The LuLu cyclecar was produced by the Kearns Motor Car Company. The company was founded by Charles Maxwell Kearns I in Beavertown, Snyder County, Pennsylvania about 1903. Kearns was the son of a buggy maker and had a gift for invention but little more than a grade school education. He began by first mounting an engine on a buggy and progressed to more elaborate designs and heavy trucks. The LuLu automobile was manufactured only in 1914. Billed as "more than a cyclecar", it had a four-cylinder monobloc engine and three-speed gearing. It sold for $398.
The company's logo underwent a series of changes during its existence. The first logo for the "Kearns Kar Kompany" frames the words in the outline of the grille of a 1907 runabout. The logo for the company boasted the car as being "Valveless, Gearless, and Clutchless" which was indeed true. The engine for the first vehicles was an air-cooled 3-cylinder "porcupine head" two cycle engine which the owner needed to prepare a mixture of fuel and oil in order to run. The vehicle's transmission was a friction drive, consisting of a flat spinning flywheel mounted on the engine which was set at right angles to a rubber lined steel drive wheel which slid from side to side on a drive shaft mounted in parallel to the rear axle. Sprockets on the end of the drive shaft relayed power to the rear wheels via a pair of chains, one per wheel. The friction drive was prone to slippage due to environmental conditions (water) and if the rubber drive wheel was allowed to rest against the spinning flywheel for a long period of time it would develop a flat spot which would produce an uneven power transfer. The transmission was infinitely variable, however, allowing the user to simply progressively slide the rubber covered wheel from a neutral position at the center of the flywheel to a position closer to the edge of the flywheel to vary the gear ratio.
The introduction of the LuLu automobile in 1914 marked a change in engineering for the vehicle. The two cycle engine was discarded in favor of the more reliable 4-stroke engine and a clutch and 3-speed transmission replaced the friction drive. World War I caused the company to cease production. However, after the Great War, the company resumed production but shifted to making mostly trucks, including fire trucks.
A running 1923 Kearns fire truck is currently on display today in the city of New Town, Pennsylvania's firehouse. It was the city's first self-driven fire truck and has won several awards.
- Burgess-Wise, David. The New Illustrated Encyclopedia of Automobiles. BookSales Inc; Rev Upd edition (May 2000). p. 559. ISBN 0-7858-1106-0.
- William D. Kearns, Kearns Motor Company archival materials.