The Marmon Automobile

From 1903 to 1933, the Marmon company manufactured more than 110,000 cars. One was the Marmon Wasp, which won the first Indianapolis 500 race in 1911. In 1916, they introduced their mostly-aluminum Model 34, which after a number of modifications was, in the early 1920s, the fastest production car made in the United States, making it a very popular ride if you wanted to move contraband liquor.

Marmons were not just fast but also highly reliable, taking advantage of in-house innovations created by Marmon engineers, and incorporating the latest advances available to them from anywhere. As a result, Marmon was a premium brand, competing with Packard, Cadillac, Pierce-Arrow and Lincoln. The movie star Francis X. Bushman was reported to have spent nearly $20,000 on his custom, amythest-colored 1915 Model 48.

Barney Oldfield, the great race car driver, so liked the 1921 Marmon he drove as the Indy Pace Car that year, that he bought it. When Amelia Earhart came back to New York after making her trans-Atlantic flight, she rode down Broadway through the ticker tape in a Marmon Sixteen Convertible Sedan. Perhaps the greatest compliment paid to Marmon was given by Henry Ford, who, before he acquired the Lincoln Motorcar Company, rode to work in a custom-bodied Marmon Model 34.

The ultimate engineering feat of the company took form as the Marmon Sixteen, powered by an all-aluminum 200 horsepower V-16 engine. Although the Sixteen won a long list of awards for design and engineering, with a price tag of nearly $5,000 it was a hard sell in the early 1930s, and less than 400 were made before the company went under in 1933.

Since the last Marmon was made more than 80 years ago, few people have heard of the Marmon-branded automobiles today. But to those who really know their cars, a Marmon will always be something very special.