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1931-1933 Marmon Sixteen


Marmon Performance
Marmon prices were lowered for 1933 as the four-door sedan went from $5,700 to $4,975, but in the end it didn't matter as Marmon was on the ropes and there would be no 1934 models. In total, only about 390 Sixteens were produced.
Marmon prices were lowered for 1933 as the four-door sedan went from $5,700 to $4,975, but in the end it didn't matter as Marmon was on the ropes and there would be no 1934 models. In total, only about 390 Sixteens were produced.
©Milton Gene Kieft

What a performer the Marmon Sixteen was. Its power-to-weight ratio was the greatest of any automobile on the American road, save only the Duesenberg. Torque, though never advertised, has been reliably estimated at between 380 and 400 pounds/feet, providing the Sixteen with phenomenal hill-climbing ability. A San Francisco newspaper reporter declared, "We've never driven a luxury automobile that can climb hills like a Marmon 16!"

Top speed was in excess of 100 miles per hour. In fact, upon taking delivery of a new Marmon Sixteen, the buyer received a certificate indicating that his car's chassis, fitted with a test body that simulated the weight of a fully equipped car, had been driven 210 miles at the Indianapolis Speedway, the last 10 miles being run at "Wide open throttle at not less than 105 miles an hour." A further requirement of the test run was that the driver must have downshifted from high to second at 80 mph without gear clash.

A 5,100-pound, 100-plus-mph automobile obviously needed superior brakes, and Howard Marmon was not one to overlook anything so important. He used the mechanical, duo-servo type, Vacuum-assisted and self-energizing. Sixteen-inch drums were used, and at 353 3/4 square inches, the lining area was nearly 64 percent greater than that of the Cadillac V-16.

To style his magnificent new luxury-liner, Marmon called upon Walter Dorwin Teague, a New York-based industrial designer. It was a puzzling choice, for Teague had had no previous experience in automobile styling, nor was he particularly interested in automobiles.

In fact, at that time he didn't even know how to drive. Chances are he was hired because he was a close personal friend of the Marmon brothers, and no doubt he agreed to do the job on the cheap, for by that time the company was in desperate financial condition.

In any case, the actual design was evidently the work of Teague's son, Walter Dorwin, Jr., 18 years old at that time and a freshman at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Young Teague borrowed ideas from both Ray Dietrich and Frank Hershey, the latter an employee of the Walter M. Murphy Company in those days. His design, somewhat controversial at the time, appears now to be clean, sleek, and more modern-looking than most luxury cars of the early Thirties.

But of course the timing of the Marmon Sixteen's introduction could hardly have been worse. First, although a prototype was displayed at the New York Salon in December 1930, actual production didn't get under way until April 16,1931. By that time the Cadillac V-16 had been on the market for more than 15 months, which took the edge off the excitement of the Sixteen's debut. And then there was the condition of the nation's economy, by then approaching its nadir.

In the circumstances, it can hardly come as a surprise that production of this great automobile was severely limited. Although eight LeBaron body styles were catalogued, according to the best available estimates only 390 Marmon Sixteens were built: 223 in 1931, 111 in 1932, and 56 in 1933. Marmon had contacted a number of custom coachbuilders in the hope that some of them might use the big Marmon's chassis, but apparently only three custom jobs were ever produced: two phaetons by Waterhouse and one, a victoria, designed by Count Alexis de Sakhnoffsky and built by the Hayes Body Company.

By May 1,1933, the company was in receivership and the great Marmon Sixteen was history.

On the next page, get specifications for the 1931-1933 Marmon.

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