Slowly examine one of these cars from every angle and the true genius of Walter Dorwin Teague Jr.’s design is apparent
Howard Marmon was a brilliant engineer; he completed his first automobile in 1902 at the age of 23. It was remarkably advanced for its time, featuring an overhead-valve, air-cooled engine. This would be the harbinger of bigger and better things to come, as Marmon continued to modify and improve his automobile.
Nine years later, Marmon’s mechanical genius was forever enshrined by a win at the Indianapolis 500. It came in a long-tailed Marmon Wasp, which was the first car in the winner’s circle at the very first race at the Brickyard in 1911. Some 50 more victories would follow over the next two years, earning Marmon an enviable competition record.
Financial success did not come so easily. A road-going version of the Wasp-called the Model 49-proved to be an excellent automobile, but at $5,000 a copy, sales were slow. Later models were even
better-1916’s Model 34 offered a host of innovative features including the most extensive use of aluminum to date.
In 1924, Marmon’s brother resigned the presidency of the firm, making way for George M. Williams, an astute businessman who saw the future in more affordable Marmons. The result was the straight-eight-powered Roosevelt model, and by the late 1920s sales were up dramatically, with the company building more than 20,000 cars per year.
Not satisfied with financial success, Howard Marmon the engineer was driven to create an automotive legacy. The result was one of the most remarkable cars of the Classic era-the impressive Marmon Sixteen.
Powered by a state-of-the art, overhead-valve engine that displaced nearly 500 ci, the Marmon Sixteen produced 200 hp-enough to propel the car to an almost effortless 100 mph. The Sixteen’s all-aluminum engine construction harkened back to the legendary Model 34. Much of the chassis was aluminum as well, giving the Sixteen an unmatched power-to-weight ratio. Lightweight and powerful, it was certainly the most advanced production car of its time, able to out-accelerate the mighty Duesenberg Model J while costing about one-third as much.
It was timing, however, that would be the undoing of the Sixteen. Cadillac’s V16 beat Marmon to market by almost two years, a lead that would prove insurmountable in the face of the deepening depression. Without a deep-pocketed backer like General Motors, the writing was on the wall, and the end came quietly in 1933.
The example offered here was acquired by the John E. Morgan collection in January 1986. Approximately six years later, a comprehensive two-year restoration was undertaken at a cost of $164,000 by the noted firm Stone Barn Inc. Following the restoration, the car was awarded an AACA Senior award in 1990. More recently, the car was an award winner at Pebble Beach.
The quality of the 1932 Marmon remains very high today, and shows little to no evidence of use. In fact, the odometer reading is 82, which probably represents mileage since completion. Finished in an elegant period combination of two-tone gray over dark gray leather, the car is well equipped, with six chrome wire wheels with chromed metal covers, accessory rear view mirrors, and rear-mounted trunk. The car runs and drives very well and would be a pleasure to enjoy on weekends or on CCCA tour events.