As soon as Howard Marmon earned his engineering degree from the University of California Berkeley, he went straight to work in his family business, The Nordyke & Marmon Company of Indianapolis. The firm specialized in flour milling equipment and was already more than fifty years old when young Howard took his post. As the company prospered during the industrial boom of the late 1800s, Howard Marmon rose quickly through the ranks to become the chief engineer by 1902, which he earned not through nepotism but via his exceptional talent. When not managing the family business, Marmon became enthralled with the automobile and built his first horseless carriage in 1902 at age 23. His ability was evident in the astonishingly well-constructed and highly advanced creation, which featured a 90-degree V-twin with overhead valves, multi-plate clutch, and 3-speed sliding gear transmission. Although it was a one-off prototype, Marmon’s first automobile demonstrated his brilliance.
Against his brother’s wishes, Howard Marmon began producing automobiles in 1905. He experimented with V6 and V8 engines, and his production models quickly earned a reputation for quality and thrilling performance. In 1911, the Marmon Wasp – driven by Ray Harroun – became the first car to win the Indianapolis 500-mile race. Production Marmon road cars quickly rose to that stature of Cadillac, Packard, and Pierce, all vying for supremacy in the highly competitive American luxury car marketplace. By 1926, Howard Marmon sold the family flour milling business to Allis-Chalmers to concentrate on motorcar development and production.
Taking a page from Cadillac and LaSalle, Marmon added the lower cost Roosevelt line, which boosted sales to 22,000 cars by 1929. Meanwhile, Howard Marmon continued developing a new flagship model, powered by a spectacular V16 engine, which he began in 1927. Unfortunately, the stock market crash had other plans for Marmon, and soon sales and profits plummeted like a rock. Despite being on the brink of financial collapse, development of the mighty Sixteen continued, and Marmon showed the prototype at the 1930 Chicago Auto Show to critical acclaim. Sadly, the car was costly and late to the market, and the company lacked the resources to compete with the might of Cadillac and Packard.
What Marmon lacked in funding, it made up for through pure engineering brilliance. 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, besting Cadillac’s V16 by an impressive 25 hp. It was claimed that a Marmon Sixteen could out-accelerate a Duesenberg Model J, much to the annoyance of Marmon’s cross-town rivals. The base 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 fussy detailing. Estimates suggest 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 to market, and we are especially pleased to offer this exquisite 1933 example, featuring handsome convertible sedan coachwork by LeBaron. Most Marmon Sixteens wore closed sedan and limousine coachwork, so it is a rare sight to see the mighty Marmon radiator grille on an open car. Recently out of a complete, nut-and-bolt restoration, it is finished in an attractive color scheme of blue over black fenders and chassis, with a saddle-brown interior. According to information compiled and provided by D.W. Ridgley’s Marmon Sixteen Roster, chassis number 16 145 947 (engine no. 16880) was in the hands of a Mr. Wilder of Willetts, CA, in the early 1950s. It passed through a series of owners in the 1950s and early 1960s and nearly suffered the indignity of becoming a parts car, yet was mercifully kept together. In the late 1970s, then-owner Mr. Marshall B. Beldon started a restoration that never quite got off the ground and stalled by the mid-80s. The Marmon then went to the Canton Classic Car Museum and remained in a partially restored state before Hyman Ltd acquired it in 2011. We placed the car with its most recent owner, who commissioned this cost-no-object restoration beginning in 2012.
After approximately three years and nearly $700,000, this spectacular Marmon Sixteen is finally restored to a level befitting one of the Classic Era’s most extraordinary automobiles. Presented in navy blue with black fenders, it has all the trappings of a concours quality motorcar, including beautiful glassy paintwork, excellent fit and finish quality, superb brightwork, and exquisite detailing. The LeBaron coachwork (style number 145) is elegant yet imposing, with minimal adornment to spoil the graceful lines. Six chrome wire wheels with double-sided whitewalls, a chrome radiator shell, and chrome headlamps set off the otherwise understated coachwork.
The interior is beautifully finished in chocolate brown leather, with oatmeal carpets, a body-color instrument panel, and superb chrome fittings. The pleated brown leather shows virtually no signs of use, appearing taut and free of creasing on the seating surfaces. Likewise, the light tan carpets are like new, with protective over mats to keep them clean on the show field. The blue-painted dash houses an array of impeccably restored AC instruments and a Jaeger Eight Day clock.
Of course, the Marmon’s centerpiece is its jaw-dropping, 490 cubic-inch overhead-valve V16. It is almost a shame that the beautiful engine is hidden, as it is a work of art like the rest of the car. The fastidiously detailed V16 features a narrow-angle layout, with pressed steel liners set into an aluminum alloy cylinder block. The heads are topped with polished alloy valve covers and dressed with chrome wiring looms and black porcelain enamel manifolds. Per the Marmon Sixteen Roster information, this car retains its correct, original engine.
Coveted for their astonishing performance as much as their commanding presence, the Marmon Sixteen enjoys elite status as one of the most desirable and collectible American cars of the Classic Era. This exquisite example remains crisp and finely detailed after its restoration. It has yet to be shown and is an ideal candidate for Classic Car Club of America events or as your ticket into a wide variety of exclusive concours worldwide.
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