1931 Marmon Sixteen Convertible CoupeSOLD

RM Auctions - Vintage Motor Cars at Meadow Brook Hall, August 3-4, 2007

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Estimate: $400,000-$500,000 US

Offered Without Reserve

AUCTION RESULTS: Lot was Sold at a price of $726,000

200bhp 490 cu. in. overhead valve 45 degree V16 engine with three-speed transmission, leaf spring and solid axle front suspension and leaf spring and live axle rear suspension and four-wheel servo assisted mechanical drum brakes. Wheelbase: 145"

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 Indianapolis 500. In fact, the win 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 the Marmon an enviable competition record.

Financial success did not come so easily. A road-going version of the Marmon 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 as 1916 ’ s Model 34 offered a host of innovative features, including the most extensive use of aluminum to date. Much of the car including the radiator, transmission, rear axle, body and fenders were constructed of the new wonder metal.

Poor sales were soon rendered irrelevant when the war intervened, and Marmon ’ s engineering and manufacturing expertise resulted in a contract for some 5,000 Liberty aircraft engines.

Following the war, a financially fortified Marmon Car Company resumed production of the Model 34. Sales remained dismal, and soon the postwar recession began to erode Marmon ’ s balance sheet. Finally, in 1924, Howard ’ s brother resigned the presidency to make way for George M. Williams, an astute businessman who saw the future in more affordable Marmons.

The result was the rather plebian, and much more affordable, straight eight powered Roosevelt model, the car that laid the foundation for the company ’ s recovery. Rather than building adventuresome exercises in engineering excellence, the Marmon Car Company finally achieved financial success by marketing a series of competent and reliable every day automobiles. By the late 1920s, sales were up dramatically, and the company was building more than 20,000 cars per year.

Not satisfied with financial success, Howard Marmon, the engineer, was driven to create an automotive legacy. Working on his own, the result was the creation of one of the most remarkable cars of the classic era – the impressive Marmon Sixteen completed in 1931.

Powered by a state-of-the-art overhead valve engine that displaced nearly 500 cubic inches, the Marmon Sixteen produced 200bhp, enough to propel the car to an almost effortless 100mph. A triumph of pattern-making and foundry technology, 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, out-accelerating the legendary Duesenberg Model J, while costing about one third as much.

It was timing, however, that would be the undoing of Howard ’ s amazing new Sixteen. Cadillac ’ s V16 beat Marmon to the 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.

Today, we are left to admire Howard Marmon ’ s legacy, and to wonder what might have become of the mighty Sixteen had times been better. The deck certainly seemed stacked in its favor. In addition to its advanced specification, the Sixteen ’ s styling was equally ahead of its time.

Although the bodies were built by LeBaron and carried LeBaron's prestigious cowl tags, it was a father and son team of industrial designers who penned the car ’ s svelte lines. Although credit is conventionally given to Walter Dorwin Teague Sr., it was his son who sketched the lines and details that ultimately entered production. A student at MIT, Walter Dorwin Teague Jr. was a gifted designer who would go on to design some of the most influential automobiles of his time.

Sleek and graceful, the Marmon Sixteen ’ s appearance belied its huge size. An almost complete lack of gratuitous ornamentation allowed the intrinsic beauty of the car ’ s lines to shine through. Composed of simple shapes with bold beltlines, low rooflines, and raked windshields, the cars were both elegant and imposing.

The LeBaron bodied Marmon Sixteen seen here is undoubtedly one of the finest convertible coupes in existence. The Marmon 16 had belonged to the prominent Texan collector Bob Atwell, and was passed on to his son Rich following his death, it was from him that Mr. Tamaroff acquired the Convertible Coupe in 2001. Shortly after taking delivery, Mr. Tamaroff sent the Marmon to Sherry ’ s Classic Autos of Warsaw, Ontario, where it was treated to a comprehensive, no-expense-spared restoration.

The striking two-tone paint is beautifully complemented by the sumptuous interior and indicates that nothing was left to chance. The frame-up restoration resulted in the Marmon being awarded CCCA Senior Award status in June of 2002.

The beautiful sixteen-cylinder engine is a work of art and as highlighted in the photos, is in better than new condition. During the restoration all mechanical work on the drivetrain was executed as expected, and the Marmon runs and drives with the pleasure and power a car of this caliber should.

This beautifully proportioned Marmon Sixteen represents excellent value when compared with a Duesenberg as it shares similar lines and offers what many enthusiasts consider to be a superior driving experience given the increased power and improved roadholding. Nevertheless, what makes this particular example unique is its rarity and overall quality. While it is believed that as many as 22 examples may have been built, today just eight remain. Six belong to private collections in the United States, one is currently disassembled and in the process of restoration, and the eighth is in a museum in the Netherlands. The example offered here is the finest of them all.

Few experts today would argue the fact that the Marmon Sixteen was the most advanced design of the classic era. The exceptional restoration of this example, in addition to its long known history, represents a unique opportunity to acquire one of the most important examples of this legendary marque.

Reference Number 9164

as of 5/5/2007

Car 1931 Marmon Sixteen Convertible Coupe
VIN 16144705 
Exterior / Interior Color      Maroon /      Maroon 
Configuration Left Hand Drive (LHD) 
Transmission Manual Shift 
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