Founded in Richmond, Indiana (USA) in 1851 as Nordyke and Marmon, the company originally was concerned with the manufacture of flour grinding mill equipment. Like many companies of the era, the lure and associated kudos of manufacturing automibles proved tempting, and in 1902 production began of a small quantity of experimental cars, then fitted with an air-cooled
In 1903 came an air-cooled
V4, and experimental V6 and V8 engines were to follow, until the company developed the engine for which they are best known, the straight engine design. The 1909 Model 32 morphed into the Marmon Wasp, Ray Harroun taking first place in the inaugural Indianapolis 500 Mile Race in 1911 with a specially prepared racing variation. The Wasp would also take the honours as being the first ever car to be fitted with a rear view mirror.
The 1916 Model 34 was a highly advanced iteration, using aluminium not only for the straight-6 engine, but also the body and chassis. The car weighed in at a remarkable (for the time) 1495kg, the resultant power to weight ratio enabling the Model 34 to be driven from coast-to-coast as a puclicity stunt, and in doing so beating Erwin "Cannonball" Baker's record.
In 1929 Marmon introduced their most famous model, the sub US$1000 "Straight-8" Roosevelt. It should have been a great success, but the timing could not have been worse. Following the stock market crash that year, the company was beset with inevitable financial problems, and Howard Marmon's development of a V16 engine was a costly exercise at a time when excessive developmental expenditure was ill afforded.
Marmon also lost some of its best engineers, such as Owen Nacker who defected to Cadillac, and James Bohannon who went to Peerless. Both Cadillac and Peerless would use their talents to help develop a competitive V16, with Cadillac taking line honours. Nevertheless the Marmon 16 did make it to market, the 8.0 litre engine producing 200 bhp (149 kW), very respectable figures for the time. But with the Great Depression in full swing, there was little market for such a large and expensive luxury vehicle, and only 400 would be manufactured over a three year period. By 1933 Marmon were on the ropes, and decided to discontinue automobile
manufacture, instead manufacturing car parts and trucks.
Also see: The History of Marmon - Masters of the Straight Eight Engine (USA Site)