Friday, November 7, 2014

Gerlinger Motor Car Company

In the beginning: The Gerlinger Motor Car Company

Edgar Worthington and his mother, Ellen, had residences in both Seattle and Quilcene.  The early 1900s brought dramatic change to the Northwest as Model Ts began challenging the horse and carriage in the transportation race.
Edgar was managing his mother’s commercial building, which was occupied by a car and truck dealership. Edgar took a special interest in his tenant, the Gerlinger Motor Car Company, watching as they worked to sell and repair cars and trucks.
The Gerlinger Motor Car Company manufactured custom and semi-custom 6-cylinder structural steel trucks beginning in 1915. He never imagined that someday the company would be his.
1917 Gerlinger
1917 Gerlinger Truck
The Gerlinger Motor Car Company had offices in Seattle and Portland, but was struggling. In 1917, it was offered for sale.
Edgar jumped at the opportunity to buy. Edgar’s business partner was Captain Frederick Kent, a retired Coast Guard Captain, investor and businessman. In 1917, they bought the struggling business and renamed it Gersix Motor Company, after the shop’s new truck. The Gersix became a popular fixture in the Northwest.
Gersix repair shop, Tacoma
Gersix repair shop, Tacoma
Publicity for Gersix truck ca. 1916 while a band plays in the rear.
Publicity for Gersix truck ca. 1916 while a brass band plays in the rear.
Initial Gersix sales were positive, but further capital was needed to take the business to the next level. The two men decided to reincorporate the business  in 1923.
The new company became Ken-Worth, named after the two principal stockholders, Harry Kent and Edgar Worthington.
The Kenworth Motor Truck Company was thereby born, and headquarters were established in Seattle. It marked the beginning of a new era.
Kenworth became the first American truck manufacturer to install diesel engines as standard equipment (in 1933.) It was a major development that allowed Kenworth to develop a powerful and durable line of diesel trucks.  (Visit online today at
Edgar Worthington's first truck is built, called the Gersix, a six-cylinder built in a repair shop in Portland, Oregon.
Edgar Kirk Worthington’s first custom truck, a six-cylinder Gersix built in a repair shop in Portland, Oregon.

Kenworth Motor Truck Company

The original production facility was in Seattle on Fairview Avenue at Valley Street, then later moved to Mercer Street. They made custom-built made-to-order trucks that were suited to the long distances and steep grades of the Pacific Northwest terrain. They built the trucks in individual bays instead of on an assembly line.
In 1929 Kent’s son, Harry Kent, succeeded Edgar as president of the company. The depression hit the trucking industry, but in 1932 Kenworth began making powerful fire trucks and buses, and sleeper-cab trucks.