☰ 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 7

The following year, the company was less sanguine as to its customer's high-mindedness. By June, they announced a price reduction between $410 and $805 per car, made possible because parts makers had reduced material prices and dealers had reduced sales commissions. In point of fact, those dealers had been squeezed to accept a 25% reduction in commissions for six months. The company hastened to assure customers, however, that the Roamer's high quality would not be impacted by lower costs.

Mechanical upgrades went along with the lower prices, as well. First, there was a new engine for Roamer sports models — the Rochester-Duesenberg, which Rochester Motors Corp. began producing in 1920. It was a 4-cylinder, 75 hp motor with horizontal valve action. Although the earliest engines lacked sufficient power, a later redesign increased the size slightly, and with the larger size came greater power and diminished engine noise.

Rochester-Duesenberg Engine.

Rochester-Duesenberg Engine.


Another change for 1921 models was the adoption of double cantilever suspension. In that system, one spring is located above another, with each of those springs attached to the rear axle. The doubled springs meant that each spring could be lighter and longer and that the ride was smoother.

For the ignition system, the Roamer utilized a combination of high-tension magneto and a storage battery. Other makers relied on one or the other.

The company put a premium on inspecting the mechanics of the car before it reached the sales floor. In a booklet titled "The Double OK", the company explained that a finished car was given to a team of testers. They stripped the chassis, installed a temporary seat, loaded the car with heavy concrete blocks, and took it out for a spin. They kept tweaking the car until they were satisfied it was good to go.

It was now established practice that customers had numerous customizing options. There were fourteen colors of leather upholstery and eight kids of top material. And, at no additional cost, the car could be painted and striped to meet the customer's choice.

In 1922, company advertising capitalized on the quality of new features, claiming its Continental engines (both the Red Seal and the 12-XD) were "a marvel of power, quietness and snappy pick up", producing an impressive 15 mpg. For closed models, at no extra cost, Perfection heaters were supplied. And for all models, the company stressed that the car was not only a pleasure car but also, due to high resale values, a true investment.

The biggest news for 1922, though, was the introduction of a new, lower-priced Light Six, one named the Barley.

Read More about the Barley Six

1923 was a boom year for the Roamer. There was another reorganization, this one merging Barley interests with those of the Kalamazoo Realty Co., creating the Roamer Motor Car Co., capitalized at $2.5 million. Production peaked, with nearly 2000 cars produced (including numbers for the Barley). As one ad crowed, "The Roamer Pleases Everyone — the eye of the artist, motor judgment of the engineer, sense of comfort of the owner." Besides adding a sports sedan and touring sedan to the 1923 Roamer line, at mid-year the company entered the taxicab business, as well.

Read More about the Pennant

Its Final Years

The Roamer Company was interested in new opportunities — first, the lower-priced Barley, then the Pennant taxicab — but sales were not easy to come by. In January, 1924, A. C. Barley sold his interest in the Roamer Company and the Kalamazoo factory, even while remaining on the firm's Board of Directors. The firm's new president would be George Peter Wiggington, working with a new Board of Directors and promising to resume production in February (Note: there must have been a factory closure at the start of the year).

George Peter Wiggington.

George Peter Wiggington.


Wiggington was born in Steubenville, Ohio, but at age four, moved with his family to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where he completed high school. His first job was with a printing company washing rollers for $4 a week, and from there he moved to bookkeeping at a laundry. The job he stayed at for thirteen years, however, was with a bookbinding company where he moved up to plant superintendent, later becoming Secretary and General Manager. When his wife experienced poor health, though, he and his family moved away from the big city, coming to Kalamazoo where he was associated with the Kalamazoo Loose Leaf Binder Co. He began as general manager in 1907 and, over time, became president of the firm that did nearly $2 million in business annually and employed more than two hundred employees. In 1922, he was also listed as vice president of the American Sign Co. of Kalamazoo, a concern manufacturing electric signs. He was a slight, wiry, energetic man and, like so many businessmen of his day, he also was an inventor. He held patents on a loose-leaf binder, a card filing device, and a solenoid voltmeter that electricians could use to test electrical power circuits.

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">