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.
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.
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.
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