The Lexington Motor Company was founded in 1909 in Lexington, Kentucky, by Knisey Stone, a Kentucky race horse promoter, Several months later the company outgrew its building. In 1910, a group of Connersville businessmen noted that the community had too much tied up in the buggy and carriage industry, which was being displaced by the growing use of the automobile. The group enticed the infant Lexington Motor Car Company to relocate from Lexington to a new plant at 800 West 18th Street in the McFarlan industrial park.
John C. Moore, the company’s chief engineer, immediately started on improvements to the Lexington to keep the company ahead of its competition. His 1911 multiple exhaust was reported to give 30% more power on less fuel. Each cylinder had a separate exhaust.
Dual exhaust pipes and mufflers were used.
The company was promotional minded and entered both the Glidden Tour and the
Indianapolis 500 in 1912.
Financial difficulties of 1913 were solved when E.W. Ansted acquired Lexington to assemble the six-cylinder Howard for a contract with a Chicago distributor. The resultant company was named Lexington-Howard. In 1915, the named changed back to Lexington
Motor Company. The regular four-cylinder engine was supplemented by a light six and a supreme six. With the new Ansted engines, its cars became modern and powerful.
It should be noted that from the beginning, Lexingtons like most other Indiana-built automobiles, were assembled cars, being built with components from many different suppliers. Lexingtons were popular with Thoroughbred Six and Minute Man Six models.
Lexington’s first plant expansion was in 1915. A factory building was erected just north of the office. Also built at the same time was a 100 foot smoke stack with the Lexington name in lighter color bricks. Four years later the company built a 106,050 sq.ft. assembly building just west of the office.
In 1917, engineer Moore put together a new frame with a rigid box cross-section that eliminated the problem of jammed doors caused by frame flexing. This car also had an emergency brake affixed to the drive shaft. In 1918, Lexington autos featured hardtop enclosures made by the Rex Manufacturing Company of Connersville
Also in 1918, the newly formed Ansted Engineering Company acquired the Teetor-Harley Motor Corporation of Hagerstown. In 1919, the 85,306 sq.ft. Ansted Engine building was erected just north of the Lexington plant and extended to 21st Street. The combined Lexington and Ansted facilities measured three blocks long and two blocks wide totaling 270,000 sq.ft. of floor space.
Two short wheelbase race cars with the powerful Ansted engine were built by Lexington for the 1920 Pikes Peak hill climb. The cars placed first and second in their initial outing and brought home the Penrose trophy. Again in 1924, Otto Loesche won, with a 18 minute, 15 second dash and brought the trophy home for keeps. The Penrose trophy is on display at the Reynolds Museum on Vine Street.
The formation of the United States Automotive Corporation was announced by President,
Frank B. Ansted, at the New York Auto Show on January 12, 1920. It was a $10 million merger with the Lexington Motor Car Company, the Ansted Engineering Company, and
The Connersville Foundry Corporation all from Connersville; plus the Teetor-Harley
Motor Corporation of Hagerstown.
1920 would mark the high point of Lexington production with over 6,000 built.
On December 16, 1921, William C. Durant founder of General Motors and former GM
president ordered 30,000 Ansted engines for his new Durant Six that was being built in
Muncie by Durant Motors, Inc.
Late in 1921, Alanson P. Brush (designer of the Brush runabout, and consulting engineer
to General Motors) sued the company, alleging that the Ansted engine infringed on a number of his patents. The negative publicity hurt.
Records show that in 1922, United States Automotive Corporation, Lexington’s parent company, owned ten different factories that were building parts for its cars. Auto historian Henry Blommel notes in his writings “It was a great alliance of parts-making plants that found the culmination of its efforts in the finished Lexington car.”
The post World War I recession of the early twenties destroyed many American automobile manufacturers. Lexington Motor Car Company and United States
Automotive Corporation were affected by these recessionary events. Production 1n 1922, plummeted to roughly a third that of 1920.
In 1923, The Ansted Engine Company entered receivership, with William C. Durant as a principle shareholder. Lexington Motor Car Company also entered receivership in 1923.
In 1926 and 1927, E.L. Cord’s Auburn Automobile Company purchased Ansted Engine
and the Lexington Motor Car Company respectfully. The Lexington was soon phased out.
Cord then invested $2 million in plant and production facilities. The new manufacturing plant was comparable to the most modern assembly plants anywhere in the world. It consisted of 20 buildings on 82 acres, and 1,500,000 square feet of manufacturing area available for the production of 400 bodies and 250 completed cars per day. It may have been a predecessor to “Just-In-Time” manufacturing. Sheet metal, wood, engines and other materials entered the plant on the northeast side, and the completed car was delivered to the customer near the southwest corner. That’s another story to be told later.
Early Lexingtons of 1910 to 1913 were four-cylinder autos built on 116″ to 122″ w.b.s, with body styles including 2 p runabouts and roadsters, 5 & 7 p touring, and limousines.
1914 marked the introduction of a six-cylinder auto on a 130″ w.b. In 1915, the 29 h.p. light six rode on a 128″ w.b. and the 41 h.p. supreme six rode on a 130 w.b., offering a range of body styles: 3 p roadster, 5, 6, & 7 p touring, and 7 p limousine. 1919 marked the introduction enclosed bodies with names like Coupelet, Sedanette, and Salon Sedan all with six-cylinder engines on a 122″ w.b. 1921 & 1922 Lexingtons were offered in two series: Series S a 47 h.p. six-cylinder on a 122″ w.b., and the Series T a 60 h.p. six-cylinder on a 128″ w.b., body styles included 5 & 7 p touring, sedan, coupe, Sedanette, and 7 p Salon Sedan. 1924 & 1925 Lexingtons were offered in two versions: Concord a 65 h.p. six-cylinder on a 119″ w.b., and the Minute Man a 72 h.p. six-cylinder on a 123″ w.b., body styles included 5 & 7 p touring, Sedan, coupe, 5 p Royal Coach, and 5 p Brougham. And the 1926 & 1927 Lexingtons offered the Model 6-50 a 65 h.p. six-cylinder on a 119″ w.b., body styles included a 4 p Roadster, 5 p Phaeton, 5 p Sedan, 5 p Landau Sedan, and 4 p Landaulet.
Lexington Production: 1909 – 123; 1910 – 625: 1911 – 939; 1912 – 1,013; 1913 – 1,915; 1914 – 1,612; 1915 – 2,814; 1916 – 3,115; 1917 – 3,917; 1918 – 4,123; 1919 – 3,124; 1920 – 6,128; 1921 – 4,236; 1922 – 2,114; 1923 – 1,330; 1924 – 498; 1925 – 339; 1926 – 183
I recommend The Lexington Automobile: A Complete History, by Richard A. Stanley, ISBN 0786425423, for further reading.
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