Total Production: 390 1931 - 1933 The Marmon V-16 was introduced around the same time Cadillac introduced their V-16 powered automobile. In comparison, the Marmon-built automobile was more powerful and an engineering marvel. By using aluminum, the 491 cubic-inch engine with its overhead values weighed just over 900 pounds. The engine was formed by merging twin-eight cylinder engines at a 45-degree angle, giving the engine an impressive look and an astonishing 200 horsepower. The use of steel cylinder sleeves added to the longevity and durability of the engine. The V-16 engine earned Howard Marmon the Society of Automotive Engineers annual design award.
The engine was an engineering marvel and the automobile was a work of art. The problem was the timing; introduced near the onset of the stock market crash and the crippling Great Depression. The most competitive market segment at this time was the upper, high-priced vehicles. Packard, Auburn, Cadillac, to name a few, were produced exquisite automobiles and catering to the wealthy. The shortlist of buyers meant production was low and the profit margin was tight. To stay competitive the manufacturers needed to continue to introduce new products, designs, and innovative vehicles.
Cadillac and Marmon introduced their V-16 automobiles around the same time. The Great Depression meant there were few who could afford this five-thousand luxury automobile. The competition and the Depression resulted in fewer than four hundred examples being produced. The Marmon Motor Car Company entered into receivership.
The Marmon V-16 was powered by a lightweight, powerful engine and decorated in luxurious amenities and modern designs. Its demise was a market that did not have the resources to sustain its production. With its low production figures, its exclusivity is guaranteed in modern times. By Daniel Vaughan | Dec 2006'The World's Most Advanced Car' or a 'new concept in fine cars', at least that was how Marmon Auto Company touted its Sixteen in 1931. But this proclamation wasn't without reason as the engine used all-aluminum construction that was considered evolutionary of the foundry art. Other big claims to fame included overhead valves that were actuated by pushrods from a single camshaft while both the block and crankcase were cast as a single unit and the block was actually a 'Y' in section. A single cast manifold served both cylinder banks while a dual-throat downdraft carburetor fed the fuel. All but three of the 390 Marmon Sixteens built carried 'standard' bodies built by LeBaron; two coupes, a Victoria and five sedans.
One of the finest names in automotive history, Marmon has under its belt a bevy of accomplishments that include winning the first Indianapolis 500-mile race, and an impressive aluminum V-16 engine in the early 1930s. In 1851 Nordyke and Marmon were formed in Richmond, Indiana, and soon moved to Indianapolis. From there it became well-known for flour milling machinery. Howard Marmon graduated in Mechanical engineering from the University of CA in Berkeley late in the 19th century. In 1902 at the young age of 23, he became Marmon's chief engineer while his older brother Walter, also an engineer managed the business. Though the flour machinery was a good money maker, Howard was much more interested in the up-and-coming automobile business.
In 1902 he built his first car with an air-cooled V-twin engine, pressure lubrication, and overhead valves. The following year Howard built his second car, which had an air-cooled V-4. Two years later the Marmon Company was fully in the automobile business, selling six cars, most of them to friends. The following year in 1905, production increased to 25 cars and Howard began trying different engine configurations.
After success with several models, unfortunately, the stock market crashed and Marmon, much like other manufacturers, experienced a serious sales decline. Howard Marmon continued to have even grander ideas though and in 1931 he introduced his dream car, the Marmon Sixteen. Though this was the first V-16, the Cadillac V-16 which had arrived in 1930 beat them to it, the Marmon engine was much more powerful and also more brilliant in appearance. Howard Marmon was recognized by his peers when the Sixteen won the Society of Automotive Engineers' annual design award.
The engine was actually quite light despite its size at a scarce 930lbs, nearly 370lbs lighter than Cadillac's slightly smaller V16. Probably only rivaled by Duesenberg, the Marmon Sixteen had impressive 4.65 pounds per hp weight-to-power ratio. Howard had a passion for his design that was evident in his minimal weight construction of the Sixteen. All of the main pieces, the hood, front and rear splash aprons, spare-wheel mounts, running-board aprons, headlamp and tail-lamp brackets and even the fuel-filler pipe were all made of aluminum.
Due to this all-aluminum construction, very few cars couldn't even come close to the Marmon for sheer speed or through the gears acceleration. The Marmon Sixteen even accelerated faster than the prestigious Duesenberg Model J, though the Model J had a higher top speed because of its twin-cam engine. The Marmon also cost half of a Duesenberg chassis. The cylinder banks on the Sixteen were set at 45 degrees, which resulted in a narrow engine that fit under the slim hoods of the day. It also had wet, pressed-in steel cylinder sleeves and used fork-and-blade connecting rods instead of the side-by-side type that become universal in V-type engines.
Howard Marmon wasn't responsible for the body design, but he did hire an industrial engineer at a time when this profession wasn't yet popular. Walter Dorwin Teague, Sr., a 47-year-old designer took most of the credit, and it's true he handled the contract work with Marmon and translated the concept into production form. But in fact his son W.D. Teague, Jr., a student at MIT sketched the original drawings, as well as the full-size renderings and several interior concepts also the unusual aircraft-type instrument panel during weekends and in summer school. The name of the father carried more prestige than his young son's name. From 1931 until 1933 the number of 16 cylinder cars was 390 and they were priced at $5,100 to $5,400.
The Sixteen was a modern-looking vehicle, but not a 'radical' one, and it bore no resemblance to any of the earlier Marmon's. A hood that hid the water filler featured a raked Vee'd radiator with any ornament or badge while the doors extended down almost to the running boards. The fenders were constructed with the purpose of hiding chassis components. A very prominent beltline ran absolutely straight around the body which further accentuated a low-slung profile. A windshield was raked to match the radiator and the ultra-low rooflines.
Only two custom bodies are known of, two Waterhouse tourers and a very individual Victoria constructed by Hayes to a design by Alexis de Sakhnoffsky. These were probably part of Howard's eventual plan to offer 32 'regular' custom styles, much in the spirit of Judkins, Waterhouse, and Murphy; town cars, limousines, speedsters, all-weather phaetons, and 'sunshine-roof' sedans. Unfortunately, slow sales halted this idea.
Despite its grandeur and distinction, the Marmon Sixteen arrived on the scene just too late. The Depression had weakened the economy and shrunk the market for $5,000-plus cars. In 1933 the Marmon Motor Car Co. went into receivership. Barely 400 Marmon Sixteen's were ever built. Though the name would carry on for many years in Marmon-Herrington four-wheel-drive trucks and four-wheel-drive truck conversions, Marmon was out of the car business. Impressive and elegant, today a Marmon Sixteen is a nearly priceless collectible.By Jessica Donaldson