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1932 Marmon Sixteen by Waterhouse

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It's difficult to know where to start with this car. It's one of only three custom-bodied Sixteens to have been built out of a total production run of 390. It is one of only two on a custom 154-inch chassis (standard Sixteens were 145, hardly a small car). The all-aluminum Waterhouse 7-passenger touring body was originally built for Alta R. Prentice, youngest daughter of John D. Rockefeller, as a gift from her husband of more than 30 years, Ezra P. Prentice. Bill Harrah acquired it from her estate in 1962, and the most recent owner acquired it at the 1984 liquidation auction and enjoyed it until his death in 2017. It has never been fully restored, although we believe that Harrah's repainted it in its original blue/blue color combination, and the blue leather interior is undoubtedly original. Everything works--gauges, the clock, every light, everything. It's simply gigantic, but the clean lines disguise it so well that you really only notice its size when there's a full-sized adult behind the wheel (for reference, those are 18-inch wheels on the car) and it drives like a far smaller machine. The all-aluminum 491 cubic inch V16 engine was fully rebuilt in 2016 by Frank Seme & Son, a noted specialist in Full Classic multi-cylinder engines, and it carries a fresh set of aluminum heads cast by Edelbrock a few years ago at a cost of $10,000 each. It has less than 1000 miles on the rebuild and drives superbly. Unbelievably smooth and with nearly 400 pounds of torque on tap, shifting is completely optional, and most reports I've read say that the Marmon will out-accelerate a Duesenberg from a standing start (this is a gigantic car, but its aluminum construction makes it significantly lighter than most of its peers). This car also has 3.69 gears, making it an effortless 65 MPH tour car. The dual-disc clutch is new and the synchromesh gearbox was purchased by Marmon from Muncie Gear, so it shifts like a Cadillac. Power brakes are shockingly powerful and the steering is light and easy--that explains why the most recent owner was able to enjoy it well into his 80s and why his wife frequently drove it on tours. Today it shows just over 55,000 miles, and that's unquestionably an authentic number, with most of those miles accumulating at the hand of the third owner, who was a Marmon expert of some note. In addition to the fitted luggage, the trunk is filled with spare parts used on tour, including things like TWO distributor caps (worth about $1000 each), a spare Stromberg DDR carburetor, and other useful bits, plus a full tonneau set to close up the interior.


What else can I add? Simply an incredible car with an incredible story. It is by far the most remarkable automobile I've ever had the honor of representing, and it's a rare opportunity to own one of the most significant American cars ever built. There's a Marmon Sixteen coupe at the Hershey auction and I am curious to see the result; the last one brought more than $1.3 million. The price tag on this car isn't a million dollars, but it's a significant fraction thereof, so in some circles it might be a bit of a bargain (heh). In exchange you get a peerless tour car, a unique specimen of a very rare American marque, and perhaps the most remarkable piece of pre-war engineering this side of a supercharged Duesenberg. Thanks for looking, see you at Hershey!

















Edited by Matt Harwood (see edit history)
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Matt, You may think I'm nuts, but she needs a good set of Trippe Seniors centered on those big flat spots inside the front fenders.

They would be "period correct" too.

That engine is a jewel to behold.............

If I only had the room and time and $$$, I would jump on this one.


Mike in Colorado

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Ordinarily I like extra lights, Mike. But the beauty of the Marmon is the minimalist styling. There's very little ornamentation and nothing ostentatious at all. The fact that it was designed by a young man still in college (although his father took credit for it) meant that it was outside the usual trends of the period. Those fenders are distinctive and unique to the Marmon, and the simple single headlights without so much as a set of cowl lights makes it look very pure. Most 1932 Marmons received fender-mounted running lights, a few early ones got stand-up lights and then low-profile streamlined light pods for the rest of production, but this car, as a custom-order, was obviously specified without any running lights at all. About the time they switched to the low-profile running lights, the factory also moved the horns from under the hood to outside under the headlights, and it does add a little bit of interest to the front of the car, but I'm not sure any of those details are improvements. 


I think the whole point is that less is more and the contrast between the low-key styling and that magnificent engine is very appealing. There are Marmons with extra lights, but I don't think they work. 


Here's one with both the factory running lights and horns. I think it looks a little less distinctive:



Colors notwithstanding, I don't think this car works as well with the Trippe lights, even without horns and running lights:



This one with horns and Trippes just has too much going on (I don't believe the headlights are mounted correctly--they look too high):



All I know is that I must own one of these someday, even if it's a 7-passenger sedan in terrible colors. I don't care. The drive is sublime.

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V-16 Marmon Cars are one of the absolute best pre war driving cars. Will make you want to set you Cadillac 16 on fire. As far as extra lights......hell no!

Edited by edinmass (see edit history)
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Yup, I see what you mean.

The 3rd one (green) looks way too busy, and yes the lights are raised on that one. = not a good look.

You and Ed are right, although I read above that he was beaten into good taste. You come by yours naturally ?

Being a "baby boomer" it is difficult to adopt the new "minimalist" ways. 


Tongue in cheek in Colorado


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I was a not-quite-teen traveling with my parents 60 years ago.  We ran across a car show In one of the towns on our route.  One of the entries was a gorgeous dove-gray Marmon coupe.  I'm convinced it infected me with the old car bug.  :D

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