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Did Roamer Buy Rutenber Motor Co???

Bud Tierney

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There's a Wiki entry for Barley Motor Car Co that, among other things, talks about the Barley and the Roamer, and states that when Lycoming engines were no longer available Roamer bought the Rutenber Motor Co in 1926....

That write-up appears in at least one other site; I have no idea which copied the other...

Various other sources state Rutenber was earlier bought by, or acquired by, or merged/consolidated into (sources differ on terminology) Indiana Truck Co/Cptn in or around 1920 or the early 20s...

Does anyone here have any information as to whether Indiana might've in turn sold Rutenber to Roamer in 1926?? So far Googling hasn't picked up any connection, but I haven't searched exhaustively.

Any comments appreciated!! Many thxx!! Bud

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It would hardly have been logical for Roamer to have bought Rutenber, years after they had ceased to use Rutenber engines for probably good reason. I have the scant remains of a 1917 Roamer chassis. I did not pick it up from the farm on the interstate highway near the South Australian border, where it had been abandonned when the engine failed. Now I know it had a Rutenber instead of the alternative 9N Continental, because the engine mountings exactly match those of Australian Six. One of those A 6 Rutenber engines is here because I had to do some work on it for a friend. Gordon of Australian Six bought compatible components from USA to build his assembled cars in around 1919-20, including an obviously cut-price or left-over batch of Rutenber engines. They gave a lot of trouble with bearings. These were die-cast babbit replaceable shells, which would have reasonable service life only in low-power stationary engines. The repair costs compromised the financial viability of A 6. However, if a defective engine was too far away from Sydney, people had to get out of trouble as best they could. This engine from a very early car #30 that Peter bought in outback Queensland, had a faulty block due to inaccuracy of sand core work. To seal a leak from the water jacket into the sump, they drilled a half inch hole through into the bore , sealed it with a bolt and lead washers, and left out that conrod and piston. They converted the Australian Six into an Australian Five. I guess a spare rod and piston might have been handy in the tool-box. The induction system was so poor and restricted, and the carburettor so small that they could not have been capable of great performance. The early Rutenber engines as used in the Overlands with separate cast cylinder barrels always were well regarded. Was the problem that arose with engineering or foundry?

Roamer's sales gradually evaporated after they had switched to the two sizes of Lycoming straight eights. Though otherwise good engines, Roamer were caught after 1927 with stock of superceded models while competitors such as Auburn had the improved versions with Rickardo combustion chamber heads, which had higher compression ratio, more power, and beter fuel economy. In retrospect they seem daft to not purchase enough upgraded heads from Lycoming to improve the performance of their cars. What would a lot of replacement heads have cost from Lycoming in 1928 to correct a shortcoming? Maybe $10-20 each , perhaps.

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IS: Edwin A Rutenbur, notable early engine designer/m'f'r, sold his interest in the engine co, incl the right to use the name, in 1912; perhaps quality suffered when the original designer left...

There's a museum website with a write-up on the Aussie Six; I believe it said once the bearing problem was fixed (heavier bearings installed, I think?) they gave good service; I don't recall that site mentioning breathing problems or having to convert to a 5 (national pride, perhaps)...

Indiana truck was doing well in 1920 (4K prod per Mroz); buying an engine co probably seemed like a good idea at the time; they did use the 6 cyl models 38 and 40, at least, in 1924-25.

I don't know why Roamer bought Rutenber; as you said, it seems illogical. I know nothing of Lycoming history; perhaps Roamers credit was shaky. It's also possible the "Canadian interests" mentioned in the Std Cat may've had plans (dreams?) to build a new engine or someone else's under license (and went poof!! in the crash), or that Indiana truck was selling assets to raise cash and sold cheap.

LB: Neat drawing; any history re' when drawing made?? Where in the world did you find it??

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