Hardly a week goes by without someone remarking to me about a milepost in Indiana automotive history. Indianapolis once had more automobile manufacturers than Detroit. Movie stars and kings once clamored for specific models made only in Indiana. The state was also home to several innovations such as tilt steering, cruise control, and front-wheel drive.
In this series of posts, I’ll share some of my list of Indiana’s mileposts in automotive history. I wish to share this automotive heritage to energize and excite auto enthusiasts to get involved with collectible cars.
Early 19th century Construction of the Indiana section of the National Road from Richmond to West Terre Haute took place between 1827 and 1839. It was the road that led wagons and coaches westward.
1885 The world’s first gas pump is invented by Sylvanus F. Bowser of Fort Wayne.
1891 Charles H. Black of Indianapolis garners the dubious distinction of having Indiana’s first auto accident when he ran a German-manufactured Benz automobile into downtown store windows.
1894 Elwood Haynes demonstrates one of the earliest American automobiles along Pumpkinvine Pike on the outskirts of Kokomo.
1895 Elwood Haynes introduces the first use of aluminum alloy in an automobile in the Haynes-Apperson crankcase.
1896 The corrugated metal pipe culvert is invented by two Crawfordsville men Stanley Simpson, the town engineer, and James H. Watson, a sheet metal worker. Their patented pipe culvert has now become a common sight on highway construction projects around the world.
1900 Tom and Harry Warner, Abbott and J.C. Johnson, Col. William Hitchcock, and Thomas Morgan found Warner Gear Company of Muncie. Warner Gear’s first major contribution to the industry was the differential.
1902 The Marmon motorcar, designed by Indianapolis automaker Howard C. Marmon, has an air-cooled overhead valve V-twin engine and a revolutionary lubrication system that uses a drilled crankshaft to keep its engine bearings lubricated with oil-fed under pressure by a gear pump. This is the earliest automotive application of a system that has long since become universal to internal combustion piston engine design.
1902 The first Studebaker motorcar, introduced in South Bend, is an electric car. Studebaker Bros. had produced more than 750,000 wagons, buggies, and carriages since 1852.
1903 The Overland has its engine in the front, and rear-seat entrances are through the sides rather than the rear.
1903 The Auburn motorcar, introduced by Auburn Automobile Co. of Auburn, is a single-cylinder runabout with solid tires and a steering tiller. Charles, Frank and Morris Eckhart of Eckhart Carriage Co. started the firm with $7,500 in capital.
1903 The Haynes-Apperson is designed with a tilting steering column to allow low easy access for the driver or passenger upon entering or leaving the vehicle.
1903 Premier claims that the oak leaf on its radiator badge is the first use of an emblem as an automobile trademark.
1905 The Haynes Model L has a semi-automatic transmission.
For more information on Indiana automotive heritage check out our book Indiana Cars: A History of the Automobile in Indiana