1931 Marmon Sixteen LimousineSOLD

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

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Estimate: $250,000-$350,000

AUCTION RESULTS: Lot was Sold at a price of $374,000

200 bhp, 491 cu. in. overhead valve 45 degree V16 engine, three-speed transmission, leaf spring and solid axle front suspension, leaf spring and live axle rear suspension, four-wheel mechanical drum brakes. Wheelbase: 145"

The Nordyke & Marmon Company located in Indianapolis, Indiana, had since the mid-1800s been a prominent manufacturer of flour milling machinery. It was only through the impetus, drive, and vision of Howard Marmon that the company began producing automobiles.

A University of California Berkeley graduate in mechanical engineering, Howard Marmon truly excelled in his métier and was quickly promoted to chief engineer at his family ’ s company. A testament to his talents, he built his first prototype automobile at the age of 23 in 1902. Incredibly advanced for its time, that first car was powered by an air-cooled V-twin engine that featured pressured lubrication and overhead valves. By 1903, Marmon had produced an air-cooled V4, and the following year the company was a fully legitimized automobile manufacturer.

Design and production continued through the early part of the twentieth century, as Howard Marmon experimented with different engine styles, which included both V6 and V8 configurations.

In 1909, Marmon built the Model 32, known to most as the Marmon Wasp for its yellow body and long, pointed tail. Driven by Ray Harroun, the Wasp, which incidentally was the very first car to be fitted with a rear view mirror, was the winner of the very first Indianapolis 500 in 1911. This feat did more than instantly earn Marmon the reputation of being sporting and reliable, it propelled the Marmon name into racing lore.

Production continued for Marmon, gaining strength every year. However, success was not limited to just profit and production volume. In 1916, a Marmon Model 34 drove across America in pursuit of the trans-continental record. The team of drivers managed to accomplish the endurance challenge in less than six days, beating the legendary Cannon Ball Baker ’ s time, achieved in a Cadillac, by an impressive 41 hours.

By the mid twenties, in spite of the company ’ s favorable reputation, Marmon sales were lagging. A substantial financial influx was offered by George Williams on the condition that Marmon diversify its product range and produce a more economical offering. The resulting Roosevelt model, introduced in 1929, succeeded in raising Marmon ’ s annual sales from 14,770 in 1928 to over 22,000 its first year of production.

While Marmon was enjoying a period of prosperity, thanks to Williams ’ modestly priced and high selling models, Howard Marmon took advantage of this time to work on a new model that was diametrically opposed to the relatively plebian Roosevelt.

What Howard Marmon had been working on was an all-new and technically advanced sixteen-cylinder powered vehicle. Despite critical praise from industry experts, its debut in 1931 was overshadowed by Cadillac ’ s entry into the V16 market the previous year and few consumers noticed that the Marmon was both more powerful and more striking in appearance.

Making matters worse, America was now fully entrenched in the Depression and the auto industry was left reeling. The market for $5,000-plus automobiles was obliterated, and the few who could still afford such extravagances were not numerous enough to keep all of America ’ s luxury manufacturers afloat. Unfortunately, Marmon was one of the first to fall into receivership, arguably at the worst of the Depression in 1933.

The LeBaron bodied Marmon Sixteen Limousine pictured here is a truly outstanding and fortunate example. When the current owner purchased the car, it had been totally disassembled with the intention of restoration. The car needed to be restored because when the previous owner took delivery of the car, the driver of the truck that was towing the Marmon fell asleep at the wheel. He, with the Marmon in tow, left the motorway, nowhere near an exit, and soon after found his truck and trailer upside down some distance from the road. Luckily, nobody was seriously hurt, but the Marmon Sixteen Limousine did not come away from the episode unscathed.

The damage to the Marmon 16 was primarily limited to the coachwork, where the roof of the trailer had collapsed. Remarkably, almost everything below the greenhouse survived intact because throughout the ordeal, the Marmon stayed securely strapped in place.

The current owner had the car sent to Harry Sherry of Sherry Custom Autos in Warsaw, Ontario, Canada where it was treated to a no-expense-spared restoration that took over two years to complete. Being a consummate perfectionist, Sherry left no area of the Marmon Limousine overlooked or untouched. Because the Limousine had been placed in gear when it suffered its accident, some of the gears within the transmission were damaged from the sudden jolt. These were easily replaced and otherwise the Marmon suffered no other mechanical damage from the accident. A new body was built using as much of the original as possible, following original methods of manufacture. Upon completion, the Marmon had not only been given a second lease on life, but had been restored into a mechanically flawless, and visually stunning example.

The exterior of the Marmon Sixteen Limousine is finished in a subtle yet regal color combination of dark burgundy and black. It is equipped with twin front mounted horns, dual spotlights, and a pair of side-mounted spares with hard cases and mirrors. The Marmon also sports dual windshield wipers, six chrome wheel discs wrapped in wide whitewall tires and at the rear a leather trunk sits atop its rack. The interior compartment displays the same highly elevated level of craftsmanship as the exterior. The chauffeur is treated to a plush black leather seat and a pristine set of gauges. Behind the separating glass, the occupants ride in style and comfort surrounded by the finest materials: burled wood frames the windows, blinds may be pulled shut and two jump seats accommodate a pair of additional passengers. The engine itself is a work of art, modern in its precision and pristine in its presentation. The undercarriage, likewise, displays a quality of restoration reserved for the showfields of the world ’ s most prestigious Concours d ’ Elegance. Yet remarkably, the Marmon has never been shown at any concours event.

What makes this Marmon V16 Limousine so special, other than it being a correct matching numbers example, is the quality of restoration with which it has been blessed. The investment of care, time and money present in the Marmon is often reserved to more popular open body styles. We encourage personal inspection as the quality of the workmanship offers the new owner perhaps the most attractive Limousine coachwork ever fitted to the Marmon 16 chassis.

Reference Number 9165

as of 5/5/2007

Car 1931 Marmon Sixteen Limousine
VIN 16147602 
Exterior / Interior Color      Black over Maroon /      Grey  
Configuration Left Hand Drive (LHD) 
Transmission Manual Shift 
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