Category Archives: Auto Pioneers

1925 Apperson Six Sports Sedan

Another of the lessor-known autos in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum Indiana Automobiles: Precision over Production exhibit is the 1925 Apperson Six Sports Sedan.

1925 Apperson Six Sports Sedan

The Apperson Brothers Automobile Company produced its first auto with a Sintz engine in 1902, building perhaps a dozen for the year. Early two-cylinder Appersons came in 1903 and four-cylinder engines followed in 1904. Production of six-cylinder engines were regularly produced in 1914. The Apperson V-8 engine came in 1916.

It is said that Elmer Apperson’s passion for speed and wide open spaces inspired the Jack Rabbit insignia first seen on their 1906 racers. The Apperson brothers Elmer and Edgar continued their interest in auto racing and their autos competed in a number to events including two Indianapolis 500 races.

Apperson Plant One was built on the site of the original Apperson Riverside Machine Works on Main Street in 1910. Plant Two was constructed in the 1700 block of North Washington Street. The corporate offices were across the street from this plant.

The company enjoyed its peak year of production in 1919, employing about 600 people and producing 3,000 units at the two plants. In the early 1920’s business began to decrease. Elmer Apperson died of a heart attack in 1920, thus weakening the Apperson brother’s strong partnership. The Apperson’s, like many others, were not competitive with the larger manufacturers. Production ceased in 1926, thus ending the saga of Haynes and Apperson’s.

The loveliest Apperson’s were the specials with long, lithe lines, bullet headlamps and oval radiators that were designed by their New York dealer C.T. Silver. Comedian Bob Hope’s first car was an Apperson.

The former homes of Elmer Apperson and Edgar Apperson still stand at 408 W. Mulberry and 518 W. Walnut, respectively.

Thanks to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum for showing this 1925 Apperson Six Sports Sedan. For more information on Indiana cars & companies, follow this link.

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.

Finding Your Way – Part Two

As I mentioned in a previous article, finding your way along America’s highways was not always as easy as it is today. One auto pioneer who made our journeys easier was Anton L. Westgard.

Today, his contributions are recognized as little more than a footnote in early automotive history, but he deserves more. We discovered him while working on our book Hoosier Tour: A 1913 Indiana to Pacific Tour. He became a celebrity for his trailblazing efforts by the time his book Tales of a Pathfinder was published in 1920.

Previous to 1913, A.L. Westgard established a touring record for automobilists by crossing the continent three times in 147 days in a stock automobile while collecting data for a series of strip maps published by the American Automobile Association.

A.L. Westgard 1913
A.L. Westgard 1913

On June 2, 1913, Westgard, as the new vice president of the National Highways Association, left New York City on a tour of 17,000 miles of American roads. The majority of his travels were over terrain that could hardly be called roads. The routes across the Rockies, Sierras, and deserts were over country in which trails were recently designated. The purpose of the trip was to compile first-hand data by a competent civil engineer, geologist, and road expert for a report of the NHA. The association hoped to use the data to convince the federal government to build roads.

Westgard was the recognized expert in preparation of road data. Since 1910, while he was engaged in his work with the American Automobile Association, he opened up and logged the Santa Fe Trail. He also laid out routes for the Glidden and other tours, as well as a series of three transcontinental trails. These were known as the “Trail to the Sunset,” “Midland Trail,” and the “Overland Trail.” The Overland Trail was the northern-most trail to the northwest.

In 1913, after leaving the IAMA Indiana-Pacific Tour in San Francisco in late July, Mr. Westgard and his Premier automobile were shipped to Seattle in preparation for additional trailblazing. He then retraced some of his earlier routes from Seattle through Portland to San Francisco and Los Angeles. In late October, he left on his return trip to New York via San Diego, Phoenix, El Paso, Dallas, Little Rock, Memphis, and Nashville.

A.L. Westgard encounters a covered wagon</br>
A.L. Westgard encounters a covered wagon near Big Springs, Nebr. 1912

Westgard’s goal with the NHA was to mark out and plot each of the principal roads in the 48 States with the exception of Michigan by the end of 1914. NHA asserted that 50,000 miles of national highways – a little more than one-fifth of the total mileage of public roads in the country – would directly serve two-thirds of the entire population. The association’s aim was improvement of these roads.

For 1914, he planned to cover 18,000 miles of highways in the Middle Western and Southern states. That year’s journey started from New Orleans, LA, and went as far north as Pembina, ND, on the Canadian border, east to Tallahassee, FL, and west to Cody, WY. He covered the roughly 18,000-mile distance in a little more than seven months.

In the summer of 1915, Westgard published his map showing the main motor travel routes with special emphasis given to transcontinental and other long-distance highways. A separate map published by NHA showed the 50,000 miles of national highways advocated by the association.

Two Trails Across Continent</br>
Two Trails Across Continent published by The New York Times 1915

There is a good chance that some of those early two-lane byways that you are familiar with today were covered by A.L. Westgard over 100 years ago. We salute this “Daniel Boone of the Gasoline Age.”

For more information on Indiana auto pioneers follow this link.

Howard C. Marmon’s Innovation

Howard C. Marmon
Howard C. Marmon

Howard C. Marmon’s automotive innovation spanned from 1902 to 1933, but today his legacy is nearly forgotten in the automotive world.

Marmon’s first prototype car for Nordyke and Mar¬mon Company was remarkably progressive for 1902. It featured an overhead valve, air-cooled, two-cylinder, 90-degree V configuration engine with pressure lubrication. Marmon’s design was the earliest automotive application of a system that became universal to internal combustion piston engine.

1904 Marmon Model A
1904 Marmon Model A

Early on, Marmon recognized that weight was the enemy in car design. His early automobiles featured cast aluminum bodies, which weighed substantially less than other makes.

The effectiveness of a lighter body was proven in 1911 with a six-cylinder racing model named the Marmon Wasp. This car, driven by Ray Harroun, won the first Indianapolis 500 Mile Race.

Marmon Sixteen ad
Marmon Sixteen ad

The most recognizable of Marmon’s creations was the Marmon Sixteen with its magnificent 491 c.i.d., 200 h.p., V-16 engine. The Marmon Sixteen was the largest American passenger car engine of its era. In February 1931, before production started on the Sixteen, the Society of Automotive Engineers honored Marmon’s huge and gleaming V-16 engine design as “the most notable engineering achieve¬ment of 1930.” The society was especially impressed by the extensive use of lightweight alumi¬num, generally a difficult metal to work and maintain in automobile power plants.

At the very end, Howard Marmon built, at his own expense, the HCM Special, a prototype auto with 150 h.p. V12 engine, independent front-suspension, DeDion rear axle and tubular back¬bone frame. Independent suspension and tubular backbone chassis—with some engineering refinements—would resurface in about 30 years in exotic car applications.

Howard Marmon’s products many have been ahead of their time for the general public, but the engineering community recognized them upon their introduction.

For more information on Indiana auto pioneers follow this link.

1899 Haynes-Apperson Long Distance Run

Last week at the James Madison lecture sponsored by Indiana Automotive, I was reminded of the 1899 Haynes-Apperson long distance run of about 1,000 miles from Kokomo, IN, to Brooklyn, NY. Elwood Haynes and Edgar Apperson drove a recently completed Haynes-Apperson two-passenger phaeton from the factory for delivery to a Brooklyn physician.

1899 Haynes-Apperson phaeton
1899 Haynes-Apperson phaeton

The machine was built to order for Dr. Ashley Webber of Brooklyn for use it in his practice. Before accepting it, Dr. Webber stipulated that the carriage be of a serviceable character and could be relied upon to stand heavy, continuous use. To put it to a severe practical test, Haynes and Apperson undertook to drive it from Kokomo to Brooklyn and deliver it in perfect order.

That’s an outstanding test over roads of the day which were only paved in urban areas, with travel into the country usually being attempted in fair weather. Rain quickly turned country roads into thigh-deep mud ruts. In fact, the first day’s run on July 17, from Kokomo to Portland, IN, was made in less than seven hours at the rate of 11.8 miles an hour over roads heavy with mud. The wheels of the auto carried some fifty pounds of mud at the end of the day. Because of the muddy roads, they rested in Portland for one day.

They proceeded to Cleveland and then along the shores of Lake Erie to Buffalo. Next, their route lay along the line of the New York Central railroad and through the Mohawk Valley to Albany, and down the left bank of the Hudson to New York and Brooklyn.

After arriving, Elwood Haynes commented to New York newspapers: “We have every reason to feel fully satisfied with the machine. The test was made solely to prove the durability of the carriage. Had we desired to make high speed we could have come through in half the time.

All of our running was done in the day-light. I estimate the distance at 1,050 miles. We should have had the exact figures if our cyclometer had not gotten out of order. We did not discover that it had stopped until we ran about 150 miles.

The fastest run was between Buffalo and Syracuse, where our average was 18.4 miles an hour. Our highest speed was 20 miles an hour, but this could have been greatly exceeded. Friday we ran 105 miles between Schenectady and Fishkill, where we laid over for the night.”

The Haynes-Apperson automobile arrived in Brooklyn at 4 pm, Saturday, August 8, completing the longest run yet made in America. There were no break-downs on the entire run of over 1000 miles. The carriage was in good working order, and the trip was greatly enjoyed by the passengers. The number of days actually required for the run was 10, though the time occupied by the journey was 21 days.

At the time, the Haynes-Apperson phaeton set the American long-distance record and was the most talked-about “horseless” machine on the continent.

For more information on Indiana auto pioneers follow this link.