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Les Kelley and his Blue Book

Everyone has heard of the Blue Book, the Bible of car pricing. Seriously, who hasn’t checked the Blue Book value of their own car?

Ever wondered how it all started? How the Bible of car prices came to be a guide used by banks, car dealerships and consumers alike as the market value guide for all things automotive?Blue trailer

We did a little research and decided to share the inspiring story of Les Kelley and his brother Buster.

The Kelley Roots

Les Kelley was a guy with an affinity for mechanics, in fact he used his understanding of all things mechanical to earn his way through college. He bought old cars, reconditioned them and sold them for a profit.

By 1918, the year World War I ended, Les decided he was ready to take the business world by storm. He started the Kelley Kar Company with 3 Model T Fords to sell and Buster, his 13 year old brother, for support.

The Blue Book

After a few years Les decided he needed to expand his inventory, business was good and he wanted to ensure that his vision continued to expand.
Kelley Blue Book

He developed a list which he circulated as a catalog of vehicles he was interested in purchasing along with the price he was wiling to pay.

It didn’t take long for Kelley’s early blue pages to become a staple amongst the automotive industry.

His solid judgement gained strength within the market and soon became used by banks and car dealerships as a definitive reflection of market value.

Les made his opinion worth money

In 1926 Les decided he was through providing his value guide for free and published his first Blue Book of Motor Car Values.

He noted the factory list price along with a cash value on every vehicle he was able to get information for. This helping to make the Kelley Blue Book one of the most trusted sources for the value of a vehicle.

WWII’s influence on the Blue Book

The end of World War II had an interesting effect on the automotive community. Drastic changes from wartime production coupled with the result of four years of war time rationing gave the auto industry an extreme call to action.

As a result used car prices skyrocketed and Les Kelley used this to his advantage. During this period in our countries history Les took his Blue Book from a localized regional publication to a Nationwide guide for automobile pricing.

Continuing to grow

What originally started as a convenient way to quote prices for desired inventory has grown into an empire. The Kelley Blue Book has continued to grow in scope since its inception.

In 1966 it added new car appraisals and from that point continued to add pricing information for a whole host of motorized vehicles including RV’s, motorcycles, recreational vehicles and even personal watercraft. Chances are, if it has an engine there is a Blue Book that can tell you what it’s worth.

Public knowledge

Until 1993 the Blue Book was largely a trade publication, utilized only by those within the industry. After the consumer edition was launched suddenly everyone had access to what had been primarily trade information. By 1995 the company progressed onto the web and the word was out.

Now the Kelley Blue Book website (KBB.com) is a staple for professionals in the industry as well as the individual buyer or seller. A true inspiration to anyone who believes in hard work and brilliant marketing.

2 thoughts on “Les Kelley and his Blue Book

  1. k.v. pesce

    please, can you help or direct me, kellybb starts at 1988/other sites ,dmv ,cadi dealers were not helpfull.
    I have been trying,to find out the fairmarket value of a 1982 cadi fleetwood brougham 4.1 (3yr )new factorybuilt engine & transmission & new odometer showing 17000 miles. good body, right dr. minor damage but,would need to be replaced/ inside clean,everything works.interested in purchasing for my young son for work & school. luvs old cadi’s, I feel the asking price is to high,?$3,000.00. seller stated , he too, could not find the bbook value.looks in good/fair condition. please respond, greatly appreciated,thank you kkt.

  2. stacey

    I have a question. My wife bought a 1991 toyota MR2 new. She sold it to a friend in 2000. I was wondering what the price of that car was in that year. It was the basic model with glass t-tops, non-turbo.
    If you could help that would be appreciated.
    Thanks

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