Tag Archives: Marion

Harry C. Stutz the quintessential automotive pioneer

Harry C. Stutz

During his career, Harry C. Stutz had a hand in developing and designing many cars, such as the American, Marion, Empire, and Ideal. The one bearing his own name, the Stutz, is the most well-known.

One of his early innovations developed in 1908 was the transaxle, a device that combined the transmission and rear differential. In 1909, he organized The Stutz Auto Parts Company to manufacture and sell his patented transaxle.

In 1911, Stutz formulated his dream of a quality sports car built from assembled, high-quality components manufactured by outside suppliers at a price below $2,000. The first Stutz was built in just five weeks and garnered an eleventh-place finish in the inaugural Indianapolis 500. The Ideal Motor Car Company was organized to manufacture duplicates of the Indy race car for passenger use. The famous Stutz Bearcat sports car appeared in 1912 for a run of 10 years. The Ideal Motor Car Company was reorganized as the Stutz Motor Car Company, with Harry Stutz as president in June 1913.

In 1919, Harry Stutz founded two new ventures, the Stutz Fire Engine Company and the H.C.S. Motor Car Company. His creative spirit continued through the late 1920’s when he developed a revolutionary, horizontally opposed, four-cylinder aircraft engine. However, he died in June 1930 before this Stutz-Bellanca engine could be commercialized.

Stutz’s innovations brought wide appeal to Indiana automotive history. Today, you can visit the Stutz Motor Company building at 10th and Capitol in Indianapolis, to see some of his cars in the Turner Woodard Collection.

For more information on Indiana auto pioneers, follow this link.

Weather challenges for the Indianapolis Auto Shows

Do think we have weather challenges today? Let me tell you about the 1913 Indianapolis Auto Show and weather challenges 102 years ago.

Meet me at the auto show
Meet me at the auto show

Indianapolis auto shows were open air affairs beginning in 1907, because of the lack of any building of sufficient size to accommodate a large show. Soon, over 60 dealers and garages throughout the district hosted thousands of visitors at these shows.

The successes of these early shows led the Indianapolis Auto Trade Association (IATA) to plan the March 24, 1912, tent show on three streets around University Park. However, a blizzard blitzed this show. The Indianapolis News reported: “A gang of workmen was busy nearly all day removing the snow from the top of the tent and succeeded in preventing it from breaking through anywhere.”

The next year’s event was inside, at the Coliseum and Coliseum Annex at the State Fair Grounds, March 24-29. No snow, but a torrential downpour started on Easter Sunday, March 23. By mid-week many parts of Indianapolis were stranded by the swollen White River and its tributaries. With the crippling of street car and other transportation systems, Indianapolis auto manufacturers came to the rescue.

Every factory and garage and many private owners placed their cars at the disposal of the police and other departments. New cars, test cars, factory trucks, and anything that would run was pressed into service in the flooded districts where it was sometimes too swift for boats. These vehicles carried the imperiled families to places of refuge.

R. P. Henderson’s touring car
R. P. Henderson’s touring car

For instance, the personal touring car of Henderson Motor Car Co. Vice President R. P. Henderson was placed at the disposal of authorities on the north side making trips carrying flood victims to high ground. One of the first trucks placed in service was “Old Bolivar,” the first Henderson touring car built, that was serving as the factory pickup truck. The truck transported a boat and officers to the flood area across the Fall Creek Bridge.

By Tuesday, March 25, the continuing rains caused the White River and other streams to rise cutting off access to the fair grounds, making it necessary to discontinue the show until Friday, March 28. On Friday the show was further discontinued until Sunday at 1 pm. The directors of the IATA decided that the Sunday receipts of the show would be donated to the flood sufferers relief fund. Freewill offerings to the fund were also accepted at the doors, and the IATA also scheduled two benefit theatrical performances at the reopening. The total amount taken in for the fund during the Sunday show approached $1000.

1913 Henderson auto show Ad
1913 Henderson auto show Ad

On Sunday, IATA estimated that at least 4,000 people inspected the cars on display. Indiana manufacturers, including Auburn, Cole, Empire, Haynes, Cole, Henderson, Marion, Marmon, McFarlan, Motor Car Manufacturing Co., National, Studebaker, Premier, and Waverley Electric, were part of the 36 firms exhibiting a total of 200 cars.

The show continued through the end of the week. The Coliseum ground floor featured pleasure car exhibits, and the promenade around the structure had more cars and motorcycles. The Coliseum Annex housed accessories and trucks. Warmer weather, bigger crowds, and better transportation facilities combined to make the later days of the show successful. A joyful carnival crowd greeted closing night on Saturday, April 5.

Hopefully, we won’t have any more weather challenges for this year’s iteration of the Indianapolis Auto Show.

For more information on Indiana cars & companies follow this link.

Long distance auto racing debuted in the Midwest in June 1909

With all of the hoopla regarding the opening auto races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in August 1909, sometimes it is easy to forget that long distance auto racing debuted in the Midwest at Crown Point and Lowell, Indiana in June 1909.

Under the direction of Ira M. Cobe, the Chicago Automobile Club planned and organized a two-day speed festival, including the Indiana Trophy Race and the Cobe Cup Race. The two events, scheduled for June 18 and 19, constituted the Western Stock Chassis Championship sanctioned by the American Automobile Association Contest Board.

Howard Wheeler of Crown Point was among those who planned the 23.37-mile race course from Crown Point to Cedar Lake, on to Lowell, and then returning to Crown Point. The route featured only three towns, no railroad crossings, and was paved with tar macadam roads, which were high-tech for the day.

Cobe Cup Poster
Cobe Cup Poster

Grandstands were built at Crown Point, Cedar Lake, Creston, and two sites in Lowell. One location on North Clark St. was advertised “to be safe from the cars and the racers could be seen for two miles on the fastest part of the course.” The other stand was across the street from the Civil War Monument on Commercial Ave.

Despite being advertised as a stock chassis race, rather liberal modifications were permitted for the contests. Gas and oil capacity could be increased; lighter rear springs were permitted; any size wheel and tire could be used; auxiliary oil pumps were allowed; and steering columns were lowered.

The first event was the 10-lap Indiana Trophy Race for cars limited to 300-cubic-inch displacement, on Friday, June 18, with cars made by Buick, Chalmers-Detroit, Corbin, Fal-Car, Locomobile, Marion, Moon, and Stoddard-Dayton.

At 7 am, National Guardsmen took control of the course to prepare for the start. Box seat holders included Carl G. Fisher, founder of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Ira Cobe, the Studebaker brothers, and W. E. Metzger from Detroit.

Joe Matson Winning Indiana Trophy Race
Joe Matson Winning Indiana Trophy Race

Joe Matson took the checkered flag in four hours, 31 minutes, and 21 seconds in his Chalmers-Detroit with an average speed of 52.2 miles per hour. The remaining finishers were George Robertson – Locomoblie, second; Adolph Monsen -Marion, third; Jim Florida – Locomobile, fourth; and Fred Wiseman Stoddard-Dayton, fifth.

Saturday’s 17-lap, 395.65-mile Cobe Cup Race was for cars limited to 525-cubic-inch displacement with entries from Apperson, Buick, Fiat, Knox, Locomobile, and Stoddard-Dayton.

Louis Chevrolet in his Buick
Louis Chevrolet in his Buick

Louis Chevrolet won in eight hours, one minute, and 39 seconds with a 65 second margin driving a Buick with an average speed of 49.26 miles per hour. What makes Chevrolet’s finish so incredible is that on the 11th lap his engine broke a valve in the cylinder head and he was forced to drive the rest of the race running on three cylinders. By the 14th lap, he captured the lead, which he held to the end. The remaining finishers were W. Bourque – Knox, second; George Robertson – Locomoblie, third; E. A. Hearne – Fiat, fourth; C. A. Englebeck – Stoddard-Dayton, fifth; and Louis Strang – Buick, sixth.

Ira Cobe left his box seat with the big trophy and motored to Crown Point’s public square. On the courthouse steps he presented the trophy to Chevrolet and worshipping fans carried the winner and trophy, on their shoulders to his car.

In 1910, the Cobe Cup Race shifted to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and the Lake County race course returned to the somnolent quiet of a sleepy Indiana countryside.

For more information about Louis Chevrolet follow this link.