America is a car culture. It was raised on the road, whether on family road trips to see relatives or through commerce that shuttled from city to city on trucks. The Car of the Week takes a look at one of those vehicles as a way to not only look back at automotive changes but the history that created them.
Published in the Tacoma Weekly
The Nordyke and Marmon Co. was an early maker of gas-powered vehicles with its first production model of an air-cooled V-twin automobile in 1902 at a factory in Indianapolis. That car came a full six years before Henry Ford released its landmark “Tin Lizzie” Model T in Detroit, which would go down in history as the first affordable automobile. The Marmon cars had a price tag of about $2,500, while the Model T cost just $850.
That price difference made one only reachable to the upper crust, while the Ford model was clearly marketed to the masses. The V-2 Marmon, and its sibling V-4 model, soon gained a reputation as a sporty and speedy upscale automobile that was also reliable and easy to maintain. America’s driving culture proved large enough to allow both markets to prosper, until money was harder to come by, that is. But the market could not foresee the Great Depression to come.
The Model 32 of 1909 led to the Wasp, winner of the first Indianapolis 500 motor race. The Wasp featured the world’s first rear-view mirror and also pioneered the use of aluminum in its engine, body and chassis. The 1926 Marmon D-74 roadster featured an in-line six. Nearly 4,500 of were sold in 1926 at a cost of $3,000. But the car maker’s fate was sealed with the global downturn of the 1930s. Production ended in 1933.
The 84- horsepower car in the LeMay collection is Marmon’s two-passenger, three-speed roadster that successfully completed the 2011 Pebble Beach Motoring Classic.
Only 350 of the 250,000 Marmon cars ever produced are known to exist today. D-74 models run upward of $90,000 when they are auctioned in car collecting circles.