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      Car History: Car History Year 1931
    Posted on Sunday, September 26 @ 22:49:19 UTC by Cars
      Cars Marmon not only suffered from being second to Cadillac when introducing a V16 engine, it also had to do without the protection of being part of General Motors. These disadvantages proved impossible to overcome and the Marmon Motor Car Company, of Indianapolis, Indiana, would go into receivership in May 1933, ending a history of building fine automobiles that went back to 1902. The brainchild of Howard C. Marmon, a brilliant engineer, the Marmon Sixteen (it was never called a V16 by the Company) was destined to be the final chapter of a marque story that was nearly all about high performance automobiles. Indeed, what must rank as the most famous racing car of them all, the one that Ray Harroun drove to victory in the first Indy 500 in 1911, is the Marmon Wasp. Apart from being based in Indianapolis, Marmon's connection with the speedway remained until the end: every Sixteen came with a guarantee that the car had completed two laps of the Indy track at over 100mph.

    Acceleration was brisk too, Marmon boasting that it would go from five to sixty miles an hour in 20 seconds, a feat few others could match. And, long before drag racing became a recognized sport, Marmon literature for the Sixteen proclaimed: "When the light turns green it leaves its neighbor far behind." The reasons for the superior performance came from extensive use of aluminum alloy in the 490 cu.in. 200 horsepower V16 engine which had a 6:1 compression ratio - the highest in the industry at the time. Although of a similar 45° narrow Vee configuration to the Cadillac motor, the Marmon unit weighed around 370 pounds less, giving a much better power to weight ratio. Lightweight construction was also a feature of the car as a whole, with hood and splash aprons, head light and tail lamp brackets, all made of aluminum. Bodies were designed by Walter Dorwin Teague, built by LeBaron, and represented as big a departure from previous Marmons as did the V16 from the eight and six cylinder units seen in other company models. From the sloping V-shaped radiator grille to the low roof line, it represented a totally new concept for Marmon. But timing was its downfall. Not only did Marmon launch it at the beginning of the Depression, bad enough timing in itself, but following the display of the Sixteen at auto shows during the winter of 1930/31 it was April before the first car was delivered. The delay put Marmon even further behind Cadillac who were themselves struggling to sell their V16 in any significant numbers. Pricing was another problem. While the Sixteen wasn't cheap, it undercut the Cadillac V16, and many believe that Marmon couldn't have made much profit on the cars they sold. Price cuts in succeeding years only served to make things worse, in the end, less than 400 Sixteens were produced in three years. Marmon did produce other cars in 1931, and tried to move away from the limited production luxury market after George Williams took over as company president in 1924. The eight cylinder Little Marmon lasted one model year, 1927, and the Roosevelt (another eight cylinder car, this time priced at under $1,000) also failed to last after an initial demand saw production hit 22,300 units in 1929. Williams couldn't have forseen the economic catastrophe coming, and it hit the company hard. By '31, annual output was less than six thousand cars, and the Roosevelt had been dropped as a separate marque though the car itself remained in slightly revised form as the Marmon Model 70. By 1933, the Sixteen was the only Marmon. Arriving in a year when over 800 banks failed, it's not surprising it was shortlived. It was also the year that Will Rogers said: "We are the first nation to go to the poorhouse in an automobile." The trouble was, not enough chose to go in a Marmon. The Marmon V16 arrived about a year later than Cadiilac's and is regarded by many as its equal or even its superior. The Marmon engine, however, lacked the silent, hydraulic valve system and the counter-balanced camshafts of the Cadillac and its all-aluminum construction was inherently more resonant - if lighter - than the Cadillac's cast iron block. The Marmon is regarded as having had the edge in terms of acceleration and top speed over the Cadillac, but in the kind of cars that the vast majority of buyers were ordering, these considerations were way down the list of priorities. The Cadiilac's total silence and incredible flexibility - it would accelerate smoothly from walking pace in top gear - were of far greater appeal. It is no doubt the case that, given time, Marmon's engineers could have redefined their design even further and gone on to produce the definitive sixteen cylinder automobile. Sadly, time was not on Marmon's side and the commercial might of the General Motors Corporation was on Cadillac's.
    Specification MARMON SIXTEEN Engine Cast iron - V16 Displacement 490 cu. ins Bore and stroke 3.13 x 4.0 ins. Horsepower 200 Body styles Coupe; Sedan; Convertible coupe; Convertible sedan; Close coupled sedan; Limousine + Customs No. of seats 2-7 Weight (lbs) c. 6,000 lbs Price $5,000 Produced 10,115 (all models)     Specification CADILLAC FLEETWOOD V16 Engine 45 degree V16 - Nickel iron block on silicone/aluminum crankcase Displacement 453 cu. ins Bore and stroke 3 x 4 ins. Horsepower 175-185 Body styles Numerous, by Fisher, Fleetwood and Custom No. of seats 2-7 Weight (lbs) Price Produced 3,251 in 1930-31     Specification CADILLAC ROADSTER Engine 90 degree V8 - cast iron block on aluminum crankcase Displacement 353 cu. ins Bore and stroke 3 3/8 x 4 15/16ins. Horsepower 95 Body styles Roadster by Fleetwood No. of seats 2-4 Weight (lbs) 4,450 lbs Price $2,845 Produced 10,000+ (all models  
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