For When a V8 Wasn't Enough: The Marmon Sixteen
The Marmon company started at the beginning of the twentieth century, and a Marmon actually won the very first Indianapolis 500 back in 1911. But that's not all it was famous for. Howard Marmon was a clever designer and really the driving force behind the automotive branch of the company, which mainly built milling machinery. More conventional models coming from the company eventually led him to withdraw from the automotive branch, but in private, he began designing what would be his crowning achievement. Along with Cadillac and Peerless, Marmon was the only carmaker to introduce V16 motorcars, which can arguably be called the kings of all automobiles. The Cadillac is by far the most popular and well known of these classic V16s, but the Marmon is no less interesting or cleverly designed. RELATED: See More Pictures of the 1931 Marmon Sixteen Coupe
Like the Cadillac, the Marmon featured what was basically two straight-eights set on a common crankcase at 45 degrees with overhead valves, but the Marmon's engine made extensive use of aluminum and was considerably lighter than its GM rival. At 491 cubic inches, it was bigger than the Cadillac as well and was able to put out a full 200 horsepower compared to the Cadillac's 165.
The Marmon Sixteen also made almost 400 lb-ft of torque, which allowed the large, generously appointed, 5,100 pound car to reach speeds of over 100 miles per hour. All of these were extremely impressive figures in the early 1930s, and so impressive was Howard Marmon's design that he was awarded awarded a medal for outstanding achievement by the Society of Automotive Engineers at the Chicago Auto Salon in 1930.
RELATED: See Pictures of the 1932 Marmon HCM V-12 Prototype
It was indeed Howard Marmon's masterpiece and a phenomenal car, but it was also an example of horrible timing. This was the Great Depression. The car business got incredibly competitive, especially among the premium brands at the top of the price spectrum. Although Marmon's V16 was designed before the Cadillac, it was actually introduced a year later. Cadillac therefore had a headstart in addition to GM dollars behind it.
The Marmon Sixteen didn't truly go on sale until 1931, and by 1933 the company was no more. In the end, less than 400 examples were built in eight different body styles. Certainly one of the greatest machines of the Classic Era, it's a shame it isn't more well known.
RELATED: See Pictures of the 1934 Cadillac Fleetwood V16 Rumbleseat Roadster
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