During the 1890s Justin Entz created a design that used a gasoline engine to power a generator which then sent the electrical power to an electric motor which drove the wheels. There were no gears that would require shifting and the operation would be smooth and quiet due to the electrical power. Attempts were made to create a prototype of the design but none ever worked. In 1912 Walter Baker of Baker Electric in Cleveland purchased the patent. Raymond and Ralph Owen of New York created the Owen Magnetic which they produced under license from Baker. R.M Owen were absorbed by Baker in 1915. Baker had since merged with Rauch & Lang, who were well known for their electric cars. Together, they focused their skills on creating an electric-gasoline car.
The Owen Magnetic was a technically advanced automobile that was full of style and fashion. The car featured 'crunchless' gear shifting but were rather complicated to drive. They were heavy, expensive and difficult to maintain. They carried a factory price tag of nearly $4000 and were powered by a six-cylinder engine capable of producing 75 horsepower.
During World War I the company focused on war production and ceased production of the Owen Magnetic. After the war there was very little production and production was later sent to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania where production continued until 1921. The vehicles produced in PA were known as Crown Magnetics. In total, there were around 700 examples of the Owen Magetics produced in Cleveland with only four known to exist in modern times.
By Daniel Vaughan | May 2006
One of the most unusual automobiles built in Cleveland was this Owen Magnetic. Production began in New York in 1915 and shifted to Cleveland from 1916-1919 and concluded in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania in 1920-21.
The motor is a conventional in-line six-cylinder motor that turned a generator and, in turn, an electric motor. A variety of speeds were available by turning the control wheel mounted on the steering wheel. The Owen Magnetic was marketed as 'The Car with a Thousand Speeds.'
Only 700 total cars were built between 1916 and 1922; this is one of four known to exist today.