The road to hell is paved with good intentions: Bobbi-Kar part 1

If you have seen my main website you can tell that I enjoy the the story behind each automobile, motorcycle, or engine that I work on.  I have a 1952 Crosley Super sedan which I will restore soon, and because of that I ventured into researching the small cars of its era (1939-1952).

A year or two ago Christian Sturgis (of Sturgis Antiques http://www.sturgisantiques.com/ )  asked me to research a file that a customer dropped off.  The file was the original 1946 press release for a small auto company called Bobbi-Kar.  I delved further and further into the story of this odd little car and eventually purchased the file.  I also amassed a collection of OLD car magazines with articles on this little oddity.

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With limited availability of new cars after WW2, many aspects of rationing still in effect, and a whole bunch of GI’s coming home wanting new cars several small companies popped up hoping to cash in.  Some wanted to cash in by producing small, inexpensive, gas sipping cars for the market.  Some just wanted to scam possible investors and run off with what money they could.  Sadly the Bobbi-Kar was the brainchild of an engineer, John Liefield, who was introduced to scam artist S.A. Williams.

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Liefield was a young man who had worked for Chrysler, and then Convair during WW2.  Liefield had an idea for a small car that he hoped would secure a good living for him in the post WW2 workplace.  Williams just saw a chance to make a buck.  The photos here show the first Bobbi-Kar prototype which was built in San Diego.  Williams was the one who arranged for the newsreel studios to take footage to promote the new car.  You can see a camera towards the rear of the photo above.

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The concept was simple.  The car used many available mechanical parts.  The engine was a Hercules XB which was readily available.  The drivetrain was designed to be removable as a unit.  This would allow for the unit to be swapped quickly so that the Bobbi-Kar owner could keep driving while his drivetrain was in for repair.

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As Liefield was designing and perfecting the prototype Williams built up his scam.  He managed to lease the now empty Convair plant from the War Assets Administration.  Liefield and his small operation moved into this huge plant and Bobbi-Kar signs were installed outside.  Williams began marketing franchises and sold around 800.  The key clause in the franchise agreement was that franchisees would be able to sell the car “if and when it was produced.”  Soon Williams was being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Comission.

There were several other startup car companies which fell under investigation by the SEC as well.  The Playboy (and yes, the magazine was named after the car), the Davis, and the most famous of all, the Tucker.  Luckily while Williams was scamming and being investigated a new person appeared on the scene.  That person was former Studebaker VP George Keller.  Mr. Keller was interested in the small car, and wanted to see the little company make a go in the market for real.Image

Next:  Bobbi-Kar becomes the Keller car.

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