In early 1914, interest in cyclecars reached critical mass in the American market. A cyclecar was a motor car designed along motorcycle lines for simplicity and lightness. Cyclecars were first produced in Europe in 1909 and became popular there by 1912. In 1913, production began in the United States. In fact, Indiana had some prominent players in this saga.
The W. H. McIntyre Company of Auburn Indiana, was one of the first American cyclecar manufacturers with the Imp first introduced in November 1913. Some have called it “America’s first compact car.” It weighed only 600 pounds, cost only $375, and got 50 miles per gallon. The V-twin engine produced 15 horsepower and attained 50 miles per hour. The Imp had four forward speeds plus reverse. The Imp line offered a tandem-seated passenger car and a single-seated delivery “truck.” The latter sold for $395. The company introduced a four-cylinder cyclecar with side-by-side seating designed by William B. Stout in August 1914.
Cyclecars soon became a craze. Soon, manufacturers organized the American Cyclecar Manufacturers’ Association with W. H. McIntyre as its first president. Of the more than 50 manufacturers, Indiana was well represented by Comet, Hoosier Scout, Imp, and Merz.
The Comet Cyclecar Company of Indianapolis initiated operations in early 1914. The Model A was a $400 belt-drive tandem two-seater powered by a 10 horsepower V-twin Spacke engine. One interesting feature of the Comet was the front fenders fitted to the wheel spindles in motorcycle fashion. It was designed by Fred B. Mertz and financed by E.R. Parry and S.C. Parry of the Parry Manufacturing Company, together with Marshall T. Levy. The company’s plant was located at Tenth St. and the Canal with offices in the Century Building.
The cyclecar craze in America died about as fast as it began. The little cars were no match for the mass-produced conventional motor car. By late 1914, the Ford Model T had reduced its starting price to $440. This full-sized car was just about as economical to operate as a cyclecar, and the market for the cyclecar evaporated. So, the cyclecar craze lasted a little over a year.
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