Some of the early automakers transitioned from making horse-drawn carriages to making automobiles — some of which could be hitched to horses, if the engine failed.
One of the earliest of this American genre of automakers was McFarlan.
The company dates back to 1856, when J.B. McFarlan founded his carriage-building company in Connersville, Ind.
By the dawn of the automotive age, the successful company was still turning a profit.
As his grandfather had done, one of McFarlan’s grandsons had the spirit of risk-taking and adventure in him.
He was sharp enough to see a great opportunity. As in most business transactions, timing is everything.
“Henry McFarlan, established the McFarlan Motor Corp. in 1910 and produced an estimated 25 cars during the first year,” according to the Reno-based National Automobile Museum. “Production built up slowly with 35 cars being produced in 1911 and 40 cars in 1912.
“Early in the 1920s, McFarlan began building sedan bodies for the Auburn Motor Car Co. and soon this became the firm’s most important activity.”
In 1921, McFarlan introduced the twin-valve six, which is the model shown in these photos.
“Despite its high price, 1922 was the company’s best year ever, selling 235 cars,” the museum notes.
McFarlan quickly became an innovator.
“In 1924,” the museum says, “the company introduced the single-valve six and in 1926 the eight-in-line series.”
Even today, the grand design of a McFarlan is unmistakable.
“The McFarlan car’s appearance was solid, dignified and regal,” the museum says, “having extremely luxurious interiors and very large windows.”
Just like today, not everyone wants to be seen.
“It is likely that McFarlan passengers wished not only to see, but to be seen! There were pillows, a hassock, arm rests, a smoking set and, in the roadster, a separate golf-bag compartment,” according to the museum.
Owners had their choice of colors, too.
“Wide color choices were available both in the upholstery and in the car colors,” the museum says. “The twin-valve six T-head engine was designed with four valves — two intake, two exhaust — and three spark plugs per cylinder.
“McFarlan cars were considered the hallmark of distinction and quality and were owned by bankers, businessmen and diplomats.”
In 1926, the museum said McFarlan became ill, which drained the company of its “dynamic leadership.”
It never recovered.
“The company was declared bankrupt in 1928,” the museum says, “and the McFarlan assets were purchased by E.L. Cord.”
Cord seemed to have a knack for buying up the assets of manufacturers on the ropes.
Model: Twin-valve six, 154 Town Car
Manufacturer: McFarlan Motor Corp., Connersville, Ind.
Engine: T-head, six cylinder, 120 hp
Bore: 4 1/2″
Displacement: 572.6 cubic inches