Sterling Heights resident Don Filipski shows off his two small-scale vehicles — a 1957 Cushman Truckster and a 1959 King Midget.

Sterling Heights resident Don Filipski shows off his two small-scale vehicles — a 1957 Cushman Truckster and a 1959 King Midget.

Photo by Sarah Purlee


Behind the Wheel: Restoration gives new life to uncommon vehicles

By: Jennifer Sigouin | C&G Newspapers | Published September 7, 2018

 Filipski’s King Midget weighs 750 pounds. Earlier models  weighed 500 pounds and were sold for $500, or $1 per pound.

Filipski’s King Midget weighs 750 pounds. Earlier models weighed 500 pounds and were sold for $500, or $1 per pound.

Photo by Sarah Purlee

Photo by Sarah Purlee

Photo by Sarah Purlee

 Filipski’s King Midget was “dented and bent to high heaven” before he restored it.

Filipski’s King Midget was “dented and bent to high heaven” before he restored it.

Photo provided by Don Filipski

Photo provided by Don Filipski

STERLING HEIGHTS — Sterling Heights resident Don Filipski said he has always gravitated toward “odd or unusual little cars,” so it’s no surprise that his garage holds two such vehicles — a 1957 Cushman Truckster and a 1959 King Midget. 

Both the Truckster and the King Midget are unconventional, small in size and big on charm. But despite their similarities, each vehicle has its own noteworthy history and claim to fame. 

According to Filipski, the Truckster is an offshoot of Cushman Motor Works’ popular scooters that were manufactured in the 1940s and 1950s. The lightweight scooters — much-coveted by motorcycle buffs today — were frequently used in World War II because they could be air-dropped by parachute to troops below. The Truckster retains some of the classic Cushman scooter qualities but was designed as more of a utility vehicle and was often used by meter maids or postal workers, Filipski added.

When Filipski found his 1957 model online, though, it wasn’t of much use to anyone. In fact, he described it as a downright “basket case.”

“It was entirely in pieces,” he said. “It was in shambles. It was pathetic-looking.”

But as a retired auto/truck mechanic who has worked on cars for the past 50 years, Filipski readily took on the challenge of getting the Truckster back in shape. He hauled all of the Truckster parts home in a trailer, pieced the vehicle back together and restored it to its former glory. 

Filipski’s King Midget, which he’s owned for less than a year, was also a big restoration project. Prior to him purchasing it, the minicar had been sitting in a garage for many years, with parts removed and missing, “dented and bent to high heaven,” and “on its way to the scrap yard.” 

“I just didn’t have the heart to see that happen,” Filipski said, noting that he took the car home and gave it a second chance at life. 

The King Midget, he explained, was manufactured from 1946 to 1969 by Midget Motors, of Athens, Ohio, and the earlier models were marketed as the smallest and least expensive cars in the United States. They were sold by mail order through an ad in Popular Mechanics magazine, which listed the 500-pound car at $500, or $1 per pound. 

Filipski said that only 7,500 King Midgets were ever sold, and he estimates that only 750 are left today. His 1959 model is the third and final model; it has a single-cylinder, 9-horsepower engine, and it weighs 750 pounds. 

Filipski added that both the Truckster and the Midget reach a maximum speed of around 40 mph, and they aren’t designed for modern roads and traffic. However, that doesn’t stop him from taking them for leisurely drives around his neighborhood or to local car events. 

Filipski has also owned and/or repaired several British sports cars, a Nash Metropolitan and “a couple of old motorcycles.”


SHARE YOUR STORY

Do you own a vehicle that has an interesting history or a special meaning to you? Contact Staff Writer Jennifer Sigouin at jsigouin@candgnews.com, and you could be featured in an upcoming edition of Behind the Wheel.