Thursday, February 2, 2017


The Pack-Age-Car’s connections to racing history
 
 
courtesy EBay
This restoration uses incorrect wooden doors
 
Recently the internet auction site EBay Motors listed for sale a 1931 Stutz Pak-Age-Car, which caught the author’s attention. At this point, you the reader might reasonably ask “what do these trucks have to do with racing history?”  The author’s research into Pack-Age-Car history revealed a surprising number of connections between the history of these humble utility trucks and historic automobile industry and racing personalities.  
 
The Pak-Age-Car, known originally as the Pac Car, was a small urban delivery vehicle introduced in 1925 as an alternative to horse-drawn city light delivery wagons. The simple all-steel body truck with a 92 ½ inch wheelbase powered by a two-cylinder horizontally opposed two-cylinder Hercules engine coupled to the rear axle packaged in a slide-out module. The Chicago-based manufacturer claimed that in case of mechanical troubles the engine package could be exchanged in fifteen minutes by a two-man crew without disturbing the truck’s payload.  
 
 
The early Pack-Age-Cars resembled horse-drawn wagons minus the horse. The Pack-Age-Car could be controlled from either side of the 52-inch wide cab by the standing driver. The throttle, clutch and brake functions were all controlled through a lever, with one lever mounted on either side of the cab and the steering wheel in the center of the cab. The top speed of the wagon-like vehicle was a scary 12 to 15 miles per hour with an advertised average fuel consumption of one quart of gasoline per hour.



In December 1927 it was announced that Stutz Motor Car Company of America based in Indianapolis Indiana had taken over the distribution of Pack-Age-Car trucks in the United States.  Early advertising for the Stutz Pack-Age-Car referred to it as “the horse’s only competitor - designed to be more economical in maintenance and operation that a horse and wagon.”  The powered wagon sold for a retail price of $995 with the exterior of the body finished in white undercoating ready for the customer to paint in their colors

Harry Stutz had founded his eponymous automobile manufacturing business in 1911 and the company built its reputation from a Stutz’ performance in the inaugural Indianapolis 500-mile race. Team driver Gil Andersen started from the twenty-second position (based on the date the entry was received) and finished the grueling grind in under seven and half hours in eleventh place. This result led Stutz to advertise as “the car that made good in a day.” Stutz himself left the business in 1919, and after the company’s financial failure in 1922, the new board of directors brought in Frederick E. Moscovics to run the company.

Moskovics understood the publicity value of automobile racing, having been involved in the management of the 1910 Los Angeles Motordrome board track in Playa del Rey California. Stutz built a reputation of speed and reliability through their success in early stock car races. Unlike the modern-day NASCAR silhouette “stock car” races, these American Automobile Association (AAA) sanctioned races were open to strictly stock cars that displaced 300 cubic inches or less. To ensure the stock nature of the cars, the AAA Contest Board reserved the right to select the cars at random and supervise their preparation.

The races were scheduled, often in conjunction with AAA championship races on two East Coast board tracks - the Rockingham Speedway in New Hampshire and Atlantic City Speedway in New Jersey. Cars raced less the windshield, fenders, running boards and tops with the only mechanical adjustments allowed limited to “valve grinding, cylinder honing, relieving bearing clearances, and fine tuning.”  1924 Indianapolis 500-mile race co-winner LL Corum, along with drivers Ralph Mulford, Tom Rooney, Bert Dingley, and Gil Andersen competed and won races with factory-entered Stutz Blackhawk Vertical Eight Speedsters.  

Despite the racing success, the late nineteen twenties, Stutz automobile sales began to drop off so Moscovics used the Stutz dealer network for the distribution of the Stutz Pak-Age-Car in 1927. On November 28 1932, with automobile sales and the company’s finances ebbing, the Stutz board of directors approved the purchase of the controlling interest of Pak-Age-Car from Mechanical Manufacturing Company of Chicago.  
A long wheelbase Pack-Age-Car
 

At the New York Automobile Show held in January 1933 Stutz unveiled the redesigned Stutz Pak-age-Car built by the new Package Car Division established in the Stutz factory at 1002 North Capitol Avenue in Indianapolis.  The redesigned Pack-Age-Car was powered by a four-cylinder opposed engine with a more contemporary truck-like front end design with fenders. Stutz also expanded the line with the availability of a longer 106-inch wheelbase, and the earlier dual lever control system was abandoned in favor of a typical left-hand stand or seated driver setup with a single gauge bezel in front of the driver.  

 

Stutz also tried to shore up their automobile sales in the deepening economic depression with the introduction of lightweight six-cylinder models. The new automobiles models failed to score big sales and after consecutive years of ever-increasing losses, new Stutz president and former company treasurer Marvin Hamilton ended passenger car production in 1935.

Although the once-proud Stutz automobile was no more, Pak-Age-Car production continued and on May 3 1936 Hamilton announced that George H. Freers formerly with Marmon joined Stutz as the chief engineer in charge of all Pak-Age-Car activities.
 
 

Freers, an Indianapolis native and 1908 graduate from the Rose Polytechnic Institute in Terre Haute Indiana worked for several truck manufacturers before he joined Nordyke & Marmon the builders of the Marmon automobile in 1912. During his lengthy career at Marmon, Freers became professionally and personally close to Howard Carpenter Marmon one of the company co-founders Daniel Marmon’s two sons.   

In 1924 Freers was named Nordyke & Marmon’s assistant chief engineer in charge of the experimental department and in 1926 he built a new three-bedroom home in Indianapolis’ Irvington neighborhood at 5124 East Walnut Street. Freers’ appointment to succeed Thomas J. Litle Jr. as the Marmon Motor Cars Company’s chief engineer was announced in the Indianapolis Star on October 21 1929. Three days later the Wall Street Crash occurred which led to the worldwide economic depression which would eventually spell the end for many automobile manufacturers including Marmon.

While in charge of the Nordyke & Marmon experimental department, Freers and his staff worked with race car builder Earl Cooper to prepare the two Marmon 1928 Indianapolis 500-mile race entries.  Marmon which had competed in racing since its stunning victory in the inaugural 1911 Indianapolis ‘500, and likely wanted to build on the publicity of the eight-cylinder Marmon 78 being selected as the race’s Official Pacemaker. The yellow and red Marmon Model 78 rumble-seat roadster would be driven for its pacing duties by Joe Dawson, the 1912 Indianapolis ‘500’ winner who had driven a Marmon to a fifth place finish in the inaugural 1911Indidnapolis ‘500.’  
 
A factory photo of the 1928 Marmon 68 Special
Courtesy of the IUPUI University Library Center for Digital Studies
Indianapolis Motor Speedway Collection
 
The Marmon entries were built by Earl Cooper, who had a remarkable driving career both before and after World War One was the three-time American Automobile Association (AAA) national champion in 1913, 1915, and 1917. Before the war, as a member of the powerful Stutz Racing Team, Cooper notched sixteen victories mostly on dirt tracks and early road courses. Cooper returned to race driving in 1922 at age 36 and proved to be an adept board track racer during the Miller 122- and 91-cubic inch eras with a string of strong top-five finishes.  

During the 1926 AAA season, Cooper bought the Miller supercharged 91-cubic inch chassis number #2605 and over the winter of 1926-7, he built three copies, with the full knowledge or and assistance of Harry A. Miller. Funded by Buick Motors, each of the three new Copper-built cars were powered by a supercharged 91 cubic-inch eight-cylinder supercharged Miller engine breathing through four Miller Dual Throat Updraft carburetors that produced 167 horsepower and powered the front wheels.  

The major difference between a Miller and Cooper was the construction of the front drive assembly. Instead of the typical Miller jewel-like front drive, with the design assistance of Leo Gosssen, Copper’s cars used a Ruckstell planetary gear set paired with two-speed Ruckstell axle to achieve four forward speeds.

Near the end of their construction, Buick withdrew its support and all four of Earl Cooper’s cars were entered for the 1927 running of the Indianapolis 500-mile by Cooper Engineering for veterans Peter Kreis, Bennett Hill, Bob McDonogh and Jules Ellingboe.  All three new cars qualified for the 1927 ‘500,’ but Kreis’ and Hill’s cars had mechanical failure and Ellingboe crashed so only McDonough finished coming in with a sixth place finish with the re-badged Miller.

By 1928 Earl Cooper had sold his original Miller chassis and for the 1928 ‘500’ landed Nordyke & Marmon Company as the sponsor for two of his three cars, and part of the sponsorship agreement included Cooper’s use of the Marmon engineering shop and staff to help prepare the cars.

On April 13 1928, Earl Cooper formally entered two “Marmon 68 Specials,” and the Indianapolis Star proclaimed that by “entering the 1928 500-mile race the Marmon Company is using the event as an actual means of testing many new and advanced engineering principles.”  "Changes in the future design of passenger automobiles are coming so fast that we decided to take some of our advanced engineering ideas to the race course for a trial," Howard Marmon was quoted "We are entering the Indianapolis race, not so much from a competitive standing but rather to forward the splendid achievement of our cars and to see just how near a state of perfection the innovations that we have conceived have progressed."

Cooper would later enter his third front-drive car under his own name after on-track practice had opened on May 2 for rookie driver Russell Snowberger. This entry after the official close of entries was allowed after it was evident that the Speedway was facing a short field of entries.
 
Peter Kreis' Marmon Special on race morning 1928
Courtesy of the IUPUI University Library Center for Digital Studies
Indianapolis Motor Speedway Collection
 
The two “Marmon 68 Specials” were assigned to drivers Albert J. “Peter” Kreis and Johnny Seymour. Kreis, from a wealthy Tennessee family finished eighth in his first ‘500’ in 1925, and for the 1926 ‘500’ bought a new Miller. Kreis became ill after he qualified the car and turned it over to rookie Frank Lockhart to drive in the ‘500,’ and Lockhart won the rain-shortened race. During the 1927 racing season Kreis earned his pilot’s license and at his wife’s request had reduced his racing schedule to Indianapolis only.     

In comparison to the veteran Kreis who was listed as an early favorite to win the ‘500’ Seymour a former motorcycle racer on Daytona Beach and the board tracks was an Indianapolis rookie. In fact the 1928 ‘500’ was the first official AAA (American Automobile Association) race start for the driver from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  

Unlike the modern schedule in 1928 time trials were held three consecutive days from May 26 through May 28. The nineteen cars that qualified on the first day included Seymour in the Marmon #33 with an average speed for his ten mile run of 111.673 miles per hour (MPH). Kreis in the Marmon #32 was the fastest qualifier on the second day of time trials with a four-lap average of 112.906 MPH and was scheduled to start in the 20th position.

When qualifying closed at sundown on Monday May 28 there were only 28 cars in the field which led Speedway officials to extend time trials into Tuesday and Wednesday. On Tuesday, Buddy Marr’s qualified “BW Cooke Special” (owned by the operator of the Coyne Electrical School of Chicago) crashed was badly damaged and later withdrawn which moved Kreis’ #32 Marmon to the inside of the seventh row on Memorial Day.   

Snowberger in the third Cooper entry was the first car out of the race with a broken supercharger. By lap 73, Kreis’ Marmon entry was sidelined with burnt rod bearings, and Seymour’s entry dropped out with a broken supercharger on lap 170. Kreis earned $499 for his 22nd place finish, while Seymour earned just $69 more for his 17th place finish.

1928 marked the last formal appearance of the Marmon name on a race car at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway until 1993 when the Marmon Group returned as the sponsor of John Andretti’s Lola 9200. Lee Oldfield’s Marmon-powered bizarre rear-engine home-built machine that appeared at the Speedway during the late nineteen thirties was not a factory-support effort. 

In the late nineteen twenties, Nordyke & Marmon restructured. Howard Marmon’s brother, Walter became the company president and was named chairman of the board of Nordyke & Marmon in 1924. In 1926 Walter sold off the company’s grain-milling equipment business line which was the foundation of the company.  During 1929, the Marmon Motor Car Company was spun off as an individual entity with Howard named the new company’s president.

In 1931, the company headed by Walter Marmon entered a partnership with Colonel Arthur William Sidney Herrington for the manufacture of trucks under the name of the Marmon-Herrington Company. The British-born Arthur Herrington had served as racing official with the AAA since at least 1905 and served as the powerful Chairman of the AAA Contest Board until the AAA withdrew from race sanctioning at the end of the 1955 season. 

Marmon-Herrington moved its operations to the defunct Duesenberg Company plant at 1511 West Washington Street a 16-acre site located on the corner of West Washington and Harding streets in Indianapolis. This site housed the Marmon-Herrington factory until it ceased Indianapolis operations in July 1963, and today one of the original Duesenberg buildings still remains intact.  

Marmon renowned for its series of magnificent luxury automobiles introduced the successful “Little Eight” in 1927 and followed it up with a new lightweight 201-cubic inch 70 horsepower straight-eight powered car for the 1929 model year. The Roosevelt which honored the 26th President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, was advertised as the “car for all” as one body style retailed for less than $1000. Despite its startling low price, there were rumors in the press of a “soft crankshaft” and like many “junior” marques introduced by other luxury automakers such as Stutz and Locomobile the Roosevelt was a sales failure. In 1930, the marque was renamed the Marmon-Roosevelt and in 1931 and 1932 it was sold as the Marmon Model 70, but sales remained awful.
 
Marmon 16 Convertible Sedan
 

The Marmon “16” introduced in January 1930 was a spectacular machine powered by a 490 cubic inch 45 degree sixteen-cylinder overhead valve aluminum engine that produced 200 horsepower. The Marmon “16” advertised as "The World's Most Advanced Car." weighed 4,600 pounds but was guaranteed by the factory to reach 100 MPH.  Available in either a coupe, sedan or a Convertible Sedan body style, all the “16” series models were styled by Walter D. Teague and his son Walter Junior who worked with Frank Lockhart on the body design of the ill-fated Stutz Blackhawk Land Speed Record Car.

Like other luxury automakers Marmon’s sales plummeted through the Great Depression. Production of the magnificent “16” totaled 12,369 units in 1930, and then fell to 5,687 units in 1931. Only 1,365 cars were built for the 1932 year with only 86 16-cylinder cars built in 1933.

In 1932, Howard Marmon envisioned a new car - the HCM. With Marmon in severe financial straits, the car was built in a corner of Marmon factory by a team led by George Freer. The car’s reported cost of $150,000 was personally financed by Howard Marmon himself.  The HCM was ground-breaking with such advanced features as a central backbone chassis riding on independent front and rear suspension with inboard brakes.

For the HCM’s engine, Marmon and Freer eliminated the four rear cylinders of the 16-cylinder engine to create an aluminum 368-cubic inch 45 degree overhead valve V-12 engine that developed 150 horsepower. The aerodynamic two-door sedan body designed by Walter Teague Junior featured rear-hinged “suicide” doors and the headlights set into the front fenders reminiscent of a Pierce-Arrow.
 
The HCM
 

Unfortunately by the time the new HCM car was completed in the fall of 1933, the Marmon Motor Car Company was already in bankruptcy proceedings. In its last quarter of operation Marmon Motor Car Company lost $234,000 and during the final year of operation lost $1.8 million. Shortly after the bankruptcy filing Walter Marmon shocked many in the automobile industry when he told the Auto Topics magazine that Marmon Motor Car had been completely independent from Marmon-Herrington for “over a year.”

Howard Marmon took his HCM car on a nationwide driving tour but could not find financial backers to save his company and build the HCM. There were several competing efforts to rescue the Marmon Motor Car Company out of receivership including a 1934 plan that involved promoter Preston Tucker and race car builder Harry A. Miller. After their failure to take over Marmon, the pair formed Miller-Tucker which built the ill-fated ten-car Ford V8 race team under contract to N W Ayer & Son, the Ford Motor Company’s advertising agency that was entered in the 1935 Indianapolis ‘500.’     

Although the HCM never advanced past the single prototype, Freers and Marmon submitted patent applications in 1933 for their backbone chassis and independent front suspension  designs and received patents for each in 1935 and 1937 respectively.

Howard Marmon’s still-born HCM prototype remained parked in the garage of his Pineola North Carolina estate ‘Hemlock Hedges’ until his death in 1943. After his death Marmon’s widow would not sell it and instead gave the car to Fred Moscovics. As a testament to the closeness of their relationship, Howard Marmon’s last will and testament bequeathed the amount of $5000 cash to George Freers, which is equivalent to $70,000 today.

Alas the Stutz Pack-Age-Car career of George Freers did not last long, as Stutz filed for bankruptcy on September 29, 1937. With Stutz’ failure, the patents and licensing rights for the production of the Pack-Age-Car light delivery truck reverted to Northern Motors of Chicago. The rights were then purchased during 1938 by former Auburn Automobile Company executives (Auburn had failed just a few weeks after Stutz) and the men formed a new company the Pak-Age-Car Corporation on August 25, 1938. Former Auburn General Manager John McGowan was the new company’s vice-president, and Auburn vice-president Roy H. Faulkner was installed as the new Pak-Age-Car company president.

Tooling was moved to Connersville Indiana and Pack-Age-Car production resumed in the Auburn Central Manufacturing Company plant on October 15 1938. Central Manufacturing founded early in the twentieth century and in 1928 Errett Lobban Cord acquired a controlling interest in from the Ansted family and folded it into his Cord Corporation. Years later, William Ansted son of the original founder of Central became a noted car owner at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the roadster era and was one of the co-owners of AJ Foyt’s 1964 “500’ winning machine.

Although the Cord Corporation was bankrupt, the Auburn Central Manufacturing managed to remain open throughout due to its income from its many lucrative contracts to supply sheet metal stampings to other automakers and for home products sold by Montgomery Ward and Sears Roebuck & Company. 

The revised Pack-Age-Cars used key components supplied by other Cord Corporation divisions; they were powered by a four-cylinder Lycoming CT flat-head engine hooked to a Columbia axle packaged in the removable rear sub frame. Since the manufacturer lacked a dealer network, the trucks were distributed through Diamond T Motor Car Company truck dealerships beginning with the 1939 model year. Diamond T Pack-Age-Cars were built in small numbers probably until March 1941 when the Auburn Central Connersville factory switched over to the manufacture Jeep bodies for Willys-Overland which continued throughout World War 2.  

Exact Pack-Age-Car trucks production numbers during the approximately 15 years of manufacture are unknown, but very few Pack-Age-Car truck remain today, largely due to their design. As the trucks lacked any built-in refrigerant system for their perishable payloads, the trucks were instead packed with ice. Drivers stood atop of a wood pallet arrangement so they did not have to stand in water from the melting ice, but of course within just a few years the Pack-Age-Car sheet metal bodies began to rust from the inside out.
 

Research was conducted using the Automotive Research Library of the Horseless Carriage Foundation of which the author is a proud member. Check out their site at https://www.hcfi.org/

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