probably money well spent considering the publicity received because of it.

Irvin Robbins & Company

  • Irvin Robbins & Company advertisement the “The Motor Age” September 1913. The old line firm was in operation between 1885-1919 and followed by the Robbins Body Corp. 1919-1928.

The photos of this extraordinary limousine-bus are courtesy of Bruce Balough, whose grandfather Charles Balough designed the Brotherton car in 1911. He later used the same basic design and styling for the Kelly-Springfield truck while working for the Company as the Chief Engineer. Look for an article on both vehicles soon, and in the meantime learn a bit more about the Kelly truck in an earlier post.

The following excerpt is from the “Like Kelly Does,” an in-house magazine that covered news about the Kelly-Springfield trucks:

“The most handsome thing of its kind that ever came to Winnipeg. This is the consensus of opinion in the Manitoba metropolis regarding a limousine motor bus mounted on a one-ton Kelly chassis which was recently delivered to the Olympia Hotel of that city. The sale was made by Joseph Maw & Company, Limited, Manitoba distributors of Kelly trucks.

The photographs give an excellent idea of the appearance of this limousine bus. It is safe to say that it is one of the finest specimens of the coachbuilders’ art which has ever been turned out. The limousine body was built by Irvin Robbins & Company, of Indianapolis.

Kelly Springfield Sreamlined Bus

  • The aerodynamic streamline styling by the Irvin Robbins & Company is along the line of some of the work of coachbuilders in France and Europe began building as early as 1910.

The bus has a seating capacity of fourteen passengers besides the driver. It is mounted on a Kelly one-ton chassis with a 144” wheelbase and 12’ loading space. The body is built of aluminum and painted a French gray with green beading. The interior finish is in harmony with the exterior, and the upholstering is of gray, glazed leather.

The chassis is equipped with electric lighting and starting outfit with Goodyear Motz cushion tires. It is safe to say that this is probably the finest body ever mounted on a motor truck chassis. That this magnificent job has excited considerable comment on the streets of Winnipeg goes without saying.”

  •                                           A rear view of the interior of the limousine-bus.

Kelly-Springfield Bus Interior


18 responses to “Olympia Hotel Limousine – The Most Handsome Thing of its Kind

  1. Wow! Great stuff, Dave! You mentioned “Charles Balough designed the Brotherton car”. Could you tell us more about that? I googled “Brotherton car” and found some very interesting pics and info about Frank Brotherton automobile sales and service in the 1920s under “Bygone Walla Walla”. Same Brotherton?

  2. Built for comfort and not for speed, a model I’ve used for my own physique. I have to say, this has a certain elegance that must have been at the top of the pile in those days.

    I never understood the radiator behind the engine concept. I thought it a quirky French design trait until I saw this American example. Perhaps it was to distribute heat effectively throughout the cabin.

    Awesome bus.

    • It is relatively uncommon in the US, but International-Harvester and Mack both built trucks with this radiator placement, IHC for at least a decade, and Mack for over two decades with its famous AC “Bulldog”.

      In the case of truck design, I think you could build a solid case for the rear-mounted radiator being less susceptible to damage…

  3. The Floyd Clymer Historical Catalog of 1914 Cars gives some info about the Model K-30. The engine had a bore and stroke of 3 3/4″ x 5 1/4″ (about 232 cid) and was water cooled. It had a cone clutch and three forward gears. Carrying capacity is quoted at 3,000 lb. I guess performance was typical for the time with maybe as much as 20 mph available?

    According to the article on TOM in 2014 – – the engine was produced ‘in house’.

  4. The designer has my upmost admiration. What an exquisite vehicle. Curved glass on all four corners, eye brow window in the passenger compartment taking it’s queue from the door, and a body rife with compound curves. Even the French gray colour scheme is elegant. I have to believe the craftsmen who did the actual construction might have had a few unkind thoughts before they were finished.

    Thank you David for sharing this wonderful piece of automotive art.

  5. The early Lippard-Stewart had a similar radiator-hood arrangement as the Kelly-Springfield. There is one on display at The National Auto Museum in Reno, Nev.

  6. If you Google Kelly-Springfield, you will find a Google scan of “Motor Trucks of America, Vol. 8”, by the Goodrich tire. on Page 61, there is a good picture of the chassis of this bus. (BTW, Kelly-Springfield entered into receivership in 1922 – obtained from news clippings unearthed by the same search)

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