Worth Restoring? 1929 Marmon Roosevelt

David FrankBy David Frank

In the early 1900s, manufacturers of all kinds tried their hand at building cars. There were hundreds of car manufactures. Some companies built “assembled” cars from readily available engines, bodies, and other parts. Marmon was founded in 1851 and made flour grinders. Marmon designed, engineered and manufactured their own cars beginning in 1902 when they built their first experimental cars. Marmon was known for fast, reliable cars. They even won the Indianapolis 500 in 1911. You may have heard about it because the car had the first rearview mirror. Despite their innovations and reputation, by the late twenties, sales were down and Marmon was in trouble. The Roosevelt was introduced in 1929 and was the first 8 cylinder car that cost less than $1,000. Some earlier Marmon models were priced over $6,000. The Roosevelt was a huge success despite the stock market crash of 1929. This Marmon is listed on eBay in East Greenwich, Rhode Island. The opening bid of $10,000 is unmet. It is a completely original car purchased from the original owner. It is said to be complete except for the spare, but there appear to be several important parts missing.

The dash looks like it was removed and not completely reinstalled and the instrument panel is missing. It would appear someone began restoration work. If that is the original horn, it is very unusual. It not only honks but also controls the lights and the starter. Can you imagine looking for the starter button in this? Who would think to pull the horn button?

It doesn’t appear any critters made their home in there. It does need a complete reupholstery and at least one door panel. It will also need to have the top insert redone. It looks like someone has done a little painting.

Here’s the 8 cylinder flathead. It looks complete from this side, but it might be seized. With any luck, it will just need a little work and some fresh fluids to be a runner though.

This is the only peek we get of the rear of the car. Could this be original paint? There are also signs here of restoration work. The question is, as always, is this car worth restoring? From a dollar and cents perspective, it’s not likely. It’s a rare car but once again, being rare does not mean it’s valuable. The most common problem with these old cars is the wood in the body frame. With nice paint and interior and in drivable condition, this Marmon would only be worth about $20,000. The restoration cost alone would exceed its value. There is a nicely restored example for sale at a dealer for $35,000 but it appears to be the same car sold at a Sotheby auction a couple of years ago for $10,450. Prices for these prewar cars has been going down so I think $35,000 is very unrealistic. The seller bought the car 23 years ago to restore. Sadly, there are many old cars like this that are just not worth restoring unless someone is willing to restore it just for the love of the car. Would anyone like a Marmon in their shop at any price?

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Comments

  1. Beatnik Bedouin

    As a business proposition, I think you’ve already answered your own question…

    It would be worth restoring to someone keen on preserving a bit of now-rare US automotive history. It is the bottom-of-the-range Marmon, much like the 120 is to Packard, and with a literally dying market for both vehicles, it will never get beyond being one’s labour of love.

    Still, it would be nice to see someone put it back on the road. (Not me, I have had a line on a complete Essex Six (older restoration needing the valves seen to) for over 25 years that I think is available to me once I have room and finish a few projects.)




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  2. Bradshaw from Primer

    I think Ab Jenkins in the 30’s in a 16 cyl Marmon roadster at Salt Flats did 165mph for 24 hours.
    Garland Texas had a Marmon Truck company here until 20 +years ago….i think it was the same Marmon company….the buildings are still here.




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    • James HGF

      Not 165 mph for 24 hours with a 16 cyl Marmon.

      The fastest run by Ab Jenkins was made in the Morman Meteor a modified Duesenberg with a 1,570 cubic inch, 750 hp Curtiss Conqueror V12 with 24 hrs @ 148.641 mph in 1936.

      165 mph in the ’30s with a Marmon. Hardly. Speed records were serious endeavors.

      History of Jenkins’ records thanks to Hemmings Dec 2007 article:

      https://www.hemmings.com/magazine/hcc/2007/12/Shooting-Star—1935-Mormon-Meteor/1552869.html

      The restored Mormon Meteor is a large an impressive Duesy.




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    • James HGF

      Didn’t want to distract from the Ab Jenkins’ Morman Meteor high speed records and the Meteor’s restoration yesterday, but there’s far more to the Ab Jenkins’ story.

      Attached is an article from “The Truth About Cars” site that covers the earlier years and his record setting Pierce Arrow V12 efforts resulting in an average of 117.77 mph for 25 1/2 hours. Note also his record of sportsmanship and commitment to contractual obligations:

      http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/11/ab-jenkins-mormon-meteor-part-one/




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    • David

      Make that $13,500, and yes indeed, it is a much better deal.




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  3. Canadian Mark S. Eh! Member

    maybe in today’s market it would be more realistic to resto mod it. When I say that I’m saying original look with modern drive line, brakes, steering, and suspension, as well as a vintage looking wheel made from modern materials than painted to look like wooden spokes. I make this suggestion not so it could be a daily driver but rather to make it more interesting to a younger buyer and there by insuring it survival into the future. I’d go as far as to say it could have modern amenities ( conceived of course ) to make it more user friendly. This is just a prospective on my part to give this car a chance at a future.




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    • duaney Member

      Such a rare original complete car, should be restored. We already have plenty of resto mods. If it was missing the drivetrain, or radically modified already, then OK




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      • Doc

        This. So much this… I don’t know why so many feel the need to destroy rare, complete cars with “restomods”.




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  4. Steve A.

    Too high a starting price to undertake this peice of American history. Kinda sad really. It needs to be preserved. It deserves to be preserved. I’d love to bring it back to how it looked back in the day, but unfortunately I’m not crazy wealthy.




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  5. Coventrycat

    Yes, it’s worth it if you like it. If we determined whether a car was “worth” restoring based on its value after sinking your life into it, there would be no classics on the the road. The reality is the only cars you’ll make a profit on are the ones you can’t afford. It takes money to make money, and mass produced automobiles ain’t it. Even “1 of 500” Corvettes or Mustangs in a one year only Fushia paint and interior combo. Get an old McLaren F1 or Ford GT.




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    • Brakeservo

      Well, I’ve got a Griffith 200, the 36th of 192 built. I suspect it’s one of the very few cars with a significant financial upside potential compared to the cost of restoration.




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  6. Madmatt

    What a wonderful make from long ago…😍..!
    It’s sad that antique vehicles such as this beautiful car,
    Don’t have a bigger audience…🤔 ? what a great piece of history…!
    These kind of vehicles,really have a story to tell….and most of all feel..!
    Would love to see it driven and shown some real love.,😘..!
    What a great American classic…..!!😎Nice find..?…..amazing find..!!




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  7. eggsalad

    People tend to collect and restore the cars of their youth. There aren’t many folks alive now who appreciate the pre-war cars. I think values will soon go down fast and hard.




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    • Dovi65

      Unfortunately, I believe you are correct; there are very few folks around that recall this genre of cars from their early years. Those that are around are not likely to have the physical ability, or mental acuity to do a rehab. It’s sad that these cars will soon not have a following, and be cast aside as ‘worthless junk’
      Perhaps some car lover will take this one on as a pet-project, an homage to grandpa




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      • Doc

        I sure hope you’re right… prices will come down out of the stratosphere and I’ll buy up a warehouse full of London-to-Brighton run eligible cars.




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  8. Bill McCoskey

    In the late 1970s I had a Roosevelt convertible coupe with a rumbleseat, at the time it was the only one known with that body style, and I knew of only about a dozen Roosevelt cars worldwide. These cars were made for only 1 1/2 years, not that many were sold, and very few remain today.

    Since sales were very disappointing, in late 1930 Marmon renamed the car the Marmon model 70, as a 1931 car, but only the basic chassis and running gear were the same as the Roosevelt. Howard Marmon hoped that by offering a quality Marmon car for under $1,000, he could generate more sales. Didn’t happen. Instead, the company lost money on every one they made.

    By the time the 1932 Marmon was introduced, the model 70 was no more. Whatever parts are missing on this car will probably remain missing for a long time, as most Roosevelt parts are made of unobtanium. My car was missing the horn/starter control, and I was never able to find one for sale.




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