1922 Dixie Flyer

AACA Museum Hosts Rare 1922 Dixie Flyer Firefly Speedster

Hershey, PA (December 27, 2010)


Bill Rothermel Photo

When the automobile was in its infancy nearly every city and large town in America boasted at least one enterprise engaged in the manufacture of cars. Most of these companies and their vehicles are lost to history. The Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) Museum is pleased to present a survivor from this era that has travelled half way around the world to return to its home. On temporary exhibition is a 1922 Dixie Flyer Firefly Speedster, which was manufactured in Louisville, Kentucky, exported to Australia, saved from the junkyard, restored and finally purchased by Kentucky Trailer, the company that originally built the car! The Speedster will be on display at the museum until the spring of 2011.

The Dixie Flyer was manufactured by the Kentucky Wagon Manufacturing Company (now Kentucky Trailer) which was established in 1879. The company originally produced horse-drawn wagons. Like many other businesses they also tried their luck making automobiles. From 1917 to 1923 they built 7,469 cars in a variety of body styles. The Dixie Flyer is the only known survivor.


Bill Rothermel Photo

Early car manufacturers often looked outside their immediate geographic area for new markets. The recession following WWI forced them to look even further. Kentucky Wagon produced a produced a batch of specialty built right-hand drive Dixie Flyer chassis equipped with more powerful engines and shipped them to Australia. Upon arrival, the chassis were sent to a coach building firm called W.S. Grice for bodies, and then sold to the general public.

The Dixie Flyer Firefly was purchased by a wealthy rancher in Taggerty, Australia where it was used for various purposes including farm chores. Eventually the car was placed in a barn where the rancher’s grandchildren gradually disassembled the vehicle in an attempt to discover how it worked, in the process scattering pieces of the vehicle throughout the barn. The remains were later collected by a scrap metal dealer. Fortunately, he decided to include the parts in a farm auction rather than sell them for scrap.


Jon Nelson courtesy of AACA

Automobile enthusiast Bernie Jacobson of Melbourne, Australia, happened to be at the farm sale where the pile of automotive rubble was being auctioned. After acquiring the mess, Jacobson spent the next three years searching for as original parts and fabricating what he could not find to restore the car to its current condition. Upon completion of the project, Jacobson put the car in a shipping container and returned it to its birthplace – Louisville, Kentucky – where it was exhibited as part of the AACA’s 75th anniversary celebration which occurred last summer. Jacobson later sold the vehicle back to its original manufacturer, Kentucky Trailer, who then loaned it to the Museum.

Kentucky Trailer is currently building a display area at their headquarters for this vehicle and other historical artifacts linked to their extensive history. Upon completion of this exhibit space in the spring of 2011 the Dixie Flyer will again return home to its birth place Louisville Kentucky, where it will share space with a horse-drawn trailer, also built by the company. Until then, visitors have the opportunity to see this restored monument to America’s rich and diverse automotive history.