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Kelly Manufacturing Self Locking Hubs

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In May of 1957, DA Ruben L. Beck filed a patent for a new hub design. Beck was a dreamer and like many dreamers, some saw him a genius while others thought him just plain crazy. Beck’s goal was to create a simple, but effective, four-wheel-drive hub.

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Beck had already made an early impact in the jeep world, when he founded D.L. Beck Manfucaturing in Middleport, Ohio, a company that made hardtops (see Beck hardtop history here).

1954-beck-all-steel-cab-brochure1Beck sold his hardtop company to Hubert A. Kelly, in the 1950s but Beck and Kelly remained in contact. The date of the sale, thought once to be 1951, is less clear after this document hit eBay in 2014. It indicates Beck was still selling hardtops in 1954.

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No matter when the sale occurred, Hubert took control. It wasn’t long after the patent filing that Mike Kelly, Hubert Kelly’s descendent, remembered seeing the hubs for the first time. He thought that was about 1958. I asked that he review the patent and Mike sent me the following notes:

“The Kelly Self Locking Hub I knew a was little different than the one pictured in the patent drawing. The housing was larger in diameter and had reliefs milled along the outside to allow clearance for the mounting bolts. The internal parts looked very similar to what I remember. I’m pretty sure the final Kelly product was a Beck design. I don’t recall anyone else working on it.

The hubs were manufactured in Charleston West Virginia. We already had an large machine shop there on Broad St. So moving production from Ohio to West Virgina was only logical. I know the assembling the hubs could be “interesting” if you weren’t watching what you were doing. Putting the internal workings together with the ball bearings being under spring pressure woke up more than one man who wasn’t paying attention.”

As Mike notes, there were some changes. The tab used to engage four-wheel-drive was changed to knob. Here are some examples of the Kelly hub:

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I don’t know when the company ceased selling hubs, but given there are not a lot of Kelly hubs out in the wild, I suspect they didn’t sell as well as hoped.

Besides a hub and hardtops, Kelly also tire carriers and a winch (made by Braden).

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The Kelly company continued to make hardtops and other parts for years. Beck’s involvement in hubs subsided. He eventually moved to Flordia, then Corpus Christi, Texas.

 

 

 

 

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