Contrary to the hoopla about Ford Motor Company’s new F-150, the use of aluminum in autos debuted in 1902. An Indiana-built auto manufacturer may deserve the distinction of the first use of aluminum in autos.
Howard C. Marmon’s first prototype car is credited with development of a water-cooled, two-cylinder V-2 engine with an aluminum crankcase. The body construction was cast aluminum, with the rear compartment being a one-piece casting, including an integral bustle trunk. Its cast-aluminum body construction avoided the cracked surfaces and chipped paint that traditional coach builders had with wood body construction.
The 1906 Marmon catalog noted, “We make the aluminum castings for bodies and machinery parts; brass, bronze, and iron castings; do all machine work and gear cutting except cutting the bevel gears.” The 1907 Model F featured an exclusive all-aluminum body.
The 1916 introduction of the Marmon Model 34 featured an entire body and radiator shell made of aluminum, as was the six-cylinder engine cylinder block and most other engine components, including the push rods.
With the introduction of the Marmon Sixteen in 1930, it appeared that Marmon had saved the best for the last. The Sixteen, a magnificent $5,000 automobile with a 491 c.i.d. V-16 engine produced 200 h.p. and was good for over 100 m.p.h.
The Marmon Sixteen was honored by The Society of Automotive Engineers as “the most notable engineering achievement of 1930.” The society was especially impressed by the extensive use of lightweight aluminum, generally a difficult metal to work and maintain in automobile power plants.
A number of automotive enthusiasts over the years have praised Marmon as a fine automobile. Howard C. Marmon’s use of aluminum in automobiles spanned from 1902 to 1933. This predates Ford Motor Company’s claims by over 113 years. Indiana’s innovative automotive heritage is proven in this instance.