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.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1932 Marmon Sixteen Victoria
Years Produced:1931-1933
Number Produced:390
Original List Price:$5,800
SCM Valuation:$100,00-$210,000
Tune Up Cost:$1,200-$1,600
Distributor Caps:first you have to find one
Chassis Number Location:left side of main frame
Engine Number Location:left side of block
Club Info:The Classic Car Club of America, 1645 Des Plaines River Rd., Ste 7, Des Plaines, IL 60018
Alternatives:1930-1933 Cadillac V16; 1932-1934 Packard Twelve
Investment Grade:B

This 1932 Marmon Sixteen Victoria Coupe sold for $167,500 at RM’s Meadow Brook Hall sale, held on July 31, 2004.
For too many years Marmon Sixteens were one of the most underrated and overlooked Full Classics on the market, overshadowed as they were by their more flamboyant brethren. But those who know what a Sixteen was all about, mechanically and aesthetically, were confident that here was quite possibly the best-performing, best-engineered American car of the Classic era.
The Marmon’s subtle, understated styling is truly the essence of art deco design in a motorcar. The next time you have an opportunity, slowly examine one of these cars from every angle and the true genius of Walter Dorwin Teague Jr.’s design will become apparent. (Incidentally, Teague died on Sept. 16, 2004, at age 94, the last of the great Classic-era designers.) The Sixteen is at once precise, elegant, unadorned with extraneous decoration and, in the context of its time, arguably the most modern-looking car of the era. Still, most collectors prefer the more ostentatious display of the Cadillac or the prestige of the Duesenberg badge.
If the Marmon’s looks are not appreciated as they should be, performance is another story entirely. As noted in the catalog description, their power is nothing short of phenomenal. They’ll best the heavier Cadillac V16 from a standing start without strain, climb difficult hills like a gazelle, and sustain highway speeds that can earn the driver a citation or two, even on today’s freeways.
We don’t see too many of the reported 75 surviving Sixteens cross the auction block, though Manheim’s Gold Book lists values between $90,000-$200,000, depending on the model. Marmon offered the Sixteen in sedan and coupe configurations, both of which came in open and closed body styles, and in a seven-passenger phaeton style.
The 1932 Marmon Sixteen pictured here is a Victoria Coupe, the most desirable of the closed Sixteen models. As noted in the auction catalog, the car was in immaculate condition, an older restoration that has held up well. Its only apparent flaw was some bad stitching in the driver’s seat upholstery.
While the car was indeed beautiful, it’s pretty obvious from the indicated mileage that this 1932 Marmon Sixteen has been a trailer queen for the past 15 years. That’s too bad, because this Marmon’s best strength would be providing comfortable carriage for four on a CCCA tour event. RM indicated that the car had been recently serviced at its own restoration shop, though if the new owner plans to use the car as it was intended, he would do well to independently confirm its mechanical condition.
The Marmon Sixteen is one of those rare cars that is greater than the sum of its parts. With beautifully crafted coachwork by LeBaron, highly advanced engineering, superb styling, the best materials, and memorable performance, it’s truly a connoisseur’s Classic that favorably reflects the owner’s knowledge, taste and appreciation of fine automobiles.
The selling price of this Sixteen Victoria Coupe is market correct today, though I would expect to see some appreciation in the near future. As we see more serious collectors push the prices for truly significant cars into the stratosphere, it can only be a matter of time before someone realizes that these Marmons are worth every bit of their current value.
(Historical and descriptive information courtesy of the auction company.)

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