I must concur with your view of the VSCC Madresfield Driving Tests, that is, they are really seen at their best following a good picnic. Your well deserved reputation for knowledge and experience in the finer points of vintage motoring is, I am afraid, in this case slightly offset by your admitted lack of knowledge of the Marion running in the test.
The Marion Motor Car Co was set up in Indianapolis in 1903, with its first model, fitted with a Reeves air-cooled engine, on sale the following year. Fred Duesenberg raced one of the first cars with a win at the Mason City, Iowa, fair. The car was a success and by 1905 the factory was running a double shift, producing 15 cars a day.
The following year, another famous name became involved when Harry Stutz joined as manager and chief engineer. Stutz abandoned the air-cooled engine in favour of a water-cooled motor, still by Reeves, and in 1910 the well-known 40 hp Continental unit. He also introduced the transaxle and dual expanding rear brakes. This transmission system seemed to have been adopted by most of the American auto builders at this time. This arrangement does not do much for the unsprung weight but adds a few pounds to the braked wheels.
Yet another big name in the early car business came on to the scene in 1908, when John North Willys bought a controlling interest in the Company. He already owned the Overland plant and went on to build the famous WW2 Jeep. The Knight sleeve-valve engine patents were also acquired around this time, collecting royalties from Daimler, Minerva and many other auto builders. Stutz walked out in 1910 after a disagreement with Willys over accounting systems and, of course, went on to build his famous Bearcats. However, by then over 9000 Marions had been made. Only seven surviving cars are known to the writer.
For 1911 , Marion offered three models; the 30 with a 4-cylinder 4 x 4 1/2 in stroke engine, model 40 with the Continental engine, and a lengthened chassis version of the 40 catalogued as the 45. By 1912 Willys had sold the Company to a J L Handley, president of American Motor Company. The marque continued to sell well until April 1913 when the White River, flowing alongside the factory, burst its banks, drowning 256 completed cars, complete with all the stores and manufacturing equipment. This was too much for the owners and a receiver was appointed. The Company survived and by 1914 was back in business with a 4-seat coupé at $2650 and a five-seat sedan at $330 extra, still with four-cyl engines.
By 1915 the Light Six was offered with Rutenber 3 x 5 in engine, integral Warner gearbox, and electrical equipment by Westinghouse. The models were unchanged for 1916, when they became the Marion Handley, produced by The Mutual Motors Company, in use today as a paint factory.
Production continued through 1917 and 1918 with an engine change back to a Continental power plant, a six of 3.5 x 5.25 in producing 50 p at 1900 rpm. The Company finally failed in 1919.
Our own car is a 1911 model 30, in very original condition. We know that it has rarely been used since 1931, when it was given to a New Hampshire Historical Society by the Murphy family of Dover NH, whom we think had the car from new. From a parts book recently received from another Marion owner, it is 100% correct, apart from a later carburettor and missing top, sorry, hood.
Happiness, after all, is a Marion that is not quite perfect.