Rural Missouri - June 2019 - 16
QUITE A RIDE
John Kelsey rides on the tires of yesteryear
would bring prototypes of the tires he was recreating to Akron, Ohio where
Janice worked for a rubber testing company. The visits became more and
more frequent. On a date, Janice confessed that she was a fan of actor
sking John Kelsey to name his favorite vintage car
among the many vehicles that were once part of his
"We were having dinner one night and he said, 'Well, I have a car
father's museum is a lot like asking a parent to pick
their favorite child. "I wouldn't say I have a favorite,"
that Gary Cooper owned.' And I thought, 'You would say anything
to get another date.' "
John says while showing off the collection. "You see there is a
It wasn't until after they were married that Janice found out he
personal association with almost all of them. There's the family
was telling the truth. The car is a 1933 Auburn Speedster with a
car. The ﬁrst car I ever drove. There's the one that drove around
the continental border of the United States. There's the oldest
Next to the Auburn is one of the crown jewels of the collection,
car, lots of memories of that. There's the old Cadillac, and on and
a 1914 Stutz Bearcat. It's one of the last all-original Bearcats in
on and on."
Housed in a tan building on Highway 54 in Camdenton, the vintage car existence. Twice the car has circled the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, ﬁrst with
museum built by Paul Kelsey has been closed since 1994. Where once 30 cars Paul at the wheel and again in 2011 hauling John and Janice on the 100th
were on display, the building now houses more than 50, with additional cars anniversary of the storied racetrack.
The pursuit of vintage cars and the recreation of the tires they rolled on have
stored in two nearby storage buildings.
Paul started collecting cars in 1928. His ﬁrst car was a 1909 Maxwell with a led the Kelseys on an amazing adventure that hasn't ended yet.
"It's been quite a ride," John admits.
2-cylinder motor. The car was used on two trips that circumnavigated the continental United States. "I think he was 26 years old, so why not?" John says of
Kelsey Tires is located at 1190 E. Highway 54 in Camdenton. For more inforthe adventure.
Of course the car is still part of the Kelsey collection. That's the way it was mation visit www.kelseytire.com or call 800-325-0091.
with the Kelseys. Family cars were carefully chosen for their uniqueness, and
they rarely parted with them.
Once John was married, his father told him the museum couldn't support
two families and he needed to ﬁnd other employment. Hooked on cars, John
started a business remaking Goodyear tires for vintage cars. Kelsey Tire is the
exclusive distributer of the Goodyear Collector Series of tires, with rubber for
cars from the Model T to the muscle cars of the 1960s and '70s.
John recently celebrated 50 years in the tire business. So valuable has his
service been to the vintage car industry, often meaning the difference between
a car-show trophy and an also-ran, he was inducted into the Tire Industry Hall
of Fame. His name is ensconced with the legends of the industry, including
names like Firestone, Michelin and Goodrich.
On his 70th birthday, John's wife, Janice, wondered what to get the man
who seemingly has everything, at least when it comes to vintage cars. She
decided to remodel the living quarters at the museum and throw a party. "I
limited it to 35 couples," Janice says. "It ended up 186 people showed up." All
had a connection to John and the incredible Kelsey cars.
When the Laclede Electric Cooperative member shows off the collection he
likes to point out another family heirloom: a ﬁve-passenger Cadillac sedan with
a V-16 engine. "That was our family car after World War II," John says. "It got
4 and a half miles per gallon."
The beautiful car has doors that close like bank vaults. Even the ﬁrewall hidden under the massive hood was ﬁnished to the standards of the car's exterior.
Nearby is a Pierce-Arrow. John points to its two-toned paint job, which was
hand brushed, baked, rubbed out and repeated until it had the ultimate sheen.
"Here you have a 104-year-old paint job," John says. "The only gaskets on the
engine were on the exhaust manifold. You were buying, for quick reference, a
The engineering and attention to details of these early manufacturers were
what drove the passion his father had for cars, a trait that was passed down to
He cut his driving teeth in a Stanley Steamer at the age of 7. One of several
steam-powered cars in the collection, it still holds a place of honor. All of the
cars have a story, and John knows them well. There's a 1942 Packard with only
1,600 miles on it. John put half of the miles on driving it home.
"The man who bought this car bought it with the anticipation that he would
need a new car before the war (World War II) was over," John says. "They quit
production on the ninth of February, 1942 to switch over to military production. This one was the last available in the St. Paul area."
He moves on to a high-wheeled car that looks like they took the harness off
and added a motor. The car was sold by Sears from its catalog and was delivered unassembled in a crate. "You got a 30-day free trial on it," John says. "If
you didn't like it you could crate it back up and send it back."
John points out a Chandler that was owned by a man who never learned to
drive. He bought it to keep the salesmen away, John relates. "If they knew you
had the wherewithal to buy a car and didn't have one they would camp out on
Janice takes over the storytelling when the tour moves to a beautiful maroon
sportster which once had a famous owner. The two started dating when John
by Jim McCarty | email@example.com
John and Janice Kelsey show off one of the vintage tires he has brought back through their business in Camdenton. John's efforts led to his induction into the Tire Industry Hall of Fame.
RURAL MISSOURI | JUNE 2019
Rural Missouri - June 2019
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - June 2019
Rural Missouri - June 2019 - Intro
Rural Missouri - June 2019 - Cover1
Rural Missouri - June 2019 - Cover2
Rural Missouri - June 2019 - Contents
Rural Missouri - June 2019 - 4
Rural Missouri - June 2019 - 5
Rural Missouri - June 2019 - 6
Rural Missouri - June 2019 - 7
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Rural Missouri - June 2019 - Cover3
Rural Missouri - June 2019 - Cover4