Marmon Sixteen 1930

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This is an iconic American car. Of course its direct competitor was the Cadillac V16 1930 series 452. And if in 1926 Lawrence Fisher (president of Cadillac) had not recruited a talented engineer – Ouren Nacker (who had already worked on the V16 in Marmon), perhaps the first production car with a V16 would be Marmon, not Cadillac.

But history has it that Cadillac released its car 10 months ahead of the Marmon. Cadillac produced about 75% of its V16s during the first year of the Great Depression. Perhaps the effects of the recession were not fully felt then and Cadillac was very close to meeting its 3,000 car plan. By the end of 1930, sales of the series 452 had dropped tenfold. And just at this time the Sixteen, which had been under development for five years, entered the market. But while Cadillac had all the power of GM behind it to sell the flagship car at a loss, it was the end for Marmon.

It’s sad, because in some respects the Sixteen is even better than the V16. It is one of the most comfortable, expensive and technologically advanced cars of its time. In terms of cost and power, only the Duesenberg Model J made a bigger wow effect. But it was the Sixteen that became the company’s last model. Though it became the best car of the company during all its history.

Only 350 Marmon Sixteen were produced from the 30th to the 33rd. The series was 10 times less than the V16. And if in the early 30’s Cadillac was slightly more expensive than the Marmon, today, because of the small series, the Sixteen is more expensive. Notably, Marmon gave a one year warranty on their car. Whereas the main competitor gave a half year warranty on their V16.

At first glance, the difference in power of Cadillac and Marmon is not so great – 165 and 200 horsepower. But the difference in torque is quite significant; – 431 and 540 Newtons in favor of the Marmon. Below we will go back to the engine and its technical characteristics in more detail. Not everyone knows this, but the Marmon brand comes from Indianapolis. In part because of this, each sixteen was driven two laps around the Indianapolis race track at the 100-mile-per-hour limit before being handed over to its owner.

The collector, William Harry, accelerated the Sixtteen to even greater speeds on the Nevada Motor Speedway. In doing so, he noted the good handling and brakes. In the early ’30s, a San Francisco newspaper reporter said he had never driven a car that climbed hills so easily. This was due to the tremendous torque available already at low revs.
In 1932, the Society of Automotive Engineers of the United States named the Sixteen engine the best engine of the year. Although both blocks together with a crankcase were cast aluminum and represent a single whole. The advertising slogan said that cylinders made of tool steel were used. Of course, it was about the sleeves.

The cost of the Marmon Sixteen 1930.

A new Marmon Sixteen could be bought for $5,200 to $6,100. By comparison, a ’32 Ford Model 18 V8 could be bought for $500. Cars with custom bodywork sold for $12,000. Today’s equivalent is $240,000.
Today, the price of a Sixteen often exceeds $1 million.

Let’s see a photo of a 1930 Marmon Sixteen.
The factory offered eight body options. Among which were; – sedan, convertible, coupe and limousine. The customer could order the body from a company specializing in the manufacture of bodies. In this case, the car got even more chic and individuality. Unlike Cadillac, there are no V symbols on the exterior of the Marmon. But the inscription “Marmon 16” is present on the wheel covers. The machine with a wheelbase of 3,680mm had a curb weight of 2,450kg, much lower than the weight of the V16.

The instrument dials are almost the entire width of the front panel. The speedometer here is programmed to 120ati miles. Above the ammeter dial is a gold plaque. It reminds you that this particular car has completed two racing laps at the Indianapolis circuit. The nameplate has the date of the pre-sale test on it. Under the windshield there is a plaque that reads – Marmon Sixteen.

Depending on the modification, the front window could be raised to provide good ventilation in the passenger compartment. The different bodies could carry up to 4 or 5 or 7 people. The large limousine, of course, had a glass partition for the driver and passenger compartments. The rear fenders of the roadsters and coupes have special steps on which one could get to the back of the trunk for a seat that could be folded down.

Engine and technical characteristics of Marmon Sixteen 1930.

At first glance, the Marmon’s engine is very similar to the Cadillac’s. The same layout – V16 and even the same 45 degree camber. Such a small camber is unusual for the American auto industry in general, in fact in the U.S. V-motors often have a camber of 90 degrees. But this motor was developed in the second half of the 20’s, for a car that doesn’t look like anything that was produced afterwards.

The Cadillac and Marmon engines even have the same stroke – 4d (101.6mm). Still it is strongly felt that originally both motors were created by the same person. But the Marmon has a slightly larger bore – 3.125d (79.4mm), which allowed to get a higher engine capacity of 490.8 cubic inches (8.049 liters), instead of 452.8 – Cadillac.
The aluminum engine with cast-iron liners weighs 422kg. This may come as a surprise to many, but the Sixteen’s V16 is even slightly shorter than the Pierce Arrow’s V12. This is thanks to the relatively small cylinders. There’s an opinion that the Marmon’s engine is a bit louder than the main competitor’s. This is usually attributed to the engine block material.
The maximum power of 200 horsepower was reached at 3 400 rpm. Remarkably, the Cadillac engine reaches its maximum of 165 hp at the same 3,400 rpm. The 540Nm of torque is huge even by today’s standards. And it’s in newtons that the Sixteen wins quite noticeably over the V16. The traction advantage alone could have been a significant argument for many buyers. But for that to happen, the Sixteen Marmon had to have been produced before the Great Depression, or not at all. The Sixteen could reach 60 miles per hour in 20s, and that was four seconds faster than the V16 did. In part, the Sixteen owes its higher power to a higher compression ratio than the V16; 6.0:1 for the Marmon, and 5.3:1 for the Cadillac. Increased compression ratio always contributes to power and economy, but it also increases fuel octane requirements.
Whereas the V16 was fed from two, single-chamber carburetors, where from one carburetor the fuel sloshed to one block, the Sixteen is fed from a single, dual-chamber Stronberg carburetor. The dual-chamber carburetor fuel supply was considered better and more efficient.
The top speed was 160k miles per hour. But there is information, that the 16-cylinder Marmon accelerated up to 178 km per hour on the Indianapolis ring.
Transmission is manual, three-speed. Suspension is leaf spring on both axles, and the brakes are drum type, mechanical with vacuum booster. The diameter of the brake drum on such a, sixteen-cylinder car is 16d! Larger drums provided a larger contact patch and consequently better braking.

The Marmon Sixteen was one of the landmark cars of all time. Some say it was ruined by Cadillac’s early output, but I don’t think that’s 100% true. Of course, if one imagines that the Great Depression didn’t happen, Ouren Nacker didn’t go to a competitor, and Cadillac itself never released its V16. The Sixteen could have been in a unique position – it would have been the only, production V16 in the world and would surely have been bought. Both cars are great, but if Cadillac was able to survive this, tough time, then Marmon simply didn’t have the resources to do so. Too bad, because they created a majestic car that still serves as the pride of any collection today.

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