Monthly Archives: January 2016

Use of aluminum in autos debuted in 1902

Contrary to the hoopla about Ford Motor Company’s F-150, the use of aluminum in autos debuted in 1902. An Indiana-built auto manufacturer may deserve the distinction of the first use of aluminum in autos.

Howard C. Marmon’s first prototype car is credited with development of a water-cooled, two-cylinder V-2 engine with an aluminum crankcase. The body construction was cast aluminum, with the rear compartment being a one-piece casting, including an integral bustle trunk. Its cast-aluminum body construction avoided the cracked surfaces and chipped paint that traditional coach builders had with wood body construction.

1904 Marmon Model A
1904 Marmon Model A

The 1906 Marmon catalog noted, “We make the aluminum castings for bodies and machinery parts; brass, bronze, and iron castings; do all machine work and gear cutting except cutting the bevel gears.” The 1907 Model F featured an exclusive all-aluminum body.

The 1916 introduction of the Marmon Model 34 featured an entire body and radiator shell made of aluminum, as was the six-cylinder engine cylinder block and most other engine components, including the push rods.

With the introduction of the Marmon Sixteen in 1930, it appeared that Marmon had saved the best for the last. The Sixteen, a magnificent $5,000 automobile with a 491 c.i.d. V-16 engine produced 200 h.p. and was good for over 100 m.p.h.

1933 Marmon Sixteen
1933 Marmon Sixteen

The Marmon Sixteen was honored by The Society of Automotive Engineers as “the most notable engineering achievement of 1930.” The society was especially impressed by the extensive use of lightweight aluminum, generally a difficult metal to work and maintain in automobile power plants.

A number of automotive enthusiasts over the years have praised Marmon as a fine automobile. Howard C. Marmon’s use of aluminum in automobiles spanned from 1902 to 1933. This predates Ford Motor Company’s claims by over 115 years. Indiana’s innovative automotive heritage is proven in this instance.

For more information on Indiana auto pioneers follow this link.

Electric Car Usage Then & Now

Carl G. Fisher had an idea over a hundred years ago that’s relevant today. A letter dated June 18, 1909 describes that Fisher Automobile Co. had a similar program to Indianapolis’ plan for the nation’s largest all-electric car sharing program slated for operation later this spring.

Fisher’s service proposed providing garaging and servicing Baker Electrics for Indy’s downtown residents. They could pick-up their fully charged auto and use it for the day and then return it to the garage knowing their vehicle was always ready. This was an innovative service for electric motorists almost 105 years ago. The only thing missing compared with Indianapolis’ idea was the car sharing element.

Fisher Automobile Company Letterhead
Fisher Automobile Company Letterhead
Copyright ©1909 Carl G. Fisher

The Blue Indy car sharing element was formulated by the City of Indianapolis in June 2014. Mayor Greg Ballard, Bolloré Group, and leaders from Indianapolis’ largest employers, universities, hospitality destinations, and civic organizations announced that Indianapolis has been selected as the site of the largest electric car share program in the United States. Bolloré Group planned to invest approximately $35 million to launch an all-electric car share program. The system will feature 500 electric vehicles and 1,200 charging stations at 200 car-share locations. The move marks the first time Bolloré will replicate the success of its Paris car share program outside of France.

“This program provides a great opportunity for downtown workers, residents and visitors to get around town in a car without owning one,” said Mayor Ballard. “This service allows a person, government or company to only pay for a car when they need and want it. They aren’t paying for fuel, insurance, maintenance and parking costs when the vehicle is not in use.”

The Blue Indy car share program is modeled after Bolloré’s popular Autolib service in Paris, which features over 1,700 electric vehicles, 4,200 charging stations, and 37,000 members. As in Paris, the Indianapolis service is aimed at providing new mobility options to the public. It will also allow Indianapolis to become one of the most “electrified” cities in the US with a dense network of charging stations available to private EV owners.

2014 Nissan Leaf
2014 Nissan Leaf
Copyright © 2014 Nissan North America

The car share program will be available to individual members and government/corporate users. The City of Indianapolis and many other governmental and business organizations are looking into corporate memberships in order to reduce the size of their vehicle fleet.

Indiana’s history of automotive innovation will continue with the implementation of the nation’s largest all-electric car sharing program later this spring. Way to go Indy!

For more information on our automotive heritage follow this link.

Who developed the first automobile in America?

Who developed the first automobile in America? It’s a question that has been discussed thoroughly. Although a group of native Hoosiers and long-time Indiana residents lay claim to that title, most historians agree that the auto in America emerged naturally as the requisite technology developed. It was probably developed concurrently by individuals who were working independently on developing the “horseless carriage.” Suitable internal combustion gasoline engines were not available in the United States until the late 1880’s or early 1890’s.

1895 Duryea
1895 Duryea

But when historians must name a title holder, generally they point to J. Frank and Charles E. Duryea. By Frank’s account they produced their first operable machine in Springfield, Massachusetts. A contemporary story in the town’s newspaper The Republican, September 22, 1893, confirms the initial, rather disappointing test run.

They went on to win the first American automobile race, the Chicago Times-Herald Race on November 29, 1895. In 1896, they used the same design to manufacture, which is accepted as the start of the commercial auto industry in America. Their Duryea Motor Wagon Company failed in 1898.

1894 Haynes Pioneer
Elwood Haynes in the 1894 Pioneer
Copyright Elwood Haynes Museum

It is a well-known fact that Elwood Haynes of Kokomo successfully demonstrated his “Pioneer” automobile along Pumpkinvine Pike on July 4, 1894. This run preceded commercial production of Haynes-Apperson automobiles by two years. With the failure of the Duryea firm, Haynes was recognized as the proprietor and inventive genius behind the oldest automobile company in America.

1891 Lambert
1891 Lambert

An 1960 atricle in Antique Automobile, and an entry in Encyclopedia Brittanica credited John W. Lambert with building America’s first successful automobile in 1891 while he was a resident of Ohio City, Ohio (just across the state line, south east of Decatur, Indiana). This predated both the Duryea and Haynes claims of the first American auto. Lambert may not have pressed his claim because he felt, that although extremely successful mechanically, it was a financial failure because he was unable to generate sufficient sales to build it.

So, please don’t shoot the messenger. We aren’t choosing favorites.

For more information on Indiana auto pioneers follow this link.

Are Motor Manners appropriate for today’s driving?

The National Highway Users Conference published Motor Manners by Emily Post in 1949. Are motor manners appropriate for today’s driving as they were some 64 years ago?

Although the underlying focus of the pamphlet was to promote highway safety in the post World War II era, perhaps the group thought that the influx of female drivers would respond better to a list of manners rather that a set of rules from a driver’s manual. In any case, Post’s booklet harkens back to a time when our society was concerned about the proper motor manners.

Motor Manners
Motor Manners cover
Copyright © 2013 AGG Publishing

Just plain simple courtesy and consideration for others at all times will make the use of streets and highways safer, more efficient and more pleasurable. Here is a “Code of Courtesy,” as written by Post, that can be followed by all would be well-mannered drivers and pedestrians.

1. A well-mannered driver will share the road, never usurping the right-of-way from other vehicles or pedestrians.

2. A well-behaved driver uses his horn as a warning device in emergencies and never as a bad-tempered voice to threaten or scold.

3. An honorable man or woman would no more cheat traffic regulations than cheat at games or in sports.

4. Courteous pedestrians will cross busy streets at intersections, respect traffic lights and avoid darting out from behind parked vehicles.

5. An obliging driver will never fail to dim his lights when meeting other cars in the dark.

6. Well-bred people, whether drivers or passengers, are just as considerate of each other as are hosts and guests in a drawing room.

7. An accommodating driver parks his car so as not to interfere with the use of other parking spaces or with the movement of other vehicles.

8. Orderly drivers always keep to the right, except when using the proper lane for turning or passing.

9. A courteous driver never fails to signal his intentions to stop, turn or pull out.

10. Considerate persons always drive at speeds which are reasonable and prudent, considering traffic, road and weather conditions.

11. One who has any consideration for the safety of others will refrain from driving when physically exhausted.

12. Kindly persons never show curiosity at the scene of an accident and always give any assistance that may be passable.

So, what do you think?

Check out our republished version of Motor Manners here.

Ford Motor Company announces $5 a Day

Ford laborers were given a significant increase in pay on January 5, 1914. Ford Motor Company announced a $5 a day minimum wage for an eight-hour shift, which started a seismic shift for labor across the industry.

In early 1914, Henry Ford and company leaders were troubled by high rates of absenteeism and turnover at the Highland Park plant. Daily absenteeism ran at 10% of the workforce and the turnover of 380% required the company to constantly replenish its workforce with new hires.

Ford Highland Park January 6, 1914
Ford Highland Park January 6, 1914
Copyright © Ford Motor Company

By sunrise the morning following the announcement, there were some 10,000 men milling around in the below freezing weather with swirling snow outside Highland Park. They came to fill the openings of the additional shift. On Saturday, January 10, signs announced that hiring had ceased.

A. S. Blakely reported in the January 11 Indianapolis Star “the recent announcement of the Ford Motor Company that it would distribute $10,000,000 profits among its employees in semi-monthly dividends and make a minimum wage scale of $5 a day, has been given the subject of general interest in Indianapolis during the past week. Not only members of the (auto industry) fraternity have been discussing the great gift, but business men in general have commented favorably on the action of the Detroit concern. The announcement goes even further and says that the company will employ 4,000 more men by working in three eight-hour shifts and operating the plant continuously. In a recent interview, Henry Ford, president of the great institution, made the following statement concerning the announcement. “We have estimated the earnings of our company and will divide it as we go along, or, in other words, as we earn it. It will be in the pay envelopes semi-monthly. Our belief is that the division of earnings between capital and labor is not fair and that labor is entitled to a greater share. We desire to express our belief in some practical way and therefore have adopted this plan.””

The new $5 Day for an eight-hour shift was achieved by replacing the two existing nine-hour shifts with a nonstop rotation of eight-hour shifts around the clock. Ford Motor Company got more production, and the workers put in fewer hours. This was a win-win for everyone.

The $5 Day changed the absenteeism and turnover. The Highland Park daily absenteeism dropped to under 1%, and replacement hiring dropped from 53,000 in 1913 to just 2,000 by 1915.

Ford Indianapolis Body Drop
Ford Indianapolis Body Drop
Copyright © Ford Motor Company

These favorable production conditions encouraged Ford to build a number of branch assembly plants across the country. Construction of the Ford branch assembly plant (known as Plant 215) in Indianapolis at East Washington Street and Oriental began later in fall 1914. The Indianapolis plant commenced production in spring 1915. By the mid-1920’s, this plant assembled 300 cars per day.

Henry Ford’s announcement of a $5 a day minimum wage impacted laborers across the country including Indianapolis. This gesture certainly impacted the dream of car ownership for the common-man.

For more information on our automotive heritage follow this link.