Foreshadowing the more successful American Austin, pioneering pilot and inventor Captain James V. Martin and engineer Miles H. Carpenter built three prototypes of this six hundred pound pipsqueak between 1926 and 1929. While the drivetrain was said to have been quite conventional, notwithstanding the modified inline four cylinder air-cooled Cleveland motorcycle engine, it’s springing was decidedly not.
Martin drew upon his aircraft background and used “aviation cord” (similar to today’s Bungee cords) as the springing method on the independent front and DeDion rear suspension, a product commonly used on aircraft landing gear of the day. He claimed they would last for 25,000 miles and cost only twenty cents apiece to replace.
He had planned to sell his baby car for $200 plus $50 freight by mail order (slightly less than the Model “T” Ford of the day) and have them shipped direct to the customer by rail. The new owner could then use the shipping crate as a garage. At least that was the plan, but it never came to fruition. A deal with the M.P. Moller Company of Hagerstown, Maryland, manufacturer of the Dagmar automobile and taxicab and station wagon bodies, to produce his petite project fell apart, and the Dart died aborning.
This little coupe almost seems like the missing link between the earlier cyclecars and the aforementioned American Austin. The Lane Motor Museum in Nashville, Tennessee, has an original, informative and illustrated four page brochure covering the 1928 Dart.
But perhaps his most spectacular achievement was his Aerodynamic , variously reported as a 1928 or 1932 model. Again inspired by aircraft construction methods, this highly advanced automobile eschewed conventional body on frame construction, instead using a four inch thick platform made of wood, aluminum and fabric bonded together as a foundation. It could reportedly reach 110 miles per hour.
His last unconventional automotive idea began in 1932. It was a mid-engined three wheeler that used a transversely mounted American Austin engine. This begat his 1948 “Martinette”, assumed to be the same car, but re-motored with a Hercules inline four. Most sources report that this car was rebodied in classic “woodie” style, and was rechristened the “Stationette” in 1950. Martin was nothing if not imaginative, and our automotive history is that much richer for it. Photos from the November, 1927 issue of the Cycle and Auto Trade Journal.