|Many people have never heard of the MARMON automobile but it was one of the premier vehicles of its time. It was in the class of the Pierce Arrow, Peerless and Packard.
The Marmon Wasp won the first Indianapolis 500 Race in 1911 with Ray Harroun as the driver who accomplished this feat. It was widely speculated he won because of the weight of his car. At that time all race cars held two men, a driver and a mechanic. Harroun's racer was built for only one man, the driver, so that not only streamlined the car but also reduced the weight by one person. He also devised the first rear view mirror ever used on a race car (or a passenger car as well). This combination enabled him to win the race with an average speed of 74.602 MPH. Harroun was an Indiana native and still holds an Indy 500 record. No one has ever come from the 28th (or worse) starting position and end up winning the race.
Many do not realize that the Marmon automobile was built in Indianapolis. Between the years of 1903 and 1933 Marmon Motor Cars (previously Nordyke and Marmon), made approximately 250,000 cars...fewer than approximately 350 exist today.
|1840's a group of millwrites migrated to Indiana. among them Nordyke and Marmon established first mill in Richmond in 1851. Their milling equipment had earned world wide aclaim for many generations. In the late 19th century they moved the mill to Indianapolis.They also manufactured flour grinding mill equipment, and branching out into other machinery through the late 19th century. Small limited production of experimental automobiles began in 1902, with an air-cooled V-twin engine. An air-cooled V4 followed the next year, with pioneering V6 and V8 engines tried over the next few years before more conventional straight engine designs were settled upon. Marmons soon gained a reputation as a reliable, speedy upscale car.
Howard Marmon had begun working on the world's first V16 engine in 1927, but was unable to complete the production Sixteen model until 1931. By that time, Cadillac had already introduced their V-16, designed by ex-Marmon engineer, Owen Nacker. Peerless, too, was developing a V16 with help from an ex-Marmon engineer, James Bohannon.
|The story of Marmon Automobiles.
The flour milling business was good and good for the Marmons family.
Born into that wealth, Howard Marmon went to college at the University of California in Berkeley. He studied mechanical engineering, and he seemed to be good at it. He was named the chief engineer of the Nordyke and Marmon Machine Company in 1902 at the modest age of just 23. His older brother, Walter, also a mechanical engineer, ran the business.
The flour milling machinery business held little appeal for Howard. He was interested in the the horseless carriage, and as early as 1898 he was already fooling around with a rudimentary motorcar, powered by, of all things, a V-twin engine.
Like most automotive pioneers, Marmon was persistent, and he spent long hours on the V-twin concept until, in 1902, he built an air-cooled version that had such niceties as pressure lubrication and overhead valves.
Howard worked many long hours on the car concept he was developing and still maintained his duties at the flour mill, he doubled his pleasure in 1903 with a car powered by an air-cooled V-4. With this unnamed car as its initial product, Marmon went from tinkerer to automobile manufacturer the following year, when he decided his vehicle was good enough to be sold to the public. Six customers bought the first annual production run of Marmons. The following year Howard Marmon sold 25. This prompted Howard Marmon to experiment more than ever, and he began to investigate the dubious virtues of V-6s and even took a stab at a V-8.
In 1908 Howard Marmon finally began to adopt conventional water-cooled, inline designs. Of these, the most fabled is the Model 32, introduced in 1909. In racing trim, the Model 32 was known as the Wasp, because it was often painted yellow and featured a long, cigar-like tail, an early attempt at "streamlining."
The Marmon Wasp entered the Indianapolis 500. Most racing drivers in those days were accompanied by a mechanic who rode along and did the dirty work like changing tires, pumping oil, and keeping a weather eye on competitors. For the initial Indianapolis 500-mile race, contested in 1911, driver Ray Harroun decided not to bring along the mechanic and, instead, fitted his Marmon Wasp with a rear-view mirror. The innovation worked, and Harroun walked away with the first Indy 500 victory and, in the process, put a sheen on the budding Marmon automotive company.
Howard Marmon then designed a variant of the Model 32 powered by an overhead-valve in-line six. Called the Model 34, the car seemed conventional but the body, hood, radiator core, and the engine were fashioned of aluminum. The car was huge with a wheelbase of 135 inches, it was very light at 3,300 pounds, and Howard Marmon thought it was a good idea to send it across the United States in an attempt to beat the record Cannonball Baker had established in a Cadillac. Marmon beat it by 41 hours.
However the American motor industry was passing Marmon by. Ransom Olds, David Dunbar Buick, and a guy by the name of Henry Ford had brought cars within the reach of middle-class working folks. Marmon's cars were aimed at the wealthy, and that was a very competitive market.
By the mid-Twenties, it seemed like Marmon was going nowhere. Annual sales were stuck at about 2,500 units, and the successors to the Model 34 were getting little interest from buyers. It looked as if Marmon might vanish as a car-maker when George Williams, who had previously served on the supplier side of the industry as president of the Wire Wheel Corporation of America, decided to cast his lot and quite a bit of his money with the Marmon brand.
Initially things were good, as a better economic times led to a near doubling of sales by 1926. That same year, the Marmon family finally disposed of the flour milling machinery portion of the business in an attempt to raise capital to rejuvenate the automobile side of the enterprise.
Williams was convinced, like so many before him, that lower-priced cars were the key to success, and so the reorganized Marmon Motor Car Company introduced the Little Eight in 1927, and while its success was spotty, it did spawn the 1929 Roosevelt model after President Theodore, that was the first straight-eight-powered car to sell for less than $1,000. In those last years of the Roaring Twenties, the reasonable price, straight eight engine, and Marmon heritage proved a success. Sales topped 22,000 in 1929.
Just as Howard Marmon was back at the head of the American luxury field with his ambitious V-16 -- the stock market crashed. So ended Marmon automobiles.
|Marmon Family of Indiana|