Monthly Archives: August 2016

Visit the Festival of Machines at Conner Prairie

I believe all car buffs should visit the Third Annual Festival of Machines at Conner Prairie on September 17 & 18 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

1931 Marmon Sixteen
1931 Marmon Sixteen

This one-of-a-kind event celebrates Indiana’s rich history of designing, building and innovative transportation. Featuring concours-quality classic cars, vintage aircraft, motorcycles, antique steam engines, race cars and more. View these beautiful machines up close and learn the unique story behind each one.

The Festival of Machines has something for everyone in the family to enjoy. Children can test drive a soapbox derby car, build their own fizzy rocket dragster, take a ride on a hovercraft, or cheer along the tractor parade. This is one of the better car festivals in Central Indiana.

1923 Haynes Sports Sedan
1923 Haynes Sports Sedan

Admission to the festival is free with paid daily admission to Conner Prairie, which is $17 for adults, $16 for seniors ages 65 and older and $12 for youth ages 2-12. Admission to the museum is free for members and children under age 2.

For more information click this link. Perhaps I’ll see you there.

Overland the one that got away

As far as Indianapolis and Indiana are concerned, the Overland automobile was the big one that got away.

The Overland was the creation of Claude E. Cox, a recent graduate of Terre Haute’s Rose Polytechnic Institute in June 1902. The automobile was part of his senior thesis project at Rose for which he devised a four-wheel automobile.

1903 Overland
1903 Overland
Copyright © 1903 Standard Wheel Company

The revised Overland was tested while he worked at the Standard Wheel Company in Terre Haute in February 1903. By January 1905, the facilities at the Terre Haute were cramped, and Cox moved the automotive department to the Standard Wheel facilities in Indianapolis.

In March 1906, David M. Parry put up the majority of the money to organize the Overland Automobile Company in addition to his Parry Manufacturing Company factory at Oliver Avenue and Drover Street in Indianapolis.

John North Willys, an automobile dealer from Elmira, New York, soon contracted with Overland for 500 of its cars. During the Panic of 1907, he learned that Overland was in dire financial straits and the company couldn’t fill the orders. When he came to Indianapolis to scrutinize Overland’s operations, he learned that the company was essentially one day away from receivership. Willys worked with a local hotel proprietor to raise the cash to cover a personal check to cover Overland’s payroll.

Willys ascended to president and general manager in early 1908, and over 400 cars were produced that year, followed by over 4,000 in 1909. Overland returned to profitability, and Willys acquired the Marion Motor Company of Indianapolis that same year. He also acquired the idle Pope-Toledo factory in Toledo, Ohio, at the same time.

In the modernized Willys-Overland facilities in Toledo, the company soon built over 12,000 cars. Thus, all the Overland automotive operations soon moved to Toledo.

This plant went on to produce the Willys Jeep during and after World War II. In fact, Fiat Chrysler America’s Jeep production is headquartered in the Toledo complex.

That’s the story of Overland’s the one that got away.

For more information on Indiana cars & companies, follow this link.

Early Indiana Auto Innovations

A number of innovations debuted on Indiana-built cars. I’d like to share some from the 1920’s and 1930’s.

In October 1926, the new Auburn line was equipped with the Lycoming Eight-in-Line, a very advanced engine. It was a 260 cubic-inch displacement L-head straight-eight engine generating over 60 h.p. at 2600 r.p.m. The car was fully equipped with items that were still aftermarket options on less expensive cars, including bumpers, a rear view mirror, shock absorbers, a windshield wiper, and a stop light.

1929 Cord
1929 Cord

In 1929, Cord and Ruxton introduced front-wheel drive. Cord continued FWD development until the company went out of business at the end of 1937.

In 1931, Studebaker introduced helical-cut transmission gears that almost completely eliminated gear whine. They also introduced the hill-holder clutch, a device that kept the brakes applied as long as the clutch pedal was held down.

1933 Marmon Sixteen Coupe
1933 Marmon Sixteen Coupe

By 1934, in the depths of the Great Depression, luxury car-makers were competing to sell cars with the biggest, most powerful, smoothest running engines. Auburn had a V-12. Duesenberg and Stutz chose sophistication over cylinder count, making straight-eights with dual overhead cams, 32 valves and careful design of intake and exhaust manifolds. The Duesenberg could be ordered with a supercharger, good for 320 h.p. Probably the most powerful naturally-asperated engine was the all-aluminum Marmon V-16, with 490 cubic-inch displacement, making 200 h.p. These cars were huge with a wheelbase somewhere between 130 and 145 inches. Unfortunately, all of those large engines and most of their makers, were gone by the end of the 1930’s.

Studebaker survived the Depression and continued production in South Bend, Indiana, until December 9, 1963. Innovations from this period will be covered later.

For more information on Indiana cars & companies, follow this link.

Mark Dill’s First Super Speedway

I believe one of the best websites about the history of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is Mark Dill’s First Super Speedway..

First Super Speedway

Copyright © 2009 Mark Dill Enterprises

I’ve been monitoring his website for many years since I was introduced to him at the Speedway in 2011. His incredible in-depth reporting about the early days of racing in America is second to none. For example, his recent article about racing in the early 1900’s shares an incredible amount of information on the Brooklands, the Vanderbilt cup races and the beginnings of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Then there is Mark’s research on the Speedway founders Carl G. Fisher, James A. Allison, Arthur C. Newby and Frank H. Wheeler telling the story of their venture to launch the Speedway as an automotive testing ground. Their tenacity in improving the track after the disastrous first auto races in August 1909 led to races on Memorial Day 1910 and announcing the first Indianapolis 500 in May 1911.

1905 Premier Special
1905 Premier Special
Copyright © 2012 Dennis E. Horvath

Another of his articles talks about Carl Fisher’s 1905 Premier racer built for the Vanderbilt Cup race. Unfortunately, the car was 300 pounds overweight, and the American Automobile Association wouldn’t allow him to race in the Vanderbilt. In November, Fisher drove the mechanized beast to win a five-mile handicap support race at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.

Mark does a great job of telling the story of the Speedway over the years. I invite you the check out the First Super Speedway to peruse the continuing story of the Speedway.

For more information on our automotive heritage, follow this link.

Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum Celebrates 42 years

The Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum is celebrating a milestone this year – its 42nd year of being open to the public! This National Historic Landmark opened its doors on July 6, 1974, at noon. Since opening, it has welcomed over two million visitors. Each year the museum welcomes visitors from every state and over 40 countries.

The Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum is the only automobile museum in the world that inhabits the original international headquarters building of the cars on display. “This is where the history happened,” said Kendra Klink, Chief Operating Officer of the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum. “Visitors can walk the same hallways, be inspired by the same beautiful art deco architecture as the design legends that created the rolling sculptures on display. To have this gem in Auburn, Indiana – our community’s backyard – is exciting and worth celebrating.”

1936 Cord convertible coupe
1936 Cord convertible coupe
Copyright © 2011 Dennis E. Horvath

“A lot has changed since the museum opened its doors to the public in 1974, including the integration of interactive touchscreen kiosks at selected automobiles, a photo car for the entire family to get into, a design gallery where children of all ages can design an automobile, and much more,” said executive director Laura Brinkman. “With all of these innovations and changes, one thing that has not changed is the museum’s dedication to promoting Auburn’s legendary automotive heritage on a national level. A visit to the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum should be on your family’s ‘To-Do’ list for the holiday weekend. I can guarantee you that your entire family will leave the museum with happy memories.”

I first visited the museum a few years after it opened, and I was mesmerized by the stories of these autos. In fact, this visit started my quest to collect information and memorabilia about Indiana-built automobiles. In 1994, I attended an automotive history conference at the museum celebrating Indiana’s automotive centennial. This museum event kindled my interest in celebrating Indiana’s car culture, which continues today.

I have visited the museum many times over the past 42 years, and I can say that every time is a new experience. One thing I particularly enjoy is visiting the design gallery and seeing the clay sculpture of Gordon Buehrig’s masterpiece, the Cord Model 810. This can be truly called rolling sculpture. I enjoy visualizing Buehrig and the other designers working on this design that the New York Museum of Modern Art in 1951 recognized “as the outstanding American contribution to automobile design.”

1919 Cole Aero Eight TourSedan
1919 Cole Aero-Eight TourSedan
Copyright © 2011 Dennis E. Horvath

I also enjoy the two other namesakes of the museum, Auburn and Duesenberg. I don’t believe there is anywhere else in the world that has finer examples of these automotive icons. The Cars of Indiana Gallery is another special place that includes an 1894 Black prototype, a 1919 Cole Aero-Eight TourSedan, and a 1932 Studebaker President.

As I have said many times before, the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum is a must see destination for every automotive enthusiast. Happy birthday Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum.

For more information on Indiana cars & companies follow this link.