You mention twice in your article on the American Car Rally at Beaulieu last month that the Marmon Roosevelt was the first eight to sell for under $1,000. Actually this rather doubtful distinction is reserved for the Marmon Little Eight of 1926/27, an o.h.v. job of about 3-litres (190 c.i.) which, if it wasn’t a dud, was certainly a flop. Cecil Bendall had one in his emporium a year or two ago, a rumble seat roadster in good shape for which £175 was asked. I don’t know exactly what the basic price of a Roosevelt was, but I imagine it was around $1,300, to compete with the confections of Chandler, Blear and Gardner. The Roosevelt is a 1930 model year car; in the previous year the Model 68 was offered at $1,465 for the sedan or coupé, for which you got a motor of 1/16 in. greater bore giving 211 c.i., 25.3 h.p., a handbrake operating on all four wheels, 5.50 x 19 tyres and a slightly posher interior with courtesy lights, a vanity case (?), sun visor and, yes, a “water temperature indicator.”
On the Roosevelt they cut a few corners by using the same 114 in. wheelbase chassis and stock bodies by Hayes, Grand Rapids, Michigan but reduced the bore to 2 3/4 in. (202 c.i., 24.2 h.p.), the handbrake works on the transmission, the tyres are 500 x 19 and the fitments listed above are omitted. Gates’ car—which until recently belonged to Peter Newman of Chobham Motors whose brother John has the award-winning Stutz—is identical to mine in every respect save the radiator shell which is painted (I am assured this is original) and of a more rounded shape. It is billed as a Marmon on the rad. badge and has Ms instead of Rs on the wheelnuts. Both his car and mine were constructed and first registered in 1929. The engine numbers are very close at S-20893 and S-20649 respectively.
I am informed that the Roosevelt was named after Theodore, and that almost all the cars hear his profile on the name plate except the first few—of which mine must be one–as they were not sure of the political implications!
As a motor car it is of rather mixed appeal: it is dreadfully under-geared with a 4.7 : 1 back axle, uncomfortable for a tall driver as the front bench seat is not adjustable, rolls like a pop-singer round corners, the gears are very tricky but one was not supposed to need them very often—”never shift till it stalls!” screamed the ads.—and the steering is distinctly heavy though the handbook proclaims that “The new Roosevelt steering gear confers a lightness, and ease of operation hitherto unknown.” On the credit side it always starts on the button, and with the rod-operated brakes it will stop. Servicing is simple and everything is beautifully accessible. Castrol, God bless ’em, produced a large Roosevelt chassis lubrication chart—by return of post. How’s that for service?
Finally, if anybody is interested, I am repainting my bulkhead, or firewall as they have it, a tasteful shade of flat matt black, in the near future.