Marmon Sixteen – 1931

Just 400 were made, but this was justifiably described as ‘The World’s Most Advanced Car’ upon debut in 1931.

The Marmon Sixteen was the last of a line that began with machinery manufacture in the 19th century, saw experimental cars created in 1902, produced the winner of its inaugural home-town Indianapolis 500 race in 1909 (being first to use a rear-view mirror in the process) and the establishment of Marmon’s reputation for producing quality cars.

Slumping sales marred Marmon’s 1920s, but a reorganization that spun off the automobile operation from the core mill machinery business brought fresh hope. With impeccably bad timing, the straight eight Roosevelt model was launched in 1929 – and consigned to failure by the Wall Street Crash of that year. Undeterred, Howard Marmon continued to develop the sensational VI6 engine conceived in 1927. Unfortunately, he couldn’t fund production, and rivals Cadillac and Peerless both introduced VI6 vehicles – each with an engine designed by an ex-Marmon employee.

In 1931, Howard Marmon did manage to build the superb Marmon Sixteen. His V16 engine was of aluminum construction with steel cylinder linings. The Sixteen was superior to the rival Cadillac, with a better power-to-weight ratio than any other contemporary car save the mighty Duesenberg and torque that provided phenomenal hill-climbing ability – no mean consideration as heavy luxury cars of the day often struggled on steep climbs.

The sleek styling of the Sixteen was adventurous, with clean lines that gave this innovative machine an appearance somewhat ahead of its time. Eight custom body styles from LeBaron were envisaged, but the Sixteen’s timing was no better than the ill-fated Roosevelt’s. It may have been the best luxury car on the market, but the Sixteen could not survive the worst year of the Great Depression, and the company folded in 1933.

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:

USA

FIRST MANUFACTURED:

1931 (until 1933)

ENGINE:

8.0 l (491 cid) V16

PERFORMANCE:

Top speed of 105 mph (170 km/h)

YOU SHOULD KNOW:

Before being supplied, every Marmon Sixteen was driven around the Indianapolis Speedway for 210 miles (338 km) – the last stretch at flat-out speed – and this demanding test included downshifting from top to second at 80 mph (130 km/h) without the gears clashing.

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