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The New Marmon: 1914

The New Marmon: 1914

Washington, D.C. "Marmon Motor Car Co." I'll say circa 1915 and wait for the experts to weigh in. Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative. View full size. [The consensus seems to be that this is a 1914 Marmon "48" seven-passenger touring car, which listed for $5,000 -- a staggering sum in those days. It's riding on 37-inch Firestone "Quick Detachable" natural-rubber tires.]



I own a 2-flat brick apartment building in Chicago which was built in 1914. It sold for just over $5,000 new. If it's ever torn down I'm required to replace it with a building that will sell for a minimum of $5,000, not much of a problem nowadays!

Four-wheel brakes

Brakes on every wheel were a late 1920's innovation, long after this car was made. Early on, four-wheel brakes were thought to be dangerous. This Marmon may have had a brake on the drive shaft behind the transmission, in addition to the rear-wheel brakes.

Nevertheless, one had to anticipate well in advance to stop one of these massive autos, often applying both brakes at once. The rear brakes would have been pedal-operated, the driveshaft brake would have been a pull lever, like a modern parking brake.

Early Tire Sizes

Tires were sized differently back then. A 37x5 tire is 37 inches outside diameter with five-inch sidewalls. It fit a 27-inch rim. The transition from wooden wheels to the pressed steel wheels was not the same for all manufacturers. Ford, Chevrolet and many others used wire wheels before the transition to the steel wheel. Of course most failed during the Depression and died with their wooden boots on.

Parallel parking

In 1964 I managed to flunk the parallel parking portion of my drivers test in a 62 Dodge Dart (took out some cones). I could've really done some damage trying to park that monster.

The Boot Cover

is probably Fabrikoid pyroxylin-coated canvas manufactured by a subsidiary of Dupont up in Newburgh NY back in those days. Pyroxylin was a form of polymerized cellulose, and Fabrikoid was a Dupont trademark after 1910. Other forms were used for many years in artificial leather applications such as as auto seat covers, general upholstery, bookbinding and as window shades. DuPont gradually replaced the pyroxylin cellulose component with synthetic polyvinyl chloride (vinyl). Or as Dupont called it, Fabrilite.

My dad was for many years the overseas sales liaison for these types of goods for Dupont for some 40 years until he retired in Delaware in 1966.

Look at those wheels!

Those make the 22 inch wheels on an Escalade look like they belong on a trike!

What a beautiful vehicle.


And the tires are the famous Firestone "Non Skid" tires, with the words NON and SKID making up the tread. These have been available as reproductions since at least the 1970s (the first time I saw some in person). Coker Tire makes them, but only in black.

Pricey to say the least

$5,000 in 1914 is $108,690 in 2009 dollars. Model T Fords were quite a bit less.

Front brakes

I do not see a brake drum on the front wheel. Wonder when front brakes became standard equipment?

37s Dawg!

Big, Big

It is apparent the driver is a sizable man, but he looks small in the car. Some of those old giants were proportioned so well their size is misleading, but that is one BIG automobile!

[If you blow this up all the way you can read the tire size on the sidewall -- 37x5. Which means 37-inch wheels. - Dave]

Not Dopey or Sneezy, he's Grumpy

Given the beauty and elegance of the new car this gentleman is piloting, one wonders why the fellow looks so very grumpy.

1914 Marmon "48"

[The "48" cost an eye-popping $5,000 in 1914. Below, some ads for the smaller "41." - Dave]


The car shown has demountable rims. The six bolts on the outer periphery of the wheel held the rim and tire assembly to the wheel. You jacked the car up, removed the bolts, pulled the rim off of the wheel and replaced it with the spare. The wood spokes were attached to an inner rim called a felloe. Most cars had this type of wheel until wire wheels became popular.

[I think these wooden artillery-style wheels were gradually supplanted by pressed steel discs. - Dave]

Hains Point Cruiser

This may be what is now Ohio Drive on Hains Point, an almond-shaped spit of land in the Potomac immediately south of Washington's innermost downtown area. Our subject would be facing northwest, directly under what would become the southbound final approach to Reagan National Airport.

[Look at the shadows. The sun is shining more or less from the south. - Dave]

My boss' guess

And he's been a car guy for 50+ years. Probably a 1913-1914.

[That's a good start. Now where are the people with multiple Marmons out in the garage? - Dave]

That new car smell

I noticed that the tread on the tires is still white. Was this car just plunked down here? I also noticed a few other things; The bolt pattern on the front and back tires isn't the same. I guess you were expected to actually change the rubber on the rim? And a question: What is the cover for the folding top made of...vinyl? Did they have vinyl back then?

[Car tires used to be white, which is the color of natural rubber. Later the manufacturers started adding carbon black. The top would be canvas. The part showing in this photo is the "boot" that covers the top when it's folded. This one looks like rubberized canvas. - Dave]

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