The Norwalk Underslung – A Noteworthy Car Built in West Virginia

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  • The Norwalk Underslung Six, the “Motor”, July 1912

The Norwalk Motor Car Company originated in the town bearing its name in Ohio, just south of Sandusky in 1910. The effort by Arthur E. Skadden who had earlier built the Auto Bug was short-lived, and ended apparently after only four cars were built by going bankrupt within the year. Skadden next connected with several investors in Martinsburg, West Virginia, who liked his ideas, equipped a factory to build cars, and put him in charge of running the new facility.

When Norwalk production started up again in 1912 with the Model 45, it was built in a conventional manner, and was very much the same as the original. A six followed early in production, and an underslung model was also quickly added to the line-up. In 1913, a change was made to a pair of medium and large-sized sixes, the four was dropped, and the advanced and interesting Vulcan Electric Shift four-speed transmission was added.

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  • Full details of the Vulcan Electric Transmission, “The Automobile” July 10, 1913, and the electric brake lock, “The Automobile” December 12, 1913

Two different models were offered in 1913: the Model A with a 4-inch bore x 5-inch stroke – 40/60 hp T-head six, used in both 127-inch and 136-inch wheelbases; the flagship Model B featured a 4.25-inch bore x 5.5-inch stroke – 50/70 hp T-head six and a very long 144-inch wb. chassis. More details of both power plants and the accessories used with them can be found in the center image just below.

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  • “The Automobile” January 6, 1913

On the left and right above, can be seen illustrations of the Model A Roadster and the the Tourer, both of which were on the shorter wheelbase. The larger models were called the Special Roadster, a two-passenger and the Special Tourer, which seated six. Another attractive body style offered was the Four-Passenger Roadster that can be seen below.

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  • Four-Passenger Roadster, “The Automobile”, June 1913

Standing on wheels and tires that stood 40 inches tall, a luxurious Model B Underslung Six-Passenger Touring, can be seen in the photo just below taken in front of the factory. The impressive machine with modern styling shared the same basic design of the American Underslung but took the concept to new heights with the use of the Vulcan Electric Shift Transmission, and the electric brake lock. Both devices eliminated the shift and brake levers and were operated by a pushbutton-controlled switch box, located just in front of the steering wheel.

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  • Norwalk Model B Underslung Six-Passenger Touring in front of the factory

All of the up-to-date features did not guarantee the new company success. Financial difficulties affected company, and it was reported to have gone into receivership in 1914. Very few Underslungs were built from that point on, and the factory was ordered to be sold in early 1915.

According to local historians, in 1918 the Norwalk name was used for a new enterprise that manufactured assembled cars and a truck. Two Norwalk-built fire trucks were put into use by Martinsburg firefighters. The company finally closed its doors for good in 1922.

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What is thought to be the only known surviving automobile produced by the company, is this 1914 Norwalk Underslung Six-Passenger Touring Car. It was owned by a rancher in Longmont, Colorado who sold the car to a group that worked to bring the car back home to Martinsburg. More photos can be seen along with other information about the car at The Friends of the Norwalk Foundation.

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Posted in Auto photos 1885 - 1920 | Tagged , , , , , |

Moving The Metal – Part V

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  • A 1956 Ford F-750 “Big Job” hauling 1957 Fords

Many of the cars in today’s photos date from 1957, which was a significant year in many ways. Tail fins were approaching their peak. The new Chrysler torsion bar front suspension was unique in the domestic industry, as Packard returned to conventional coil front and rear leaf springs. Virtually all U.S. built cars had full ball joint front suspension, the last holdout being American Motors. The Ford Skyliner retractable hardtop also made its debut.

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  • A 1956 Dodge carrying 1957 Plymouths – A 1955 Studebaker Tractor hauling the company’s 1955 Pickups – A 1956 Dodge tractor hauls 1959 Ramblers

The horsepower race was in full swing. Chevrolet introduced their Rochester mechanical fuel injection unit for the 283 cubic inch small block V-8, the first successful system offered on an American production car. It was billed as the first engine that developed one horsepower per cubic inch, which certainly was the first one in a low-priced car.

American Motors tried a new Bendix electronic fuel injection system on their high performance Rambler Rebel, but it proved to be so troublesome that they were replaced with conventional four barrel carburetors before the cars ever made it to the showrooms. You can see parts I to IV of this series here. Photos courtesy of Dick Copello.

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  • Note the unusual driven front axle on the Freightliner tractor

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A Texas Rider and His Indian Motorcycle

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There has been a shortage of great motorcycle photos here recently, but this one taken in the Brenham area of Washington County, Texas, and dated 1918 by Winkelmann’s Studio, should makeup for that. The machine is outfitted with extras including: an acetylene headlamp, a handlebar-mounted Klaxon horn, a toolbox, an air pump, and a rack for parcels on the back.

The proud Indian V-Twin Motorcycle rider is wearing a heavy cardigan sweater, as was popular back in this time period. Note the American flag motif pinwheel attached to the front fender. Can any of our readers help to date this machine? The photo is courtesy of the University of North Texas Libraries. You can see hundreds more interesting motorcycle photos here on The Old Motor.

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