Roamer Motor Car Company was founded in Kalamazoo, Michigan, in 1917 as the result of a collaboration between industry veterans Cloyd Kenworthy, a New York City distributor of Rauch & Lang electric cars, and Albert C. Barley, an automaker who built the Barley and Halladay automobiles in Streator, Illinois. Barley brought Karl H. Martin into the project, a New York body constructor and designer of the Halladay. Kenworthy’s motivation was to offer a petrol-powered automobile of sufficient quality to sell alongside his Rauch & Lang Electrics. Dissatisfied with the cars available, he set out to build his own. The Roamer was an “assembled car” utilizing major components from outside suppliers, yet it was well-built and expensive, each produced to individual specifications. The very deliberate and rather shameless imitation of the Rolls-Royce radiator shell (the “RoameR” logo was no coincidence) seemed to work as intended, attracting a respectable number of buyers during their 13-year tenure, including prominent stars like Mary Pickford and Buster Keaton.
Since it was a component car, Roamer could offer buyers various engines throughout production. The vast majority of vehicles hit the road with conventional Rutenber or Continental six-cylinder units. However, a handful of buyers opted for the costly yet magnificent Rochester-Duesenberg Walking Beam Four, one of the most potent and advanced road car engines of the time. It was designed by the Duesenberg brothers as a racing engine, then refined for road use and manufactured under license by Rochester Engines. The Continental was rated at a respectable 54 horsepower: however, the Rochester-Duesenberg four made 75hp-100hp-plus depending on the tune. This kind of power made the Roamer a formidable performance car, and several speed records for Roamer-Duesenberg helped justify the exclusive price. Experts believe that of the 11,800 Roamers produced, fewer than 1,000 were equipped with this marvelous and exotic race-bred engine.
It is with pleasure that we offer this rare and intriguing Roamer 4-75 rumble-seat Roadster featuring the magnificent Rochester-Duesenberg engine. This fabulous motorcar is rich with character and charm, worn with pride via its well-earned patina. The body and chassis are finished in an appropriately sporty red, accented with black fenders and sills. The red finish on the inside of the fenders and red/black painted disc wheels tie in brilliantly with the distinct angular body. Period fittings and accessories include an Ideal Rode-Lite on the right fender, alloy step plates in lieu of running boards, a winged Moto Meter, and nickel drum headlamps. It wears three spare disc wheels – two side-mount and one rear mounted, perhaps in anticipation of it being “driven as intended.” The body shows signs of a cosmetic refurbishment from earlier in its life, and it remains in respectably good condition, with an age-appropriate careworn appearance.
The cabin presents well, and the red leather seat, leather panels, and cast alloy floor panels are all in good order and align with the car’s charming, well-preserved nature. It appears that the seat has been reupholstered at some point, though the door and kick panels may be original. The instruments and controls all appear as period-correct items, including the fat-rimmed four-spoke steering wheel. There’s a matching rumble seat in the back, and the canvas top is sound and functional.
Of course, the highlight of this remarkable Roamer sits under the hood. At approximately 340 cubic inches, the Rochester-Duesenberg engine is by no means small, but it was respectably compact for its displacement. Horizontal valves are operated by long “walking beam” rockers hidden behind a polished alloy cover. The layout contributes to its remarkable efficiency, and the distinct high-mounted exhaust manifold betrays its motorsport heritage. The engine shows signs of recent maintenance and is both clean and appropriately detailed, with period-style braided ignition wires and a rebuilt Scintilla magneto. It runs very well, feeling remarkably smooth and emitting a deep bellow that hints at its impressive output.
While Roamer was a relatively short-lived company, the firm made a lasting impression on the automotive landscape with its distinctly stylish, high-performance automobiles. This fabulous example is rich with character, and as a CCCA Full Classic, it would be a superb entry into a wide range of driving events where its next caretaker can enjoy the exceptional performance to the fullest.
Offers welcome and trades considered