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Kelly Manufacturing Self Locking Hubs

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UPDATE:  This post has been updated with more pics. Also, there is currently a Kelly Hub brochure on eBay.

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.

kelly-hubs-da-ruben-beck-patent2 kelly-hubs-da-ruben-beck-patent1

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.


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.”
Photos Photos

Hub images:

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:

kelly-manufacturing-hubs1 kelly-manufacturing-hubs2


Buz’s hubs

Kelly Hubs 001 Kelly Hubs 002


I don’t know when the company ceased selling hubs, but in 1970 the company was still selling hubs, as this 1970 price list shows.


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



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





4 Comments on “Kelly Manufacturing Self Locking Hubs

  1. Morgan

    My ’57 parts jeep (cj5 #57,xxx) has a pair of Kelly hubs on the front. They are just like what’s pictured in the brochure. And they sure look original.

  2. 1953 AERO-FALCON ,

    Kelly is the only way to go !! — TAKE A HIKE WARN !! — just remodeling the house and spotted a NEW OLD STOCK set of KELLY HUBS , IN THE THE BOX , BRAND STINKING NEW !! ( with all the literature , etc ) — these are the anodized model — I also have them in BEAUTIFUL chrome plated and tons of older used ones — my 48 model 4wd truck currently has a set of KELLY HUBS on it — my 67 cj-6 has the full metal KELLY HARDTOP , warn hubs , new , should put the CHROME KELLY HUBS on it … the only thing I don’t like about KELLY HUBS is the dial , it can get hit off road and turn sometimes , maybe tighten up the dial detent ball spring ?

  3. Morgan

    A friend pointed out that my ’57 jeep’s serial # (above) could be misinterpreted as merely a reference to the first 5 digits of the cj5 model number, and I may have naively made an error. I didn’t, but I thought about that and realized it’s quite possible for a one and only early cj5 to have the serial number of 57548-57548 ! My ’57 parts jeep’s serial number is about 100 less than that, (and I admit I get caught up in puzzles, numbers and so on). But, now I wonder if that redundant one survived ? Anybody know ?

  4. David Eilers Post author

    That’s a good question Morgan. I don’t think anyone has created a database of CJ-5 serial numbers (I could be wrong); If someone has, that would be the place to look.

    I did try to search for that specific serial number via Google, but didn’t find anything.

    – Dave

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