MotorCities National Heritage Area
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By Robert Tate, Automotive Historian and Researcher
Images courtesy of Hagerty Media, The Old Motor Magazine, and the Robert Tate Collection
Published 7.22.2020

A 1906 advertisement for the Mormon 1A 1906 advertisement for the Marmon 

The Marmon Automobile Company of Indianapolis, Indiana was established by Howard C. Marmon (May 24, 1876 - April 4, 1943). He was a graduate of the University of California in Berkley with a degree in mechanical engineering.

Marmon’s family owned a business founded in 1851 that made flour and grain milling machinery, where he worked as chief engineer. The company was called Nordyke & Marmon and well-respected throughout the community.

A 1907 Marmon advertisement RESIZED 2A 1907 Marmon advertisement

Throughout his career, Marmon always had a great fascination with trains and locomotives, which was the way people traveled longer distances before the advent of the automobile.

The first Marmon automobile was introduced to the public in 1904 with only a small number of units produced. It was a well-engineered vehicle and offered V-4 engine. The body was manufactured with a cast aluminum open-rear passenger compartment body style with hinged doors.

A 1918 ad for the Marmon 34 Robert Tate Collection 3A 1918 ad for the Marmon 34 (Robert Tate Collection)

Other models produced by the Marmon Automobile Company included the 1906 Marmon Model C and the 1907 Marmon Model F touring models. The 1909 Model 32 was extremely popular and was a part of the racing community. In 1911, race driver Ray Harroun won the first Indianapolis 500 driving a Marmon “Wasp.” In 1916, the Marmon 34 became popular due to its advanced engineering. In 1917, the Marmon Model 34 touring edition was also a strong seller.

A 1929 image of a Marmon dealership in Los Angeles CA The Old Motor Magazine 4A 1929 image of a Marmon dealership in Los Angeles CA (The Old Motor Magazine)

During the 1920s, Marmon automobiles continued their great sales run right up until the stock market crash in 1929, which devastated the company. As America experienced the Great Depression, Marmon made three separate models in 1930.

A 1929 Marmon sedan being checked out by an employee at a dealership The Old Motor Magazine RESIZED 5A 1929 Marmon sedan being checked out by an employee at a dealership (The Old Motor Magazine)

For 1931, Marmon introduced the 68, 69, 78, 88 and the 16 models. The series 68 and 69 models were nearly the same automobile, except for more deluxe appointments available in the 69 series.

1930 Marmon Big Eight ad Robert Tate Collection 61930 Marmon Big Eight ad (Robert Tate Collection)

The Marmon Sixteen with a V-16 engine, introduced in 1931, received several design and engineering awards. It offered an aluminum engine and was a great looking vehicle.

1931 Marmon advertising image The Old Motor Magazine 71931 Marmon advertising image (The Old Motor Magazine)

For 1933, the Marmon automobile was introduced as a 16-cylinder model only with a base price of $4,825, a lot of money during the Depression era. In May of 1933, the Marmon Automobile Company filed for bankruptcy and closed its doors. Many automotive historians have said that Marmon made great and well-engineered automobiles that most consumers thoroughly enjoyed.

1932 Marmon Sixteen interior Hagerty RESIZED 81932 Marmon Sixteen interior (Hagerty)

In conclusion, the Marmon automobiles will always be a fondly remembered part of our automotive history. For more information on the history of Marmon, please contact the Marmon Club at 786.457.3400 or www.themarmonclub.com.

Bibliography

Kimes, Beverly Rae & Clark Jr., Henry Austin. “Standard Catalog of American Cars 1805-1942.” Krause Publications, 1989.

Moloney, James. “Encyclopedia of American Cars 1930-1942.” Crestline Publishing, 1977.

Peck, Jeff. “Marmon: The Rise Fall and Rarity of a Forgotten American Automaker.” Hagerty Media.

“How Marmon Cars Work.” By the Editors of Consumer Guide.