1931 Marmon Sixteen LeBaron Convertible Sedan

After earning his engineering degree from the University of California Berkeley, Howard Marmon went straight to work in his family business, The Nordyke & Marmon Company of Indianapolis. When young Howard took his post, the firm specialized in flour milling equipment and was already more than fifty years old. As the company prospered during the industrial boom of the late 1800s, Howard Marmon rose quickly through the ranks, becoming chief engineer in 1902 – a position he earned not through nepotism but via his exceptional talent. Marmon grew enthralled with the new world of motorized transport and built his first horseless carriage in 1902 at age 23. His natural talent 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 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 rival Cadillac, Packard, and Pierce in the highly competitive American luxury car marketplace. By 1926, Howard Marmon sold the family flour milling business to Allis-Chalmers to concentrate fully on motorcar development and production.

In 1927, Howard Marmon began developing a new flagship model powered by a monumental V16 engine. Unfortunately, the stock market crash had other plans for Marmon, as sales and profits plummeted. Despite being on the brink of financial collapse, development of the sixteen continued, and Marmon showed the prototype at the 1930 Chicago Auto Show to critical acclaim. Sadly, the costly and extravagant machine arrived as the market for such cars faltered, and the company lacked the resources to compete with Cadillac and Packard.

What Marmon lacked in funding, they made up for with 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 200 horsepower, besting Cadillac’s V16 (designed by an ex-Marmon engineer) by 25 hp. Walter Dorwin Teague Jr. gets the credit for the gracefully curved fenders, bold and powerful radiator shell, and a sleek profile devoid of fussy detailing. Marmon claimed the Sixteen could out-accelerate a Duesenberg Model J, much to the annoyance of their cross-town rivals. Estimates suggest that between 370 and 375 Marmon Sixteens were produced from 1930 to 1933, and collectors cherish them as some of the most significant motorcars of the Classic Era.

We are incredibly pleased to offer this exquisite LeBaron-bodied Convertible Sedan hailing from 1931. This superb Marmon boasts a well-known history dating back to the 1950s and benefits from an outstanding, world-class restoration. According to detailed research compiled for the Marmon Sixteen Roster, the known history of chassis no 674 dates back to 1955, when it was owned by Theodore “Ted” Greuner. Mr. Greuner enjoyed the car and showed it occasionally into the late-1960s. It then passed briefly through the noted collections of Tom Lester and also ex-F1 world champion Phil Hill, who also ran the world-class restoration shop Hill & Vaughn. In the early 1970s, Allan Bartz of Van Nuys, California, bought 674 and began an extensive restoration. Bartz found the engine was severely damaged, so he replaced it with engine no. 692 from a Victoria Coupe he also owned, thoroughly rebuilding it before installing it in the chassis.

Al Bartz passed away in the early 1980s, leaving the Marmon Sixteen Convertible Sedan semi-restored. His estate sold it to another well-known collector, Javier S. Leon of Hubbard, Texas. After completing the restoration, Leon showed the Marmon at the 1983 Pebble Beach Concours, scoring 2nd in Class. A year later, it earned a perfect 100-point score at the CCCA Grand Classic in Fort Worth, TX. The Marmon returned to Pebble in 1997 and remained in the care of the Leon family until 2007.

That year, the most recent owner acquired the mighty Marmon via Hyman Ltd and immediately commissioned a ground-up, nut-and-bolt restoration to bring it to his exceptionally high standards. The results are breathtaking, particularly the striking livery of deep burgundy with deep blue fenders and body accents, a blue canvas top, and an exquisite burgundy leather cabin. The opulent interior features gorgeous red leather upholstery with matching carpets, expertly trimmed to concours standards. Gauges, switches, and controls are fully restored and finely detailed. Typical of LeBaron’s work with Marmon, the body has a clean, minimalist quality that exudes elegance, with just a touch of muscular purposefulness. The paint quality and chrome plating are executed to world-class standards, and the car is impeccably detailed with fittings including chrome wire wheels, dual side-mount spares with painted/polished covers, and an integrated trunk.

Central to any Marmon Sixteen is the engine compartment, which is impeccably finished using correct porcelain coating, silver paint, wiring, and hardware. According to the Marmon Sixteen Roster, when Al Bartz built this engine, he fitted several specially-designed components, including a counter-balance crank (believed to be the only extant), steel billet cam, and unique sleeves and valves. The result is a remarkably smooth running yet powerful engine, capable of more than 200 horsepower. It displays some light signs of use, namely some slight staining of the block, yet is otherwise beautifully presented and impressively well-sorted.

This stunning LeBaron Convertible Sedan is undoubtedly a stand-out example of Howard Marmon’s majestic flagship. Since its restoration in 2010, this stunning Marmon has racked up numerous awards at prestigious events, including a 2nd in Class at the 2011 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. It has been meticulously maintained and remains superb in every respect, equally fit for a challenging tour or stiff competition on the concours lawn.


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