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Second Chance Garage

For the Classic Car Restoration Enthusiast

Second Chance Garage


Second Chance Garage

For the Classic Car Restoration Enthusiast

Second Chance Garage

Second Chance Garage

For the Classic Car Restoration Enthusiast

Second Chance Garage

AUTO-BIOGRAPHY

Roamer: America's Smartest Car - Page 2

He took his job seriously, running the store as a co-op with customers participating in profits, and spending significant sums on advertising. A store ad appearing in February 1910, for instance, called to customers: "Money! Why you'll be surprised how little it takes now, yes, fairly amazed at the extent of its purchasing power at 'The Big Store'. By 1906, he was doing well enough to open a branch store in Indianapolis. In 1908, he was in Chicago, paying $160,000 for a 7-story building with space for a store and apartments. In 1911, though, when the Big Store, the town's largest department store, merged with the Boston Store, the other store in town, Albert left to devote time and attention to his other large business interests in Marion, Chicago, and Kansas City.

Those interests led him to invest more heavily in the automotive industry. From 1903 to 1905 he sold cars. In 1909, he was a Board member for Western Motor Co., forerunner to Rutenber. By about 1910, he was a large shareholder and Board member for Rutenber Motors, although he sold his interests in the company in 1912.

In 1913, he purchased his first car company, the Streator Motor Car Co. of Streator, Illinois. Streator was the successor to Erie Motor Carriage Co. and, since 1905, had been in the business of making Halladay automobiles, powered by Rutenber engines. The company had been put into receivership in 1911, and Barley bought the company's assets two years later, planning to continue production of the Halladay, focusing especially on the Model O, a seven-passenger touring car. The new company was Barley Manufacturing Co., and Halladay production would continue for a few years until Barley's attentions were directed elsewhere and he sold Halladay to a group of investors who moved the business to Ohio in 1917.

The Streator purchase was followed by another the following year, when Barley bought Wahl Motor Co. of Detroit, planning to continue manufacturing the Wahl in Streator, alongside the Halladay. The Wahl was a mid-sized car that could be sold to dealers interested in affixing their own nameplates to the cars they bought. Barley's interest in the Wahl, however, was very short-lived.

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Still, his interest in motor cars continued. In February 1914, he bought Nyberg Automobile Works of Anderson, Indiana, planning to continue manufacturing Nybergs after paying $7500 cash and assuming liens of $22,000. There, too, however, the Nyberg did not capture his attention for long.

Not long after investing in the Halladay, the Wahl, and the Nyberg, A.C. became enthusiastic for the Roamer, a car with a European flair. A Barley advertisement explained to would-be buyers that the Roamer was "built to satisfy an ideal, not to meet a price and while it has the mechanical genuineness of automobiles selling well above its price, its appearance is like no other car built in this country today."

Barley sold his interests in the Roamer in 1924 but by 1927 was back again as the company's president. That year he also took over the Rutenber plant in Peru, Indiana, to manufacture engines for trucks. In 1929, he locked the doors and closed the Roamer production plant in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Not much is heard from him thereafter. We do know, however, that he was a man of average height, a little stout, with brown hair and hazel eyes. In 1903, he married Mary Alice "Mayme" Broderick. From that union came two children — Ann Louise in 1904 and A.C., Jr. in 1910. After a successful career in business, A.C., Sr. died in Detroit on October 13, 1951.

Kenworthy

The second in the Roamer triumvirate was Cloyd Young (C.Y.) Kenworthy. C. Y. was born in Illinois in 1878, lived in Bellerose, Long Island, and was the Eastern District Manager for Cleveland-built Baker-Rauch & Lang Electrics, headquartered in New York City. At least as early as 1911, he was the manager of the Rauch & Lang New York concern and took an active role in organizing the New York Electric Vehicle Association.

He was a tall man with dark brown hair and blue eyes, a dapper dresser, and well-known in the electric car circle. In 1911, he arranged for a run of electric pleasure cars in New York and wrote an article for The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (May 14) entitled "Comfort Now Considered", a short piece used to impart the wisdom that a woman's "delicate nature does not take kindly to being bumped over rough roads at a speed of an express train"; her comfort was to be valued over speed.

Kenworthy was searching for a mid-priced, attractive, gasoline-powered car to add to his electric cars which were waning in popularity by 1915. The Roamer filled that need, and besides being Roamer's vice president, Kenworthy (who, following his father's death in 1914, had moved to Chicago to be nearer his widowed mother) held the Chicago market for the car. Just a few years after launching the Roamer, however, Kenworthy departed the firm — in November 1919 — to build his own luxury Kenworthy car.

Roamer's designer Karl Martin designed that car, as well, and advertisements pronounced it a quality product resembling an English Rolls-Royce. Its peaked radiator design, like the Roamer's, was a knock-off of the Rolls but, unlike the Rolls, both the Roamer and the Kenworthy were assembled cars. In a leased plant in Mishawaka, Indiana, more than two hundred Kenworthy autos were produced from 1920-21. Besides a Big Four and a Six, Kenworthy was available in a handsome "Line-o-eight", the first production car with an eight-cylinder chassis and four-wheel brakes. The Kenworthy, while impressive, was also expensive, in the range of $5500, and with the national post-War recession, there just weren't enough customers. Despite his best efforts, Kenworthy was forced to declare bankruptcy by August, 1921.

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