9-10 October 2014

Offered from the collection of John Moir

Previous Next

Lot 117

1911 Kelsey Model M Motorette

Sold for $49,500

10 bhp, 72 cu. in. water-cooled opposed twin-cylinder, two-stroke engine, two-speed and reverse planetary transmission with chain drive, quarter-elliptic leaf-spring rear suspension, and mechanical brakes on both the driveshaft and rear wheel. Wheelbase: 74 in.

  • Offered from the collection of John Moir
  • A fascinating, highly individual early American automobile
  • An AACA award-winning restoration
  • Exhaustively documented, including correspondence with C.W. Kelsey
  • One of the finest surviving examples

With a name as unforgettable as the cars he built, Cadwallader Washburn Kelsey set about building a unique automobile that would be less expensive than the Model T, and that he did when he built his Motorette with three wheels, rather than four. The Motorette’s rear wheel was driven by a two-stroke, twin-cylinder engine, which was air-cooled on early models and later water-cooled, with the radiator mounted behind the engine. Rather than mixing oil with gasoline, as on later two-stroke engines, the Kelsey’s oil and gasoline were supplied separately, with the oil supplied by a tank in the armrest to a four-way distribution center at the front of the driver’s seat. To keep the three-wheeler stable, Kelsey designed one of the first anti-sway torsion bars.

Kelsey and his Motorette were active in early endurance events. In 1909, he drove an air-cooled model up Mount Washington in New Hampshire. After the car overheated and Kelsey had to spend the night in a halfway house, he changed to a water-cooled engine, but this time with the radiator mounted behind the seat! In 1911, Kelsey’s brother-in-law and a mechanic drove a Motorette from the factory in Hartford, Connecticut, to San Francisco. It took them from February until August to make the trip, but they made it. As Mr. Moir points out, “They didn’t have many breakdowns; they just weren’t in a hurry.”

The Model M Motorette from the Moir Collection is perhaps the best-restored and most famous example of C.W. Kelsey’s engineering. It was acquired in the early 1960s by Robert Zlotoff, of New Hyde Park, New York, who set about restoring it to an exacting standard. To that end, he corresponded not only with Motorette owners and such authorities as Leslie Henry at the Henry Ford Museum but also with Mr. Kelsey himself. The elderly former auto manufacturer supplied Mr. Zlotoff not only with copies of period advertisements and an original brochure, which are included in the car’s considerable file, but also considerable know-how and expertise, which helped guide the restoration.

Mr. Zlotoff’s restored Motorette won its AACA First Junior and Senior at Hershey in 1964 and 1965. It was photographed by Henry Austin Clark Jr. for some of his famous picture postcards, copies of which are included in the file, and it was featured in Automobile Quarterly, Volume 13 Number 2, in an article by Beverly Rae Kimes, as well as in Bob Stubenrach’s book, The Fun of Old Cars. The restoration, aged by time but not by use, is still exceptional in its presentation. The black leather interior is still in good overall condition, and the red finish still has a nice shine, as does the bright metal trim. Numerous badges throughout attest to the winning ways of what may well be the best surviving Motorette.

It seems that even in the 1960s, C.W. Kelsey wanted his little Motorette to be remembered. Today, it most certainly is thanks to the efforts of Bob Zlotoff and the caring preservation of John Moir.

Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.

Alexander Weaver


+1 864 313 6844
California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat


+44 (0) 74 1511 4179
United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht


+1 203 912 7168
Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

David Swig


+1 415 302 2247
California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

Don Rose


+1 617 513 0388
United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould


+1 954 566 2209
Florida, United States

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff


+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Jake Auerbach


+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Kurt Forry


+1 717 623 1638
California, United States

Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut


+1 805 231 6410
California, United States

A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire


+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn


+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin


+44 (0) 75 0110 7447
United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill


+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher


+1 519 784 9300
Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

Shelby Myers


+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden


+31 653 84 19 60
United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more