Tag Archives: National Motor Vehicle Co.

Merz Cyclecar a popular American Pickers episode

A popular History Channel’s American Pickers episode features a Merz Cyclecar made in Indianapolis. I’d like to share some facts about this cyclecar, which was produced for a short time in 1914.

Merz Cyclecar
Merz Cyclecar

Charles C. Merz, a former driver of Indianapolis-built National and Stutz racing cars and a member of the engineering and experimental department of the National Motor Vehicle Co., developed the Merz Cyclecar. The vehicles were a two-passenger tandem car and a light delivery commercial car with a capacity of about 30 cubic feet.

The Merz featured 84-inch wheelbase and a 40-inch tread, with a short V-belt drive train and a friction transmission affording a speed variation from 5 to 45 m.p.h. The engine was an Indianapolis-built Spacke DeLuxe two-cylinder V-type air-cooled engine rated at 9 h.p. Other features were a pressed steel frame with drop forged I-beam front and rear axles and a pressed steel streamline one-piece body and hood. The body was strongly reinforced throughout and upholstered in black. It was of the torpedo foredoor with streamline effects.

The engine was mounted across the width of the chassis behind the front windscreen and drove a short drive shaft to the friction disc under the front seat connecting the jackshaft to the rear wheels. This provided a comfortable body on the short wheelbase. All running parts were in annular or roller bearings. Both the front screen and the side ventilating doors on both sides of the hood give easy access to the engine. The five-gallon fuel tank was located under the cowl dash, thus providing plenty of capacity for up to 225 miles of running. An oil tank with sight-feed lubrication was located under the top of the hood. The muffler was connected to the engine by flexible tubes.

The complete car weighed 525 pounds and sold for $450, with standard equipment including 28×3 inch non-skid tires, a high-tension magneto, head and tail lights with Prest-O-Lite tank, horn, set of tools, tire pump, and tire repair kit.

Charles Merz aimed the car for quality rather than low cost. Merz claimed that extended road tests had demonstrated an operating expense of less than one cent a mile for gasoline, oil and tires. Merz felt that lending a “luxury” air to a budget product had a certain sales appeal.

Unfortunately, the company entered receivership in summer of 1914. The volume of production is not known.

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

Indianapolis-built cars at the 1910 New York Auto Show

It is interesting how two Indianapolis auto manufacturers marketed their wares at the 1910 New York Auto Show. Both exhibitors touted their recent successes at 1909 Inaugural events at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Marmon ad 8-29-1909
1909 Nordyke & Marmon ad
Copyright © 1909 Nordyke & Marmon Co

Nordyke & Marmon featured their “Thirty-Two” models with the racer that Ray Harroun drove to victory in the 10-mile Free-for-All Handicap race on Thursday, August 19, 1909. Other show models included touring car, suburban, and roadster models.

These Marmons showcased their patented oil pressure lubrication system that was introduced in 1904. This use of full-pressure lubrication was the earliest application of a system that has long since become universal to internal combustion engine design.

These 1910 models also utilized a trans-axle unit rear end. This arrangement afforded easy inspection and servicing of the single unit. Oversized brakes with an adjusting feature showed careful forethought in design. The equipment on the Marmon was of exceptionally high quality.

National ad 8-21-1909
1909 National ad
Copyright © 1909 National Motor Vehicle Co

The display of the National Motor Vehicle Co. centered around National “40” models with one five-passenger touring car, one four-passenger toy tonneau, one two-passenger Speedway model, and a reproduction of the stock models they had been using in speed contests at the Atlanta Speedway, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and the Vanderbilt Cup race.

National’s exhibit centered on an unfinished National “40” chassis. This model with a list price at $2,500 was a worthy successor to the company’s previous car. This 40 horsepower model offered a great deal more power, a longer wheelbase, a roomier interior, larger wheels, and tires for less money. The company felt the National “40” covered all of the requirements of the average purchaser who was seeking to get more for his money each year.

National was proud of its racing heritage and emphasized its undefeated string of class hill climb wins and its share of speedway victories. The company pride showed with introduction of National “40” model for the 1910 season.

In the early days of the automobile, Indianapolis-built cars were proudly displayed across the country.

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

Indianapolis Auto Row

In the 1920’s, a 10-block area along North Capitol Avenue in Indianapolis became the home to several segments of the auto industry. If you wanted a new car or service in Indianapolis, this is where you would come. So, let’s take a stroll along N. Capitol to visit sites and structures of that bygone era.

The genesis for Indianapolis Auto Row began with Carl G. Fisher relocating his Fisher Automobile Co. showroom to 400 North Capitol Avenue in 1909. The Fisher Gibson Co. followed in 1910 at 416; with the following firms over the next decade, National Motor Vehicle Co. showroom (1911-1912) at 426-428; Fisher Automobile Co. (1918) at 434-442; and Colonial Automobile Co. (1917) at 444-450. Along the east side of the 400 block of N. Capitol were: Peterson Keyes Automobile Co. (1915) at 401-411; Central Motor Parts Co. (1913) at 419-425; Gates Masters Co. (1911) at 431; and the only currently existing building the Gibson Co. (1916-1917) at 433-447.

Gibson Company in 2007
The Gibson Co. Building in 2007
Copyright © 2007 Dennis E. Horvath

The Cadillac Co. of Indiana/Automobile College at 500-514 N. Capitol was built from 1910-1911. The first floor housed a Cadillac dealership and on the second floor was the college that was reputed to be one of the first “technical” schools related to autos. Just north on the west side of the block was Cooper Tire Service built in 1910.

Continuing up the west side of the street to the 600 block of N. Capitol, we come to the William Small Co. (1915) at 602. At this site in 1920, Louis J. Chevrolet built four Monroe and three Frontenac race cars. His brother Gaston Chevrolet drove a Monroe to victory in the 1920 Indianapolis 500.

The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. built its regional service center at 640 N. Capitol in 1913. Across the street on the east side was the Williams Building, known as a “cafeteria of auto parts companies,” built in 1916-1917 at 611-617. Just north was the Hatfield Ford Co. showroom and service center at 627 N. Capitol built in 1920. This building served as a Ford dealer into the 1970’s.

Stutz Motor Car Company
The Stutz Motor Car Company
Copyright © 2007 Dennis E. Horvath

Walking a few blocks north we come to the Stutz Motor Car Co. (1914-1920) at 1002-1008 N. Capitol and the Ideal Motor Car Co. (1911) at 221 W. 10th Street. The first Stutz automobile was built at Ideal for the inaugural running of the Indianapolis 500 in 1911. A Stutz Model A torpedo roadster served as the pace car at the 1912 Indianapolis 500. In June 1913, the Ideal Motor Car Company was reorganized as the Stutz Motor Car Company. Following the initial success of the Stutz Bearcat roadster, construction of new facilities commenced at the 1002 N. Capitol. Stutz production continued here until 1934.

Further along the street we have the Harry V. Hyatt Graham-Paige Co. at 1327 N. Capitol built in 1929. This building is a good example of a single-story showroom. In the next block was the Stutz Fire Engine company at 1411 N. Capitol built in 1919. Across the street was the HCS Motor Car Co. at 1402 N. Capitol built in 1920-1921. This was Harry Clayton Stutz’s last auto venture.

I believe this area deserves a more formal designation as “Indianapolis Auto Row” for its large concentration of automotive related sites from the first three decades of the twentieth century. Most people are unaware that they are passing by some Indiana automotive landmarks as they motor down North Capitol Avenue in a hurry to work or to an entertainment venue.

So, take a look during your next visit to downtown Indianapolis.

Discover a wealth of innovation and history with Indianapolis Auto Tours at this link.