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The Kenworthy Motor Company Builds “A Car with no Superior”

The “assembled car,” an automobile built out of components manufactured by companies that were specialists in their own field was relatively common between the years of 1905 to 1922. In 1920 a short but severe post-World War I Depression wiped out any chances for most of these automaker’s to continue on due to a lack of sales.

The Kenworthy Motor Company was formed when Cloyd Y. Kenworthy, who was experienced in this field after having started production of the Roamer, (1916-1929) built by the Barley Motor Car Company, left and went off on his own late in 1919 to form a new car company. The 1920 Kenworthy was “cast in the same mold” as the Roamer, and the coachwork for the new automobile was also designed by Karl H. Martin in the manner of the Roamer, with the exception of the body being flat-sided. Martin went on to build his own assembled car the Wasp in Bennington, Vermont.

  • Motor Age Magazine August 5, 1920.

For the initial offering of the Kenworthy, built in Mishawaka, Indiana, the same engines, a six-cylinder 55 h.p. L-head Continental, and a four-cylinder Rochester-Duesenberg walking beam engine were also chosen along with Brown and Lipe transmissions and clutches, and axles from Columbia.

In December of 1920 Kenworthy, apparently following designs by Duesenberg, also built in Indiana, decided to “pull out all the stops” and introduced the Line-O-Eight F-head engine which he designed and four wheel brakes for the new 1921 models. Unfortunately, the effort was all for naught, and Kenworthy left the firm in March of 1921 after being replaced when creditors reorganized the Company. Late in 1921, the Automaker was dissolved after only producing a little over two-hundred automobiles.

Today’s photograph is courtesy of Logan Mulford, who submitted the photograph of his grandfather in his 1920 Kenworthy. He lived in New York City, and Logan would like to know if any of our readers can identify the location where the picture was taken. Note the BF Goodrich Silvertown double white wall tires.

16 responses to “The Kenworthy Motor Company Builds “A Car with no Superior”

    • John, I had that same thought. It looks almost like reflective glass. And what is the clamp looking device attached to the front bumper I wonder?

      • The Biflex Spring Bumper was a “safety” device to absorb collisions with other objects – apparently not uncommon at the time. 🙂 The company’s advertising showed a Packard (I think) equipped with the product driving into a largish tree and bouncing off with no damage. Given that era’s stiff frames and lack of seat belts, that must have been exciting.

  1. A superb looking phaeton, almost ‘Rolls Royce-ish’. I wonder if the white walls were a conflict with the original white rubber tires of the era. Thus, the ‘white wall’ became a icon of the ‘neuvo riche’ of the times.

  2. Kenworthy, at $3,900 to $5,500 in direct competition with Packard 116 Six, guaranteed even if it had stayed on the market longer to have failed versus the better established, respected luxury maker. By the 1920’s, it was nearly impossible for an upstart luxury car maker to have any more than brief success.

  3. Great feature on the Kenworthy. Grew up near Mishawaka/South Bend IN
    and had never heard of a car by that name until I came across an outstanding
    history by Beverly Rae Kimes in AQ Vol. 42, No. 4 (around 2002, I think).
    Studebaker was the only car company around northern Indiana. Have been
    a car nut nearly all of my life and one of my great thrills was a 7th grade field trip
    through the Studebaker factory in 1953. Picture those gorgeous ’53 coupes
    rolling along the assembly lines. Back to the Kenworthy, am wondering if
    anyone knows where the photos were taken. There was still a lot of big money
    in the area in those days and wondered if any of their mansions may have been
    used as the background. Know that it was not the Studebaker mansion which
    is named Tippecanoe Place. Anyone have a clue? Thanks for another great
    feature, always enjoyed. Loved the piece on the Indy airport parking.

  4. Thanks for a quick response David. Thanks also for all your hard work.
    Always look forward to Friday mornings to see what gems you found for us.

  5. Of particular interest are: (huge), deep sides fancy cast Aluminum “Step Plates”, – for each door (No running boards), and Fully Valenced fenders , to discourage mud deposits. Also. of particular interest, are: The additional: Triangular beveled edges windows on the rear sides of the fold- down soft top, for “see-ability” for driver & passengers , – plus: An extra piece of “brow” glass ahead of the wind – shield to avert rain & Snow and also: To “flip up” for reduction of “buffeting at speed” – for the comfort of both the driver and passengers in front & rear seats. Edwin W.

  6. Kenworthy and Roamer radiator shells seem identical and were RR ” knock-offs” . I don’t see anything in automotive literature which would indicate RR ever pursued any legal remedies, though.

  7. If anyone wants to see a well preserved Kenworthy, there is a very good one on display at the Nethercutt Museum in California. As to other survivors, I am interested that there may be as many as six survivors. Additional photos would be very interesting.

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