Richard A. Stanley
The Lexington Automobile: A Complete History offers a definitive look at the company’s key people, and automobiles and the era in which they were produced. The heritage is traced from Lexington’s first production car in 1909 through insolvency in late 1926. Author Richard A. Stanley’s extensive research produced a well-documented and interesting volume.
The author documents that Lexington was lured to Kentucky and later to Indiana by economic enticements. In December 1908, The Commercial Club of Lexington, Kentucky, paid for the factory site of the newly incorporated Lexington Motor Car Company. The first production Lexington was rolled out in Kentucky in April 1909. Unfortunately, by summer 1909, the original facility lacked sufficient capacity for continuing operations. Later in 1909, a group of industrialists in Connersville, Indiana, encouraged a group of investors to purchase the Lexington Motor Car Company and relocate it to the McFarlan industrial park on the town’s north side. The Connersville Commercial Club contracted for the construction of the new Lexington plant.
As an assembled car, Lexington went on to use a large amount of Connersville sourced components, including: Ansted engines, springs and axles; Central Manufacturing bodies; Connersville Wheel Works wheels; Rex Manufacturing Company convertible tops; Indiana Lamp Company lights; and George R. Carter Leather Company upholstery. Thus, Lexington benefited numerous companies throughout the community.
The firm’s chief engineer, John C. Moore designed what was probably the first dual exhaust manifold system for an American-built automobile in 1912. Moore’s design minimized the back pressure caused by a restricted single exhaust pipe, which was common practice at-the-time. Tests at the Wheeler – Schebler Carburetor Company laboratory in Indianapolis showed a 22.8 percent gain in horsepower and a probable greater fuel economy with the dual exhaust system.
Ansted-powered Lexington racers enjoyed their most success with factory-prepared entries in the Pike’s Peak Hill Climb. In 1920, Otto Loesche and Albert Cline finished first and second in two cars entered in the event for cars of less than 300 cubic-inch displacement and the free-for-all event. For their efforts Loesche won a gold cup and the Penrose trophy and Cline took home silver cup. The team did not compete in 1922 and was denied favorable results in claiming the Penrose trophy in 1921 and 1923. But 1924 was a different story. Lexington drivers Otto Loesche, Clarence Lawton, and Albert Cline swept the first three places in their engine size class plus the free-for-all. Loesche’s results achieved permanent possession of the Penrose trophy for Lexington. Today, the trophy is on display at the Fayette County Historical Museum in Connersville.
The Lexington Motor Car Company is a good example of an auto company formed with much optimism in the first decade of the twentieth century. The company achieved success in the teens with an annual production lead over all Indiana automobile manufacturers with the exception of Studebaker in 1918. Sales through the teens continued to rank Lexington among the higher producers across the nation. Lexington then suffered financial setbacks in the recession following World War I, and finally succumbed in the late twenties. Auburn Automobile Company used the facilities from 1929 through 1937 for production of Auburn and Cord automobiles.
Stanley does an outstanding job of placing the Lexington Motor Car Company in its proper historical surroundings. He provides insights about early auto production from the board room to the production line. The author’s love for the subject adds dimensions to Lexington’s history as well as the people involved in the story.
The Lexington Automobile: A Complete History, Richard A. Stanley, Jefferson, NC, McFarland & Company, © 2007, ISBN: 978-0-7864-2542-6
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