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.

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