Indiana’s plentiful supply of lumber lured several industries into its borders, including the makers of carriages and wagons during the mid to late 1800s. The automobile industry in the early 1900s was the a natural offspring of carriage manufacturers, which could provide not just parts but skilled labor as well.
The growth spurt between 1910 and 1920 separated the nation’s auto makers into two groups-the mass-produced auto giants and the craftsmen. Most of Indiana’s auto makers chose to be craftsmen and purchased automotive parts and assembled them by hand. As a result, these companies were small, and many became known for producing high-class and high-priced cars. Nearly every one of the Indiana cars that became well-known were in this category, including names like Duesenberg, Cord, Stutz and Cole, and appealed to the upper end of the consumer market.
Until about 1920, there seemed to be enough demand for both the mass-produced and high-quality cars. However, a series of economic factors at this time helped to contribute to the decline of Hoosier auto making. Price slashing and an expansion-crazed environment trapped Indiana manufacturers in a philosophical battle with the Michigan titans. Hoosiers were ill-prepared for this kind of competition, and most wanted to remain craftsmen choosing to concentrate on higher priced vehicles instead of diversifying. Plus, the economic recession during this time added more financial burdens on the population, which became increasingly interested in the mass-produced auto. Michigan had the financial backers willing to commit financial resources to give the state’s auto manufacturing the boost it needed. The Hoosier financial community generally proved to be of little assistance to its own local automobile industry.
Studebaker was the lone survivor of the depression, continuing production until late 1963.
However, the 1980s through the 2000s introduced a revival, evident in the introduction of the Mishawaka-produced Hummers, the Lafayette-produced Subarus, the Princeton-produced Toyotas, and the Greensburg-produced Hondas.
Hoosiers are proud of their automotive culture. There are several auto museums around the state celebrating this heritage.
If your Indiana car club is looking for a program for March 2017, I strongly recommend a trip to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum Indiana Automobiles: Precision over Production exhibit. Visit the Indiana Automobiles: Precision over Production exhibit before the closing date of March 26, 2017.
I believe the folks at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum have done an incredible job of telling the story of Indiana-built automobiles. They have gathered 35 cars from an 1896 Reeves Motocycle to a 1963 Studebaker Avanti. Plus, nine race cars from a 1905 Premier to the 1950 Cummins Diesel Special are included.
Indiana once vied for Michigan’s title as the automotive titan of the United States. It was at a time when the names of automobiles like Duesenberg, Stutz and Cord brought worldwide acclaim to the Hoosier state. Indiana’s contributions to automotive history have been numerous. Tilt steering, cruise control and hydraulic brakes are just three examples of the innovations introduced by Indiana automotive pioneers. Yet the innovators themselves have become nearly forgotten–overlooked as we take their inventions increasingly for granted as part of the standard equipment on today’s models.
Over 40 Indiana towns and cities can claim some sort of connection to our early automotive history. More than 400 firms – large and small – operated statewide between 1894 and 1963.
The earliest car on display at the museum is a Reeves Motocycle built in Columbus, Indiana, which used a two-cycle, two-cylinder Sintz gasoline engine with a variable speed transmission produced by Reeves.
As many of you know Indianapolis was one of the largest producers of automobiles in the nation. Some of these autos are well represented from the 1899 Waverley Electric to the 1933 Duesenberg Model J Berline. Other Indianapolis autos on display are various models of American Underslung, Cole, Marmon, Pathfinder, Premier, and Stutz.
Other makes built in other Indiana towns and cities are represented with cars like Apperson, Auburn, Cord, Davis, Haynes, Lexington, McFarlan, Monroe, Richmond, and Studebaker.
I invite your Indiana car club to come to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum and check out these Indiana-built cars today. This may be the only chance you’ll see such a wide array of Indiana-built cars at one location.
For more information on Indiana-built automobiles, follow this link.
Renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright once described the first Cord model as “the best design from my ‘streamline’ standpoint ever put on the market”. Made in Connersville, the Cord L-29, with its long, sweeping fenders, did indeed set a new course in automotive design.
The Cord L-29 was introduced in August 1929 as a 1930 model. It was the first production automobile with front-wheel drive and was made to fill the gap between the low-priced Auburn and the top-of-the-mark Duesenberg in the Cord Corporation line of cars. The Cord sedan and brougham were priced at $3,095 each, and the cabriolet and phaeton were $3,295.
Project engineer Cornelius W. Van Ranst designed the new front-wheel drive system around the units in the successful Indianapolis 500 racecars. Harry Miller and Indianapolis driver Leon Duray served as consultants on the project. Alan H. Leamy was the chief stylist.
Cord claimed advantages in safety, easy handling, comfort, and durability. Plus, front-wheel drive provided a lower body silhouette, allowing a distinctive and pleasing front end appearance that appealed to coachbuilders.
The L-29 was available in four models: a convertible Cabriolet with rumble seat, four-door convertible Phaeton Sedan, five-passenger Sedan, and the five-passenger Brougham. All four models sported a stylish cadet-type visor. The Cabriolet and the Phaeton Sedan stood only 58 inches high, some 12 inches lower than their competitors. They are known for their long, low, racy lines. Their narrow corner posts provided a clear field of vision. The V-shaped radiator grille would inspire a throng of imitators, most notably the 1931 Chrysler Imperial.
The L-29 regularly won prizes in the European Concours d’Elegance, which was quite an accomplishment for an American manufacturer. A Cord L-29 Cabriolet was also the pace car for the 1930 Indianapolis 500-mile race.
Unfortunately, the Cord L-29, which was the first automobile to bear Errett Lobban Cord’s name, was introduced only two months before the stock market crash in October 1929. Although praised for its quality, sales didn’t reflect its popularity. The L-29 was built from 1929-1931 with only 5,010 units produced. The last cars were 1932 models.
After a lapse of four years, the Cord name was revived for 1936. Gordon M. Buehrig’s original work on the Cord Model 810 began as a “baby Duesenberg” in 1933. By December 1934, the design of the new front-wheel-drive model was essentially complete and then shelved. When the project was revived in July 1935, there was less than four months in which to build and test a prototype, tool up, and get the cars into production for the New York Auto Show on November 2, 1935. The company made the deadline, but without the transmissions in place. Plus, the phaetons were without any tops. The missing parts didn’t matter. The Cord 810 stopped the show. People had to stand on surrounding cars just to get a glimpse of Cord’s exciting new design. Cord received over 7,600 requests for more information on the 810. Unfortunately, due to unanticipated production start-up problems, almost six months would pass before any deliveries were made.
The new catalog boasted, “The New Cord demonstrates that it is possible to build a radically different kind of motor car which is, nevertheless, completely in accord with the very highest standards of beauty and good taste. ”We predict that the New Cord will exert a pronounced influence upon the future offerings of the entire automotive industry.” The company extolled further, “You will be constantly amazed that a car so low in design should be so spacious and provide so much head and leg room.”
The first Cord 810 rolled off the assembly line in Connersville on February 15, 1936. Innovations on the Cord 810 included disappearing headlights, concealed door hinges, rheostat-controlled instrument lights, variable speed windshield wipers, Bendix Electric Hand (steering column mounted-electric gear pre-selection unit), and factory installed radio. The model was the first automobile in the United States to adopt unit body construction in its full sense.
In November 1936, the company introduced the Cord 812 for the 1937 model year. An example of the model’s claim-to-fame was its use as the official chief observer’s car for the 1937 Indianapolis 500 mile race.
When production of the Cord automobile was terminated in October 1937, fewer than 3,000 Model 810/812 units had been produced. The automotive operations of Cord Corporation died when E.L. Cord shifted his focus to other interests.
In their day, these Cords stirred the imagination of the motoring public. Their clean simplicity of line, exciting innovations, and luxurious appointments won much admiration and many awards. The Cord Model 810/812 is revered by many as one of the most popular classic cars of all time.
For more information on Indiana-built automobiles, follow this link.
Indiana once vied for Michigan’s title as the automotive titan of the United States. It was at a time when the names of automobiles like Duesenberg, Stutz and Cord brought worldwide acclaim to the Hoosier state. Indiana’s contributions to automotive history have been numerous. Tilt steering, cruise control and hydraulic brakes are just three examples of the innovations created by Indiana automotive pioneers. Yet the innovators themselves have become nearly forgotten–overlooked as we take their inventions increasing for granted as part of the standard equipment on today’s models.
Indiana’s automotive innovation began with Elwood Haynes’ kitchen experiment on an internal combustion engine in the fall of 1893. Haynes’ research and development led to the demonstration of his “Pioneer” automobile along Pumpkivine Pike, outside Kokomo, on July 4, 1894. Haynes and two passengers traveled at a speed of seven miles an hour and drove about one and one-half miles further into the country. He then turned the auto around, and ran the four miles into town without making a single stop.
“I remember as the “little machine” made its way along the streets we were met by a “bevy” of girls mounted on wheels.,” Haynes noted. “I shall never forget the expression on their faces as they wheeled aside, separating like a flock of swans and gazing wonder-eyed at the uncouth and utterly unexpected “little machine.”
In 1898 the Haynes-Apperson Company was incorporated and auto production was on its way in Indiana.
By the late 1800s Indiana’s plentiful supply of lumber had also lured several industries into its borders, including the makers of carriages and wagons. The automobile industry in the early 1900s was a natural offspring of carriage manufacturers, which could provide not just parts but the skilled labor as well. Five Indiana manufacturers entered commercial automobile production in the late 1890s.
By 1900, The Haynes-Apperson Automobile Company was one of the few firms in the country with annual production exceeding 100 units. In the 1900s, 74 different models were introduced by Indiana manufacturers. These models range from A to Z, with names like Auburn, Cole, InterState, Lambert, Marmon, Maxwell, National, Overland, Premier, Richmond, Studebaker, Waverly, and Zimmerman.
The growth spurt between 1910 and 1920 separated the nation’s auto makers into two groups–the “mass-produced auto giants” and the “craftsmen.” Most of Indiana’s auto makers chose to be “craftsmen” and purchased automotive parts and assembled them by hand. Thus, these companies were small, and many became known for producing high-class and high-priced cars. Nearly every one of the Indiana cars that became well-known were in this category, includ¬ing names like Duesenberg, Cord, Stutz and Cole, appealing to the upper end of the consumer market.
The teens saw the introduction of another 69 Indiana models. Included in this group are Elcar, Empire, Jack Rabbit, Lexington, McIntyre, McFarlan, Monroe, Parry, ReVere, and Stutz.
Until about 1920, there seemed to enough demand for both the “mass-produced” and “high-quality” cars. However, a series of eco¬nomic factors at this time helped contribute to the decline of Hoosier auto making. Price slashing and an expansion-crazed environment trapped Indiana manufacturers in a philosophical battle with the Michigan titans. Hoosiers were ill-prepared for this kind of competition, and most wanted to remain craftsmen choosing to concen¬trate on “higher priced” vehicles instead of diversifying. Plus, the economic recession in the early 1920s added more financial burdens on the population, which became increasingly interested in the “mass-produced auto.”
Michigan had the financial backers willing to commit financial resources to give the state’s auto manufacturing the boost it needed. The Hoosier financial community generally proved to be of little assistance to its own local automobile industry.
Indiana in the twenties saw this decline to 22 models introduced. Among these were Blackhawk, Cord, Duesenberg, Elgin, Erskine, H.C.S., Lafayette, and Roosevelt.
Studebaker was the lone Hoosier survivor of the depression, continuing production for another 30 years, ending in December 1963.
Commercial production of the automobile in America began a little over 120 years ago, and America’s lifestyle has never been the same. Indiana automakers have made many contributions to that history. So, the next time you drive your car, you might wonder where you’d be without Indiana’s continuing automotive innovation and contributions.
For more information on Indiana cars & companies, follow this link.
Throughout the past, Indiana manufacturers have made major contributions to the automobile. For example, in 1902, the Marmon motorcar had an air-cooled overhead valve V-twin engine and a revolutionary lubrication system that used a drilled crankshaft to keep its engine bearings lubricated with oil-fed under pressure by a gear pump. This was the earliest automotive application of a system that has long since become universal to internal combustion piston engine design.
Would you believe tilt-steering was introduced in 1903by Haynes? The 1903 Haynes use of a tilting steering column allowed easy access for the driver and/or passenger upon entering of leaving the vehicle. This feature didn’t become popular on most production cars until about seventy years later.
In 1911 Haynes Automobile Company was the first to equip an open car with a top, a windshield, head lamps and a speedometer as standard equipment.
Studebaker introduced a deferred payment plan in 1916 with an initial 25 percent cash payment and 12 equal monthly payments. In less than ten years, 50 percent of all cars sold in America were bought on time.
In 1922, The Model A Duesenberg was the first U.S. production motorcar with hydraulic brakes, the first with an overhead camshaft, and the first U.S. straight eight engine. Ninety-two of these luxury cars were sold in 1922, a number that rose to 140 in 1923.
Stutz installed safety-glass windshields as standard equipment on its 1926 high-priced motorcar models.
The first motorcar with front-wheel drive, The Cord L-29, was introduced by E. L. Cord’s Auburn Automobile Company. Front-wheel drive didn’t become popular for another 50 years. Also in 1929 Marmon warranted a listing in the Guiness Book of Records for its factory-installed radio.
The Cord 810 introduced in 1936 was a sleek modern motorcar with advanced features that include disappearing headlights, rheostat-controlled instrument lights, variable speed windshield wipers, a steering column mounted electric gear pre-selection unit, and was the first automobile in this country to adopt full unit body construction.
Studebaker was the first American car to offer windshield washers in 1937.
Ralph Teetor, Perfect Circle Corporation president, invented cruise control debuting in 1958 on the Chrysler Imperial, New Yorker and Windsor models.
For the 1964 model year, its last in Indiana, Studebaker broke with the majors and became the first U.S. maker to offer seat belts as standard equipment.
That’s the story of Indiana automotive innovations. For more information on Indiana cars & companies, follow this link.