☰ MENU

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 6

Read More about Roamer Racing

In January, 1918, the Roamer was shown both in New York — where two Sixes (the C-6-54 and the D-6-90) and one 4-cylinder (D-4-75) were on display — and in Chicago (with custom coachwork by Karl Martin), alongside the Rolls-Royce, Locomobile, White, and others. The cars on display were composite cars, with a Bosch ignition, Bijur starting and lighting, Stromberg carburetor, etc. They had three-speed manual transmissions and drum brakes.

1918 Roamer Touring car.

1918 Roamer C-6-54 Touring car. Photo courtesy of Hyman Ltd.


Coachwork was becoming more important, as well, with some custom-designed coaches from outside builders but also with Roamer adding a custom body department to its factory. The following year, famed builder Leon Rubay would begin designing closed Roamer bodies for in-house production.

For 1919, there were twelve body types available, still with the choice of Continental or Duesenberg engine. There was also the introduction of a ladder design chassis with three cross members and a 6-inch deep, stamped steel channel section making up the side rails. Cars were being produced at the rate of about four a day at the start of the year, with plans to increase that by 200% in a matter of months. Annual production for 1919 was about 1100 cars. M.A. Williams, the Washington, D. C. Roamer dealer interviewed for a March 2 article appearing in The Washington Herald, explained the market opportunity for the Roamers. Because European countries had been impoverished by WWI, European car production was limited and European buyers were looking to the American market instead. American cars, especially those like the Roamer that were based on European chassis and body design, stood the best chance of competing successfully.

1919 Roamer Touring Cars.

1919 Roamer Touring Cars.


Company Growth

The New York Tribune of January 9, 1920, reported that the Barley Motor Car Company was being reorganized. Since most of its shareholders were resident in Kalamazoo, it was to be incorporated under the laws of Michigan (rather than its original New York incorporation). The Kalamazoo Industrial Realty Co. was formed as a holding company to take over the Barley site and factory. Barley claimed its 1919 output to have been about 1500 units (rather than the 1100 now thought to have been produced), with plans to make 4000-5000 cars in 1920 (actually pegged at 1630). The company also had on hand export orders for 700 cars. To produce such large numbers they employed 325 factory workers, adding another 125 workers during their rush season.

Customers had numerous choices to make. They could opt for a Continental or Duesenberg engine; open or closed car; and coachwork by Rubay (sedan, limousine, landaulet and town car) or Roamer (cabriolet, coupe and suburban).

1920 Roamer Ad.

1920 Roamer Ad.


Women were taking to the roads more and more, and some of them were driving Roamers. The San Francisco Chronicle of April 11, 1920, noted that Mrs. A. L. Ellis would drive across the country in her Roamer. She'd stowed away a collapsible electric stove and cooking utensils in the car and planned to camp along the way, setting up all she needed each night in about half an hour.

In August, for the first time a Roamer was shown at the National Motor Show in Canada. Things were definitely looking up for the company but by October, it was feeling the pinch of other companies reducing their prices significantly. An ad in the October 18 edition of the Chicago Daily Tribune explained that need: Other companies said they were lowering prices but were, in reality, just admitting to having inflated prices following WWI when their material and labor prices rose 20-65%. Roamer, during that same time, had "honestly priced" its cars, raising prices only 15%. The company knew, though, that for loyal Roamer customers, quality mattered more than price. As the ad recounted, their "continued desire to possess a ROAMER expresse[d] splendidly the caliber of those who purchase America's smartest Car, a group to whom spectacular announcements of lowered prices hold no interest."

data-matched-content-ui-type="image_card_stacked" data-matched-content-rows-num="4,2" data-matched-content-columns-num="1,4" data-ad-format="autorelaxed">