Immediately after young Howard Marmon earned his engineered degree from the University of California Berkeley, he went straight to work in his family business, The Nordyke & Marmon Company of Indianapolis. The company, which specialized in flour milling equipment, was already fifty years old at the time and prospered during the industrial boom of the late 1800s. Howard Marmon rose quickly through the ranks to become the chief engineer by 1902, a position which he earned not through nepotism, but through his undeniable talent.
Howard was passionate about the automobile, and he built his first in 1902 at age 23. His ability was evident in the astonishingly well-constructed and highly advanced machine. The experimental car featured a 90-degree V-twin with overhead valves, multi-plate clutch, and 3-speed sliding gear transmission. Although it was essentially a one-off prototype, Marmon’s first automobile was a sign of the brilliance to come.
Against the wishes of his brother, Howard Marmon began producing automobiles in 1905. He experimented with V6 and V8 engines, and his production models were soon renowned for their quality and performance. In 1911, the Marmon Wasp – driven by Ray Harroun – was the first car to win the Indianapolis 500 mile race. Marmon cars would compete with the greats from Cadillac, Packard, and Pierce for supremacy in the American luxury car marketplace. By 1926, Howard sold the flour milling business to Allis-Chalmers to concentrate fully on motorcar production.
With the help of the low-cost Roosevelt line, sales reached a robust 22,000 cars by 1929. Howard Marmon began work on a flagship model to lead the company into the new decade, powered by a spectacular new V16 engine. However, management had not counted on the market crash, and sales – along with company fortunes - plummeted. Despite being on the brink of collapse, development of the mighty Marmon Sixteen continued, and the first prototype was shown at the 1930 Chicago Auto Show to critical acclaim. Sadly, it was too late to the market, and Marmon lacked the resources to compete with the might of Cadillac’s own sixteen cylinder models. What Marmon lacked in funding it made up for with pure brilliant engineering. The Marmon Sixteen is a masterpiece of the classic era, with an overhead valve engine displacing nearly 500 cubic inches and producing a full 200 horsepower, which bested Cadillac’s V16 by 25 horsepower. It is said that the Marmon Sixteen could out accelerate a Duesenberg Model J, much to the annoyance of Marmon’s cross-town rivals. The styling is credited to Walter Dorwin Teague Jr, who penned the gracefully curved fenders, bold and powerful radiator shell, and a sleek profile devoid of unnecessary detailing. It is estimated that between 370 and 375 Marmon Sixteens were produced between 1930 and 1933, and despite their small numbers, they are counted among the most important and collectible of all American classic-era automobiles.
It is a rare occasion when a Marmon Sixteen comes available on the open market, and we are especially pleased to offer this 1931 Victoria Coupe with coachwork by LeBaron Carrosserie. According to information provided by Dyke Ridgley of the Marmon Sixteen Roster, this chassis was delivered new to Mr. Pollock of Sacramento, California. Pollock was a Sacramento area contractor, and he purchased the car form a local dealer in 1931. He ordered the Marmon when it was first announced and was one of only six buyers who actually had the money to pay for the car when it was finally delivered! Records show the car was finished from the factory in all Maroon; however, Pollock had the car repainted in Coronado Tan before accepting it from the dealer.
Marmon Roster information reveals the car reappeared in the early 1950s, where it passed through several owners including Charles Jones of Dixon, CA. By the mid-1960s, Jones had begun the restoration and retained the car through 1974. Subsequent owners would continue working on the vehicle, including Charles Jones who repurchased the Marmon (along with another Sixteen) in 1975, only to sell it again to Mr. Nixon of Saskatchewan, Canada in 1978. In 1981, the Marmon found long-term, single-family ownership, where it would remain until recently.
As one of just 70 complete examples known to exist, this Marmon Sixteen is one of only nine to wear the handsome Victoria Coupe coachwork by LeBaron. The design is beautifully proportioned, and despite being more than eighteen feet in length, the profile is sporty and purposeful. The body is minimally adorned, with only the dual sidemount spare wheels breaking up the lines. In the years since its initial refurbishment, the car spent significant time in storage and today it presents as an ideal candidate for a straightforward restoration. The body appears complete, with remarkably straight panels, and the original radiator shell, lighting and trim pieces in place. Similarly, the interior is intact and in good order, though the materials appear somewhat dated from the 1980s restoration. With that said, the essential elements of the interior are intact and present in very good overall condition.
Marmon’s 500 cubic inch masterpiece rests beneath the long hood, appearing tidy and complete. The Marmon Roster notes the engine was in running order as late as 1995, and it presents with its significant components intact, including exhaust manifolds, starter, generator, Stromberg DDR-3 carburetor, and air cleaner housing. Not only was this a powerful and advanced engine, but it was also a beautiful one as well – with polished valve covers and extensive use of aluminum in the construction.
This remarkable find represents an exceptional opportunity to acquire one of the greatest of all Classic Era American automobiles. Few match the rarity and prestige of the Marmon Sixteen, and the performance and refinement are astonishing, even today. The importance of this car is perhaps best summed up in Marmon’s own words which stated: 'The Marmon Sixteen looks like no other car. It borrows little from the past. It will lend much to the future. It is the one example of unhampered co-ordination of effort by artist and engineer.'
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