Celebrating Kelsey

John Kelsey and Kelsey Tire Milestone

John Gunnell - May 11, 2014 12:29 PM


Many special cars make up the Kelsey collection

John Gunnell

About 100 people attended the open house.

John Gunnell

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      Kelsey Tire Co. ( of Camdenton, Missouri, celebrated a double milestone with an open house at the former Kelsey Antique Car Museum on May 3. The museum—which has been closed to the public since 1994—was open for the evening to invited guests celebrating company owner John Kelsey’s 70th birthday. It was also the 60th anniversary of the museum building, which was completed and originally began operations on Easter Sunday 1954.
      The Kelsey family collection dates to 1928 when Patriarch Paul Kelsey purchased a 1909 Maxwell runabout at a car auction held in the town square in Peterson, Iowa. That Maxwell is still among the 52 or so vehicles stored in the old museum building. The entire collection is comprised of about 70 cars and trucks from pioneer automobiles to unrestored big-block muscle cars.
      According to John Kelsey, who was 12 years old when the museum first opened, his parents were planning to move their cars from Albert Lea, Minnesota, to start a museum in Florida when they stopped in the Lake of the Ozarks area and decided to settle there instead.
      In 1934, Paul and his wife drove the 1909 Maxwell to the East Coast. The next year, they took a four-month-long trip in it to Portland, Oregon, and Los Angeles. John Kelsey said his father’s interest prompted Paul to contact a number of tire companies about the need to make tires for old cars. All of them, including Goodyear, turned him down at first, but he stuck to the concept and ultimately convinced Goodyear that a market existed for antique automobile tires.
      Around 100 friends, business associates and Kelsey family members attended the open house and Camdenton Mayor John McNabb issued a proclaimation that recognized John Kelsey’s accomplishments and service to his country in Viet Nam. A special birthday cake featured one of John Kelsey’s favorite cars—his 1914 Stutz Bearcat—which was a centerpiece for the evening.