The Eshelman Adult Sport Car Is Tiny, Odd, and Totally American

Have you ever heard of the Eshelman Adult Sport Car? It is about as ridiculous as it sounds. The company claimed the Eshelman Adult Sport Car got 70 mpg and that the car was “ideal for short trips.” The company even offered a trailer cart so you could hop in and hit the store. Toss your groceries in the back and be on your way. But what’s the rest of the store here?

The history of the Eshelman Adult Sport Car

Eshelman Adult Sport Car
Eshelman Adult Sport Car | RM Sotheby’s

The Eshelman Adult Sport Car came to fruition from the Eshelman brand. According to Wikipedia, Cheston L. Eshelman created the company in 1942 out of an industrial building in Baltimore, Maryland. Initially, Eshelman designed light aircraft, pleasure boats, lightweight garden tractors, and the Sport Car. The first version was the 15 mph Child’s Sport Car (CSC) that cost $295. This came equipped with a Briggs & Stratton number six engine. The 25 mph Model 2 Adult Sport Car (ASC) for $395. This one came with a three-horsepower Briggs & Stratton number eight engine.

The Adult Sport Car (and the CSC) were only 54 inches long by 24 inches wide. Eshelman created the cars with plate-steel platform frames. The CSC weighed 225 pounds, while the ASC was around 250 pounds. Each one measured 23 inches tall.

The Eshelman Adult Sport Car and Richard Nixon

Eshelman Adult Sport Car engine | RM Sotheby’s

By 1955, Eshelman was doing big things. Richard M. Nixon was photographed filling the Child’s Sport Car up at a gasoline pump during a March of Dimes campaign. The campaign was titled “Fill ‘Er Up for Polio” and showed Nixon holding a nozzle near the back of the CSC. The Sport Cars actually fueled up under the hood.

The company was mostly operating through mail orders and ads placed in various periodicals at the time. The Baltimore factory turned into a showroom where buyers could pick up the cars. Eshelman would ship the cars by freight. After some complaints about the size, the company stopped accepting returns.

Eshelman added a new Adult Sport Car to the lineup in 1955. This bigger version was 64 inches long, 36 inches wide, and 32 inches high. The new car was powered by a Briggs & Stratton #14 engine. It had room for two. This one had a top speed of 30 mph and had six horsepower.

RM Sotheby’s sold a Deluxe Adult Sport Car back in 2013 for $15,525. Not a bad return for a car built in 1956 that cost $395.

Life goes on for Eshelman

Eshelman saw success with the vehicles and continued to produce all of the varieties. On February 10, 1956, a fire broke out in the Eshelman factory. The fire resulted in over $500,000 in damage. After the fire, the company shifted a bit and moved the factory to Maryland. Eshelman decided to revamp and upgrade the cars, making the Adult Sport Car bigger and more powerful. It was now called the Sportabout and had 8.4 hp.

In 1959, Eshelman renamed the company Eshelman Motors Corporation and introduced three new models. The 902 delivery vehicle, 903 coupe, and 904 pickup truck were priced at $1,395. However, Wikipedia noted that only about 12 vehicles were produced.

Eshelman Motors Corporation decided to buy some Chevrolet Corvairs to re-badge into Eshelman Golden Eagles. That didn’t last long. GM sent Eshelman Motors Corporation a cease and desist letter to stop production, but Eshelman again pivoted and offered the package for purchase, sans Chevrolet Corvair. It was all downhill from there.

Cheston Eshelman headed to Miami and started work on an energy-absorbing front bumper made from spare tires. Eshelman believed in the product so much that he would frequently ram his personal car into walls to demonstrate. He sold a few Eshelman Golden Eagle Safety Cars through used car agencies and continued his hijinks throughout his life. Eshelman died in 2004 in Florida.

So while the Eshelman Adult Sport Car might not be next on your list of cars to buy, it certainly has an interesting history.

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