Tag Archives: Howard C. Marmon

Louis Schwitzer’s contributions to excellence in engineering continues today.

Louis Schwitzer
Louis Schwitzer
Used with permission of the
National Automotive History Collection
at Detroit Public Library

In his honor, the Indiana Section of SAE International and BorgWarner present the BorgWarner Louis Schwitzer Award each year for innovation and engineering excellence in race car design at the Indianapolis 500.

The Schwitzer saga started on August 19, 1909, when a crowd of 15,000 persons gathered at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the inaugural weekend of racing. The winner of the first five mile race, Schwitzer, turned out to be an automotive engineer, not a professional racing car driver.

His car was a stripped down Stoddard Dayton touring car powered by a four cylinder engine. It traveled at an average speed of 57.4 miles per hour for five miles on the macadam track. The driver was nicknamed “Louie”.

Born in Austria, Louie had the advantage of a formal education in mechanical and design engineering. He left Austria at the turn of the century, arriving in America with only $18 in his pocket.

Louie entered the automobile industry as an engineer for Pierce Arrow, working on one of the first six-cylinder engines made in America. A chance meeting with industrialist Howard C. Marmon brought an invitation to Indianapolis.

Louie found the “action” he sought in Indianapolis with his new job as design engineer at Nordyke and Marmon. He helped design the famous “Marmon Yellow Jacket” engine which powered the winning Marmon racing car driven by Ray Harroun in winning the first Indy 500 in 1911. Later, Schwitzer joined the Atlas Engine Works as chief engineer. No longer a driver, Louie opted to join the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Technical Committee in 1912, serving as its chairman from 1919 through 1945.

Also in 1912, Louie joined the Empire Motor Car Company, leaving in 1914 to join the United States Army Motor Transport Corps. He was deeply involved in the design of class ‘B’ military trucks and the 150 240 mm gun mounts. In fact, Louie remained active in Ordnance affairs for the rest of his life.

After World War I, Louie felt he could serve the automotive industry better by improving upon existing cooling systems. He started his own business in a one room factory late in 1918 to manufacture automotive cooling fans. When asked by an interviewer why he chose a cooling fan as his first product, he calmly replied, “Because I know more about them than anyone”.

During the 1920’s, Schwitzer built probably the first high production super charger for gasoline and diesel engines in America. The experience gained in gear production from the oil pump business was easily transferred to ‘positive displacement’ (rotor) type superchargers, which used drive gears to time the revolving two or three lobe rotors. The first application was on a Stutz Bearcat.

After World War II, Schwitzer replaced the more wasteful gear driven superchargers with “turbo chargers” in which the impeller wheel was driven by a turbine wheel using spent exhaust gases. Schwitzer’s low cost, efficient turbochargers were introduced on the Cummins diesel powered racing car which won the pole position for the 1952 Indianapolis 500. Today, turbochargers are considered standard equipment on almost all diesel powered engines.

Louie Schwitzer retired from the Schwitzer Corporation (now Schwitzer Incorporated), in 1964 at age 83. He died three years later at his Indianapolis home. In recognition of this true automotive pioneer, the Indiana Section SAE annually presents the BorgWarner Louis Schwitzer Award for innovation and engineering excellence in race car design.

This year on Friday, May 20th, the Indiana Section of SAE International and BorgWarner present the BorgWarner Louis Schwitzer Award at the Indianapolis 500.

Publishers note: Nordyke & Marmon Co., Empire Motor Car Co., and Schwitzer Corporation were all Indianapolis based firms. Thus, Indianapolis and Indiana enjoyed Louis Schwitzer’s many accomplishments from the first days of the Speedway throughout his life.

For more information on Indiana auto pioneers follow this link.

Mileposts in Indiana automotive history-Part One

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.

1911 Auburn
1911 Auburn
with Bowser pump

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.

1894 Haynes Pioneer
Elwood Haynes
with 1894 Haynes Pioneer

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.

1902 Studebaker Stanhope
1902 Studebaker Stanhope

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.

Marmon 1904 Model A
Marmon 1904 Model A

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

Celebrating Marmon Innovation

One of Indiana’s more well-known automakers was the Nordyke & Marmon Company later known as the Marmon Motor Car Company of Indianapolis.

Howard C. Marmon’s first automobile in 1902, included a V-2 engine with an aluminum crankcase and a cast aluminum body. The 1905 Marmon had an air-cooled V-4 engine with pressure lubrication. This use of pressure lubrication was the earliest automotive application of the system that has become universal to internal combustion piston engine design.

1904 Marmon Model A
1904 Marmon Model A

The six-cylinder Marmon Wasp, with Ray Harroun driving, won the inaugural Indianapolis 500 in 1911. The 1916 Model 34 featured an entire body and radiator shell made of aluminum as well as most of the six-cylinder components. During World War I, Marmon 34’s were procured for use by the U.S. Army and the French Army General staff.

The 1929 Roosevelt had the distinction of being the first eight-cylinder car in the world to sell for less than $1,000. Marmon warranted a listing in the Guinness Book of Records for the factory installed radio, also in 1929. The Roosevelt appeared in the 1930 catalog as the Marmon Roosevelt and only lasted one more year. The 1930 Roosevelt was the only car in its price range to be offered with a full one-year warranty.

1933 Marmon Sixteen
1933 Marmon Sixteen

With the introduction of the Marmon Sixteen in 1931, it appeared that Marmon had saved the best for the last. The Sixteen, a magnificent $5,000 automobile with a 491 c.i.d. V-16 engine, produced 200 h.p. and was good for over 100 m.p.h. The V-16 was honored by The Society of Automotive Engineers as “the most notable engineering achievement of 1930.” The society was especially impressed by the extensive use of lightweight aluminum, generally a difficult metal to work and maintain in automobile power plants.

At the very end, Howard Marmon built the HCM Special at his own expense. This prototype auto had a 150 h.p. V 12 engine, independent front suspension, DeDion rear axle and tubular backbone frame, with styling by Teague. Yet, it never saw production. In May 1933, Marmon Motor Car Company entered receivership.

The promise of the Roaring Twenties proved hollow for many automakers across the nation, including Marmon. Marmon stock that had peaked in May 1929 at more than $100 per share dipped to slightly more than $3 three years later. In addition, the luxury-car market had shrunk drastically, and lower-price competitors already secured a solid hold on the mass market. Marmon executives were forced to go to eastern bankers for working capital to keep the company afloat.

Marmon’s cumulative production from 1902 to 1933 approached 110,000 autos. The mid-point of producing 55,000 autos was reached at the end of the 1927 model year. It is interesting that in 1929 and 1930, Marmon production exceeded Cadillac in the luxury market: 1929 – Marmon 22,323 vs. Cadillac 14,986 and 1930 – Marmon 12,369 vs. Cadillac 12,078.

Today, auto enthusiasts celebrate this revered Indiana marque at museums and car shows across the country. I invite you to check out this fine example of Indiana’s automotive heritage whenever you get the chance.

For more information on Indiana auto pioneers follow this link.

Use of aluminum in autos debuted in 1902

Contrary to the hoopla about Ford Motor Company’s F-150, the use of aluminum in autos debuted in 1902. An Indiana-built auto manufacturer may deserve the distinction of the first use of aluminum in autos.

Howard C. Marmon’s first prototype car is credited with development of a water-cooled, two-cylinder V-2 engine with an aluminum crankcase. The body construction was cast aluminum, with the rear compartment being a one-piece casting, including an integral bustle trunk. Its cast-aluminum body construction avoided the cracked surfaces and chipped paint that traditional coach builders had with wood body construction.

1904 Marmon Model A
1904 Marmon Model A

The 1906 Marmon catalog noted, “We make the aluminum castings for bodies and machinery parts; brass, bronze, and iron castings; do all machine work and gear cutting except cutting the bevel gears.” The 1907 Model F featured an exclusive all-aluminum body.

The 1916 introduction of the Marmon Model 34 featured an entire body and radiator shell made of aluminum, as was the six-cylinder engine cylinder block and most other engine components, including the push rods.

With the introduction of the Marmon Sixteen in 1930, it appeared that Marmon had saved the best for the last. The Sixteen, a magnificent $5,000 automobile with a 491 c.i.d. V-16 engine produced 200 h.p. and was good for over 100 m.p.h.

1933 Marmon Sixteen
1933 Marmon Sixteen

The Marmon Sixteen was honored by The Society of Automotive Engineers as “the most notable engineering achievement of 1930.” The society was especially impressed by the extensive use of lightweight aluminum, generally a difficult metal to work and maintain in automobile power plants.

A number of automotive enthusiasts over the years have praised Marmon as a fine automobile. Howard C. Marmon’s use of aluminum in automobiles spanned from 1902 to 1933. This predates Ford Motor Company’s claims by over 115 years. Indiana’s innovative automotive heritage is proven in this instance.

For more information on Indiana auto pioneers follow this link.

Howard C. Marmon’s Innovation

Howard C. Marmon
Howard C. Marmon

Howard C. Marmon’s automotive innovation spanned from 1902 to 1933, but today his legacy is nearly forgotten in the automotive world.

Marmon’s first prototype car for Nordyke and Mar¬mon Company was remarkably progressive for 1902. It featured an overhead valve, air-cooled, two-cylinder, 90-degree V configuration engine with pressure lubrication. Marmon’s design was the earliest automotive application of a system that became universal to internal combustion piston engine.

1904 Marmon Model A
1904 Marmon Model A

Early on, Marmon recognized that weight was the enemy in car design. His early automobiles featured cast aluminum bodies, which weighed substantially less than other makes.

The effectiveness of a lighter body was proven in 1911 with a six-cylinder racing model named the Marmon Wasp. This car, driven by Ray Harroun, won the first Indianapolis 500 Mile Race.

Marmon Sixteen ad
Marmon Sixteen ad

The most recognizable of Marmon’s creations was the Marmon Sixteen with its magnificent 491 c.i.d., 200 h.p., V-16 engine. The Marmon Sixteen was the largest American passenger car engine of its era. In February 1931, before production started on the Sixteen, the Society of Automotive Engineers honored Marmon’s huge and gleaming V-16 engine design as “the most notable engineering achieve¬ment of 1930.” The society was especially impressed by the extensive use of lightweight alumi¬num, generally a difficult metal to work and maintain in automobile power plants.

At the very end, Howard Marmon built, at his own expense, the HCM Special, a prototype auto with 150 h.p. V12 engine, independent front-suspension, DeDion rear axle and tubular back¬bone frame. Independent suspension and tubular backbone chassis—with some engineering refinements—would resurface in about 30 years in exotic car applications.

Howard Marmon’s products many have been ahead of their time for the general public, but the engineering community recognized them upon their introduction.

For more information on Indiana auto pioneers follow this link.