McFarlan was an American automobile manufactured in Connersville, Indiana from 1909 to 1928 as an outgrowth of the McFarlan Carriage Company founded in 1856 by English-born John B. McFarlan (1822-1909).
J. B. McFarlan's grandson, Alfred Harry McFarlan (1881-1937) conceived the idea for the McFarlan motor car and ran the McFarlan Motor Corporation throughout its nineteen years. The first model year was 1910 and two of the company's cars were enterend in events at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that year. McFarlans driven by Mel Marquette were also entered in first two Indianapolis 500 races (1911 and 1912) in which they finished 25th and 19th, respectively. The McFarlan was a luxury automobile owned by celebrities of the day such as Wallace Reid, William Desmond Taylor, Fatty Arbuckle, Paul Whiteman, Jack Dempsey and Virginia governor E. Lee Trinkle. Al Capone bought a McFarlan for his wife, Mae, in 1924 and bought a second one in 1926. Enormous models of the 1920s gave the company the reputation as being the "American Rolls Royce." 1928 was the final model year and the company went into bankruptcy that year.
In 1967, a book, What Was the McFarlan? was privately published in a limited edition of 1000 and is the definitive history of the McFarlan Motor Corporation. Authors Keith Marvin and Al Arnheim were McFarlan enthusiasts and avid automobile historians. The book identified nineteen extant McFarlans.
Today, a few McFarlans are owned in private collections and important automobile museums, including the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum, the Petersen Automotive Museumin Los Angeles, the National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada and the Nethercutt Collection in California.
Like many other early automobile manufacturers first started out in the carriage business in 1856. 1910 brought the introduction of the first car, a large high-quality six-cylinder automobile that set the stage for all future vehicles the firm built.
The perfect proving ground for the new automaker was at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway at which the new McFarlan cars were entered into competition from 1910 to 1912. On through the teens’, the automaker continued to build around two hundred cars a year that were popular in the Midwest with a well-to-do clientele.
In 1921, the exceptional Twin-Valve Six was announced, retailing at a cost of between $6300 to $9000. It was based on a long 140-inch WB, featured a 572 CI, 120 HP four-valve T-head engine with a bore and stoke of 4.5 x 6-inches that featured three spark plugs per cylinder. A two-spark Berling magneto fired plugs on either side of the combustion chamber, and a battery ignition system handled a single plug over each intake valve for starting.
All of these special features along with its distinctive appearance did not go unnoticed. A special car built for the 1923 Chicago Auto Show, featured 24 carat gold plating and a $25,000 price tag – it sold to a woman from Oklahoma whose family was in the oil business. A number of celebrities of the day including, Fatty Arbuckle and bandleader Paul Whiteman each owned one. The Arbuckle car has survived and is in the Nethercutt Collection. Boxer Jack Dempsey, who can be seen in his roadster in the right-hand photo above, also owned a touring car that has survived, and Al Capone also owned a pair of the cars.
A smaller Single-Valve Six was produced for a few years in the mid-twenties, and the Twin-Valve Six continued to be produced along with a straight eight that was added in 1927. During 1928 the company ceased operations and the factory at that point was taken over by Errett Lobban Cord for his well-known automotive endeavors.
J. B. McFarlan, 1857-1883; (aka J. B. McFarlan & Sons); J.B. McFarlan Carriage Company, 1883-1913; McFarlan Automobile Co., 1913-1929; Connersville, Indiana
John Beecraft* McFarlan was born in London, England on November 7, 1822 to James and Ann (Beecraft) McFarlan. A Scotsman by birth, James McFarlan moved to London where he was engaged in the textile trade as a manufacturer of silk.
(*McFarlan's middle name, taken from his mother's surname, is normally given as Beecraft, however a handful of sources use Becraft, and Beecroft. The family normally used Beecraft and John B. McFarlan's son and namesake, John B. McFarlan II, also used Beecraft, so that's how it's presented here.)
In 1831 the McFarlans boarded a sailing ship and emigrated to the United States, establishing a farm on the outskirts of Cincinnati, Hamilton County, Ohio. Reared on the family farm, John was apprenticed at age 18 to the firm of John C. Miller and Sons, Cincinnati, as a carriage blacksmith.
After he completing his apprenticeship McFarlan opened a small chop of his own in the village of Cheviot, afterward and now known as Westwood, a suburb of Cincinnati, and while there married Hamilton County, Ohio native Lydia C. Jackson (b. Dec. 4, 1822 – d. Dec.1906) on October 16, 1845.
In late 1849, the couple moved to Cambridge City, Wayne County, Indiana, conveying his goods and chattels by canal boat, and there established a carriage-manufacturing plant. The 1850 US census lists his home as Cambridge, his occupation, blacksmith.
While in Cambridge John and Lydia's union was blessed by the birth of the first four of their seven children: Clara (b.1847 – d. 1854), Maria (b. 1850 – d. 1928); Charles E. J. (b. 1853 – d. 1920) and James Edward McFarlan (b. 1856 – d. 1929).
In 1856 the McFarlan clan left Cambridge and moved to Connersville, Indiana, an early logging boom town located 15 miles directly south of Cambridge on the Whitewater Canal. While in Connersville the last three of their children, William W. (b. 1859 - d. ?); Lucy (b. 1863 – d. 1865) and John Beecroft II (b. 1866 – d. 1953) McFarlan were born.
(William W. McFarlan (b. 1859) is sometimes excluded from the family history and may have been a cousin. However, he's always listed as a director in the carriage works and also served on the board of the family's various Connersville-based enterprises. The 1920 US Census lists him as resident of Colorado and he is not buried in the family's Connersville plot.)
The production of buggies and wagons became a major industry in Connersville in the years after the Civil War. Before the War not a great deal was done in the way of carriage manufacturing until 1851 when William P. & Andrew Applegate began the same branch of business on Central Avenue near Fifth Street and the firm carried on extensively until in 1870, when owing to the death of William P., the shop was sold to Henry & Swikley and they in a short time to J. B. McFarlan. The Applegates worked on an average of from ten to fifteen hands the year through.
About the time the Applegate firm commenced business, a firm under the title of Ware & Veatch opened up a carriage manufactory on Sixth Street near the Hydraulic. The firm lasted several years, when Charles Veatch became the proprietor, and the business stopped prior to 1857.
The firm of Drew & McCracken also opened for business in the early 1850's on Sixth Street between Grand and Central. McFarlan first acquisition was the Ware & Veatch works which shared a factory with another carriage builder, Drew & McCracken. Within the year McFarlan had taken over both firms, and consolidated their operations with that of Henry & Swilky under the McFarlan Carriage Co. style.
He subsequently added unto his shops, until they composed quite a cluster of large buildings, situated on either side of Sixth Street just west of Central Avenue, on which is also a portion of the works. The McFarlan Carriage Company, comprising J. B. McFarlan, Sr., J. B. McFarlan, Jr., Charles E. J. McFarlan, William W. McFarlan, and James E. McFarlan was formed in 1883. At the time they employed seventy-five men the year round, turning out hundreds of carriages and buggies a year.
McFarlan remained in the 6th and Central factory for thirty years, but in 1886 the need for room to expand the carriage operation forced him to look for a new factory site. McFarlan's initial success in consolidating a number of small carriage firms under his control in 1856-57 led him to attempt a similar move in 1887 when he formed the Connersville Industrial Park.
McFarlan's industrial park was built on 82 acres of farmland irreverently referred to as "John McFarlan's Corn Patch" by the locals. He intended to attract manufacturers and suppliers of carriage and buggy equipment to the park and thereby lower his own costs while providing a steady market for other manufacturers.
McFarlan's was the first carriage-related firm erected, a massive 275 by 60 foot four-story structure fronted on Mount Street opposite Columbia. The main building was connected to wings that were situated at right angles to the ends of the main structure and parallel to each other, the first 60 x 150 feet, the second 60 x 190. A newer brick building, 60 x 110 feet, four stories high, was added at a later date and connected with the main structure, the entire plant covering approximately 5 acres.
Initially the site of the park had two advantages which made it attractive to manufacturers, and McFarlan added a third. The Whitewater Canal, begun during the nationwide canal building boom of the l830s, reached Connersville in 1845. The Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railroad (later the Central Indiana Railroad), which reached Connersville in 1850, formed the northern boundary of the park. Both provided inexpensive transportation of bulky items, and the railroad tied Connersville to the national market. McFarland himself provided the park's third incentive – inexpensive fuel. He founded the Connersville Natural Gas Company in 1889, providing the park with a pipeline that ran northwards towards recently discovered gas fields in and around Carthage, Indiana.
While his own factory was being completed, McFarlan began approaching regional firms engaged in the manufacture of carriage parts and accessories and asked them to join him. The following descriptions are excerpted from a circa 1960 US Parks Service study of the site compiled by historians Robert Rosenberg and Donald Sackheim. The numbers next to the entries correspond to the map of the industrial park pictured to the left.
#1 - Connersville Furniture Co., established in 1832, was the first factory in the park. Initially it was located in a 50' x 150' building on the east side of Illinois Street near the intersection of Mount Street. The location was important since the company's first product--black walnut bedroom suites-- was machine produced using power drawn from the canal. In 1832 an addition to the plant was built across Illinois Street. Francis M. Root, organizer of the Roots Blower Company, was the first president of the firm.
#2 - McFarlan Carriage Co.
#3 - Connersville Natural Gas Co.
#4 - Ansted-Higgins Spring Company, established in the park in 1891, was the first business enterprise of L.W. Ansted in Connersville. Ansted, who later organized five plants for the manufacture of automobile parts, located his spring plant along Columbia Avenue just north of Mount Street. The original structure was 180' x 230'. In 1895 the spring company was merged with an axle works, and the name was changed to the Ansted Spring and Axle Works.
#5 - Connersville Furniture Co.
#6 - The Connersville Blower Company, was located on Columbia Avenue near the Mount Street Intersection. The building was approximately 600' x 100'. John B. McFarlan, its first president, apparently helped organize the enterprise in order to compete against Roots Blower Company, another Connersville manufacturer.
#7 Ansted Spring & Axle Co.
#8 - The Munk and Roberts Furniture Company factory, (later the Rex Wheel Works, aka Connersville Wheel Works, and later the Rex Buggy and Rex Mfg. Co.), erected a four-story structure in 1878 and a five-story brick factory in 1883 near the intersection of Western Avenue on the east side of the canal and 15th Street. Apparently it was built on the site to make use of water power, as did the Connersville Furniture Company on the east side. The Rex Buggy Company purchased the former Munk & Roberts building in 1898. The Company, incorporated on 11 November 1898, manufactured Rex and Yale buggies. In 1916 the company changed its name to the Rex Manufacturing Company, and with the passing of the buggy era, the company began the manufacture of tops and enclosures for automobiles.
#9 - The George R. Carter Company was located on the northeast corner of 16th and Kentucky. The Carter Company manufactured upholstery goods for the carriage trade and the automobile companies. It became a division of the Vogt Manufacturing Corporation of Detroit on January 1, 1929. The Connersville Casket Company took over the building on May 25, 1934.
#10 - The Indiana Lamp Company, another Ansted-owned parts factory established in 1904, initially was located immediately north of the Ansted Spring and Axle Company at Columbia and Mount Streets. In 1916 the plant was moved to the Ansted factory block to the north of 18th Street. It manufactured headlamps for buggies and automobiles.
#11 - Triumph Safe & Lock Co.
#12 - The Central Manufacturing Company, incorporated by Ansted in 1898, was organized to manufacture vehicle woodwork. In 1903 it began the manufacture of automobile bodies. The first plant, located at 123 West 7th Street, was destroyed by fire in 1905 and in 1906 a building 620'x 60' was erected north of 8th Street bordering the canal. In 1907 the company began manufacturing metal auto bodies and a building 142' x 76' was constructed in 1908. An addition 236' X 76' was built on the north side and in 1910 another addition 240' X 76' was built on the south end. In 1912 an addition to the south end 192' x 76' brought the entire length of this single building to 810' x 76'. In 1913 a blacksmith shop, 150' x 40', and a building 240' x 60' were built for the metal buggy and press departments. By 1915 the firm had 150,000 square feet of space.
#13 - The Lexington Motor Company, first housed in a barn in Lexington, Kentucky, was established in 1909 by Kinsey Stone, a local promoter and horse racer. In 1910, after a discussion with a group of Connersville businessmen, Stone moved his company to more suitable quarters at l8th and Columbia in the Connersville Industrial Park. With the help of his chief engineer, John C. Moore, Stone developed the Lexington automobile. The company was plagued by financial problems and in 1913 the Lexington Motor Company was acquired by E.W. Ansted. The manufacture of the Lexington Automobile formed the backbone of the Ansted automobile empire. The automobile underwent several model changes and numerous engineering improvements while the various components - frame, top, woodwork, body, and engine block were manufactured in Ansted owned subsidiary plants. In 1914, the firm was changed to the Lexington-Howard Company. The Howard Distributing Company requested the manufacture of a large six cylinder touring car, the Howard, and when it was discontinued after 8 months the name of the firm was changed back to the Lexington Automobile Company.
#14 - Hydro Electric Co.
#15 - Lexington Motor Co.
#16 - Indiana Lamp Co.
#17 - Lexington Motor Co.
#18 - Central Manufacturing Co.
#19 - Lexington Motor Co.
#20 - Ansted Engine Co.
#21 - Stant Manufacturing Co.
#22 - E.L. Cord Co.
The U.S. Automobile Corporation, formed during the fall of 1919, was a $10 million preferred stock corporation which acted as a holding company for various Ansted-owned enterprises: the Ansted Engine Company, the Connersville Foundry Corporation, and the Lexington Automobile Corporation. The property of the Lexington Automobile Company, along with the Ansted Engineering Company, went into receivership in April 1923. The Lexington Automobile factory was finally sold to Bigger and Better Connersville, a civic group, in November 1926. After a series of corporate moves the plant was bought by the Auburn Automobile Company in 1927.
The factory changed substantially during the lifetime of the Lexington Automobile Company. The original brick and frame two-story structure, built in 1910, was on the northeast corner of Columbia and l8th Streets. A small 40' x 32' addition was added to the north end of the structure and in 1911 a 21' x 125' wood-framed addition to the plant was joined northwest of the original structure. Two factories were erected north of the original one: a structure in 1913 and a large 900' x 100' building in 1919.
Another Ansted enterprise, the Hoosier Casting Company, was organized in 1915 to manufacture engine blocks and other medium-weight cast products. The foundry was located at 18th and Columbia Streets in a building taken over from the Connersville Fireproof Safe Company.
The Ansted Engine Company was organized in April 1913 when the Ansted family acquired the Teter-Hartly Motor Corporation of Hagerstown, Indiana. Maintaining the Hagerstown operation, the company built a new plant in Connersville north of the Lexington Automobile works. The firm manufactured automobile engines until it went into receivership in 1926.
Many of the large automobile factories in the Connersville Industrial Park were acquired by E.L. Cord's Auburn Automobile Company in the late 1920's. Following the sale of Cord's Interests in Connersville, many of the plants that had been constructed for automobile production were converted to general industrial use. The industrial park, which had begun with the infant automobile industry, acquired a diverse nature as the industry matured.
John Beecraft McFarlan, Jr., (b. 1866 – d. 1953) was born on November 7, 1866, son of John B. and Lydia C. (Jackson) McFarlan. Upon completing the course in the Connersville public schools the junior John B. McFarlan entered Miami University, at Oxford, Ohio, and after a course of two years there became engaged with his father in the business of manufacturing buggies at Connersville; was presently made a partner with his father in that business and remained thus connected until the time of his father's death. On October 12, 1910, John B. McFarlan was united in marriage to Nellie B. Brown, who was born and reared in Connersville, daughter and only child of George M. and Ada (White) Brown, both of Connersville, and to the blessed union was born a son, John B. McFarlan III (b.1918 – d.2004). In addition to his association with his father's firm, John B. McFarlan Jr. served as president of the People's Service Company of Connersville, as well as secretary of the McFarlan Realty Company.
Charles E.J. McFarlan was born at Cambridge City, in the neighboring county of Wayne, Indiana on December 1, 1853, to John B. and Lydia C. (Jackson) McFarlan. At the age of three his parents moved from Cambridge City to Connersville. As a boy he learned the trade of carriage painter, meanwhile pursuing his studies in the local public schools, and upon completing the course there took a course in the old Chickering Institute at Cincinnati. Upon his return from that institution he engaged in the boot-and-shoe business at Connersville, in association with D. H. Sellers, but about three years later disposed of his interest in that business and entered his father's carriage factory, presently becoming a partner with his father in that business and was actively connected with the same until 1913.
On November 10, 1880, at Connersville, Charles E. J. McFarlan was united in marriage to Ella S. Hughes, who was born and reared in that city, daughter of Dr. S. W. and Ann (Hall) Hughes, natives of Virginia and prominent residents of Connersville, where Doctor Hughes was engaged in the practice of medicine until his death in 1865.
To their blessed union was born, a son, Alfred Harry McFarlan, who would later head the great Connersville enterprise bearing his family name. In addition to his tenure at the carriage company, Charles E.J. McFarlan served as secretary and treasurer of the Connersville Natural Gas Company, continuing that position with the Peoples Service Company iuntil his death in 1920. When the McFarlan brothers and their sister, Maria J. McFarlan, formed the McFarlan Realty Company at Connersville, Charles E. J. McFarlan was elected vice-president of the same.
Alfred Harry McFarlan was born in 1881 to Charles E.J. (1853 - 1920) and Ella Hughes McFarlan (1850 - 1933). After a public education he attended Depauw University In Greencastle, Indiana, graduating in 1902. He immediately embarked upon a career at the family's carriage business where he learned all aspects of the firm, which prepared to take over the enterprise following the 1908 death of his grandfather, John B. McFarlan, the firm's founder and president. Harry, as he was called, spearheaded the development of the firm's first motor vehicle and after its successful introduction led the reorganization of the firm as the McFarlan Motor Company. He married Jessica Meharry Manlove (b.1881-d.1965) and passed away on December 1, 1937 in Phoenix, Maricopa County, Arizona.
September 17, 1896 Cambridge (IN) City Tribune:
"Connersville News: In some parts of Wayne county our Popocratic friends are circulating the report that J.B. McFarlan and sons, L.T. Bower and Charles Mount have flopped to free silver. Those who know these gentlemen, are acquainted with the efforts they are making for a return to the prosperity of 1892, through the Republican idea of sound money, protection and reciprocity, can, in Borne degree, imagine to what lengths these fellows are going in their efforts to build up some standing for their cause on a basis of falsehood."
An 1898 history stated the firm employed 400 hands and had an annual capacity of 12,000 vehicles. The firm's products were distributed across the country and included numerous factory branches, chief among them two warerooms located in Council Bluffs, Iowa and Kansas City, Missouri. The firm's carriage tags read "New York Grade," McFarlan Carriage Co., Connersville Ind.
After his 1902 graduation from DePauw University in Green Castle, Indiana, Alfred Harry McFarlan, the son of Charles E. J. McFarlan and thus the founders' grandson joined the family business. His graduation coincided with the production of the firm's first automobile bodies which were furnished to a large number of regional manufacturers for the next 25 years. Known customers included Auburn, Duesenburg, H.C.S., Lexington, Locomobile, Marmon, Premier and Stutz.
September 24, 1905 Washington Post:
"S.G. Runkle, of Logansport, Ind., president of the McFarlan Carriage Company, of that point, one of the greatest carriage factories in North America, is at the National."
November 29, 1906 issue of The Automobile:
"INDIANA GAINS TWO MORE AUTO MAKERS.
Connersville, Ind., Nov. 26.—With two large companies incorporated here within the last week, this city promises to become known as an automobile center within the near future. There are also several concerns here that manufacture accessories and parts.
The Connersville Motor Vehicle Company has a capital stock of $50,000, all subscribed by local capitalists. The company will manufacture automobiles, engines, street sweepers, and farming implements, and will have a large and modern factory. Those who are interested in it are J.B. McFarlan, Sr., J.B. McFarlan, Jr., C.E. McFarlan, J.H. Morrison, and Scott Michener.
Another new concern is the Ray Motor Company, which has a capital stock of $100,000. The men behind the company are Rowan Ray, I. F. Geary, J. J. Maloney, L. D. McCall, and W. S. Calder. Both companies will be ready for operation early in the coming year."
At the time of his death John B. McFarlan was president of the McFarlan Carriage Co., the Connersville Blower Co., the Connersville Natural Gas Co., the Connersville Land and Improvement Co., the Fayette Banking Co., and the McFarlan Building Co.
Following John B. McFarlan Sr.'s death in 1909, his grandson, Harry McFarlan, the son of Charles E. J. McFarlan, assumed management of the McFarlan Carriage Company. Under Harry, the company diversified: it began manufacturing automobiles in 1909 and during the next 18 years produced fire trucks, patrol cars, funeral cars, ambulances and limousines.
The McFarlan was a luxury automobile owned by celebrities of the day such as William Desmond Taylor, Wallace Reid, Fatty Arbuckle, Paul Whiteman, Jack Dempsey and Virginia governor E. Lee Trinkle. Al Capone bought a McFarlan for his wife, Mae, in 1924 and bought a second one in 1926.
Silent heartthrob Wallace Reid ordered two McFarlans, unfortunately he died before taking delivery of the second one which was snapped up by disgraced silent movie star, Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle, who was now directing films as William Goodrich. The Reid/Arbuckle car, a 1923 McFarlan Model 154 TV-6 Knickerbocker Cabriolet, survives and can be seen at the Nethercutt Collection/Museum in Sylmar, California.
Other McFarlans can be seen at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum, the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles and the National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada. According to Keith Marvin, one of the authors of 'What Was The McFarlan?' (pub. 1967), only 19 McFarlans are known to exist.
The first mention of the vehicle in the trades appeared in the July 7, 1909 issue of the Horseless Age:
"The McFarlan Company, Connersville, Ind., are building models of a touring car and a roadster, to sell at about $2,500."
In an ironic tragedy, the founder of the firm, John B. McFarlan, passed away roughly one month after his grandson, Alfred Harry McFarlan, announced the debut of the firm's first automobile.
The September 1909 issue of the Hub carried the senior McFarlan's obituary:
"John Becraft McFarlan.
"John Becraft McFarlan, 86 years old, founder and president of the McFarlan Carriage Company and a resident of Connersville, Ind., for more than half a century, died August 15 following a brief illness.
"Mr. McFarlan was born in London, England, November 7, 1822. He came with his parents to America in 1831, and lived on a farm near Cincinnati until he became of age. He took employment in a carriage factory in Cincinnati, and afterward engaged in the carriage repair business on a small scale. He moved to Connersville in 1856, and started what is now the McFarlan Carriage Company, a large concern employing several hundred men and making a product which is sold the world over. At the time of his death Mr. McFarlan was president of the Connersville Blower Works and a large stockholder in the Krell AutoGrand Piano Company. Mr. McFarlan was married to Miss Lydia C. Jackson in Cincinnati, October 16, 1845. Seven children were born to them, five of whom survive, and all of whom live in Connersville. As a token of respect all the banks and principal places of business in Connersville were closed the day of the funeral."
(Alfred) Harry McFarlan chose to present the firm's first automobile to the public with some fanfare by testing them on the Indianapolis racetrack over the 1910 Labor Day weekend, finishing third and fifth, and fourth and fifth, in two races held the year before the inaugural 1911 Indianapolis 500. It was an impressive first outing and cars began to sell in small numbers, about 200 a year, which was all that Harry could build from the wagon works.
The September 7, 1910 Indianapolis Star published the results of the McFarlan's September 6th outing:
"200 MILES WITHOUT A STOP
"200 miles in 183 minutes and 15 seconds, running 17 miles for every gallon of gasoline consumed. This Wonderful Showing of the $2,000 McFarlan Six in the 200-mile race for cars up to 600 cubic in. piston displacement at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Monday was the Feature Performance of the Meet.
"Of the twelve cars entered in this long, grueling race, seven failed to finish. Of the two McFarlans, No. 23, driven by Barndollar, finished third, the only car in the race that did not stop. No. 24, driven by Clemens, stopped once and finished fifth. Both cars finished in as good condition as when they started, without change of tires.
"Cars of only one make finished ahead of the McFarlan, and they are cars of higher power and higher price, the McFarlan having the smallest piston displacement of any of the starters.
"In the free-for-all handicap the McFarlans finished first and third, again proving their superiority. There is no greater test for an automobile than extreme speed sustained. If there be weaknesses in construction or material they will be exposed. Monday's races proved the McFarlan the greatest of automobile values.
"McFarlan Motor Cars are made by the McFarlan Motor Car Company of Connersville, for fifty-four years builders of pleasure vehicles, every one of them of the highest class.
"McFARLAN SIX SALES Co., Distributors, 23-25 E. OHIO ST. INDIANAPOLIS"
May 21, 1911 Logansport Journal:
"McFARLAN CARS TO RACE
"Indiana Autos Plan Big Season For 1911 Over Country.
"Two new speed creations which will cut quite a figure in the 1911 Automobile racing season, according to the plans of the makers, are the big and little "6" made by the McFarlan Motor Car Co., of Connersville, Indiana. These two cars, built exactly alike in all details except for size, will be campaigned over the racing circuit this year, the Big 6 taking part in the events for the larger class, and the Little 6 in the class in which it is eligible. Both of them are entered in the 500-mlle International Sweepstakes Races to be held over the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, next Memorial Day."
Piloted by Mel Marquette, the McFarlan racecar competed in the first two official Indianapolis 500-mile races, finishing 25th in the 1911 event and 19th in the 1912 contest.
November 15, 1911 Indianapolis Star:
"APPELLATE COURT, ABSTRACTS AND ACTIONS.
—Damages on Contract—Default of Both Parties,— 7168.
The McFarlan Carriage Company vs. the Connersville Wagon Company, Henry C.C., Affirmed, Myers, J. In an action for breach of contract, where it was shown that the parties agreed to a sale of 10,000 sets of buggy wheels to be delivered by the defendant, but that after 6,000 sets had been delivered wheels went up $1.10 per set in price, whereupon the plaintiff ordered 2,000 sets of the order delivered., but the defendant delivered only 600 sets. The plaintiff refused to give his note in settlement for the partial delivery of 600 in settlement of deliveries as provided by the contract and sued for damages for breach of contract. The court holds that the partial delivery and failure to fill the order was not a repudiation of the contract. That each party being in default on the contract, neither party could bring suit on the contract as he could not show performance on his part."
March 24, 1912 Indianapolis Star:
"McFarlan Shows Starter and Pump in Operation
"The McFarlan 'Six' Sales Company occupies a space of 1,500 square feet at the show with an especially interesting exhibit of both pleasure cars and trucks. The exhibit consist of six models of self-starting McFarlan 'six' cars, with self-starter and air pump in actual operation so that all those who wish to see these latest appliances for automobiles may do so. In addition to the abovementioned equipment, McFarlan 'six' cars are equipped with all the latest refinements and are built by a firm that has been building pleasure vehicles for sixty years, the McFarlan Motor Car Company's activities having been centered on the building of six-cylinder cars ever since they entered the business of automobile manufacturing several years ago.
"The truck exhibit consists of four models of the famous Whitesides truck which earned such an enviable reputation on last year's Four-States tour, where it acted as official baggage car and finished the run with the pleasure cars daily. The models shown are of 1,500, 2,000, 2,500 and 4,000-pound capacity, ranging in horse power from thirty to forty-five."
June 14, 1912 Indianapolis Star:
"Indiana cars in the 1912 Four-States Tour passed the forty mark yesterday when the two entries of the McFarlan Motor Car Company were received by Secretary Ward. More entries are expected, and it is said that more than fifty cars will face the long trip. The entries will close Saturday at midnight and Secretary Ward at present is making a tour of the state impressing that fact on the Indiana manufacturers."
January 10, 1914 Indianapolis Star:
"BUILDINGS ORDERED RAZED.
"Connersville Fire Chief Receives Instructions About Two Old Structures.
"CONNERSVILLE, Ind., Jan. 9.—Fire Chief Edward Hassett has received a letter from State Fire Marshal W.E. Longley notifying him that two old and dilapidated two-story buildings in the business district must be razed at once. For several years they have been considered fire-traps and a few weeks ago the fire marshal made an inspection at which time they were adjudged unsafe. The McFarlan Carriage Company occupied the buildings for many years and it was there the first McFarlan buggies were manufactured, more than thirty-five years ago."
October 11, 1914 Atlanta Constitution:
"COURTNEY-FIELD CO. READY FOR BUSINESS.
"Experienced Auto Men Are Southern Representatives for McFarlan Motor Company. In selecting its southern representatives, no happier choice could have been made by the McFarlan Motor company than in placing its agency in the hands of the Courtney-Field Motor company.
"These two wide-awake and experienced automobile men have opened their place of business on West Harris street, opposite the Capital City club, and are prepared to make things interesting for prospective auto buyers.
"H.S. Courtney, of the firm, is an Atlanta man who has traveled the southern states for twenty years, and numbers his friends by the scope of his acquaintance. His partner, Alexander C. Field, is from New York city, and has been in the automobile business for a number of years, holding responsible positions with several of the largest factories.
"That the Courtney-Field Motor company will be a successful acquisition to the motor field of the south is the prediction of the many friends of these two gentlemen."
January 17, 1815 Indianapolis Star:
"Nobby Tread Tires Enable Fire Wagon to Go Fifty Miles an Hour With Load
"CONNERSVILLE'S NINETY-HORSE-POWER TRUCK.
The Connersville, Ind., fire department's ninety-horse-power motor wagon is shown in the picture above. In construction it is practically identical with the pleasure cars made by the McFarlan Motor Company, its builders. Upon the recommendation of the McFarlan Motor Company's engineers, the car was equipped with "Nobby Tread" tires. It is capable of fifty miles an hour under its full load. This enables the fire department to reach the farthest limit of fire protection in less than three minutes from the firehouse. The manufacturers say they do not consider solid tires suited for this type of apparatus. They have decided that "Nobby Treads" are the correct tire for speed, safety and low cost."
March 8, 1916 Boston Globe:
"McFARLAN SIX SOLD VERY QUICKLY
"W.A. Lutz of the McFarlan sales force is at the show. The McFarlan factory is located at Connorsville, Ind., and is operated by the McFarlan Motor Company. Mr Lutz says "The Boston Auto show is the finest retail show in the country." This is his first visit to the Boston show, and he is very much impressed with the class and quality of the men and women who are in attendance, he has followed the auto shows for eight weeks straight.
"Frank P. Anthony, the manager of the Boston branch, is pleased beyond description at the interest displayed in the piece de resistance of the McFarlan exhibit, and thinks it is the real feature of the whole big show. This car, which is of a very handsome blue shade, is fitted with a detachable sedan top.
"It so caught the fancy of L. E. Griffin, a well-known merchant of this city, that he bought it just as soon as he saw and learned the price. He will have it on the streets of this city on Sunday morning, bright and early, for it goes immediately into his possession"
In 1917, the name of the firm was changed to the McFarlan Motor Car Company, and while the firm specialized in custom cars and trucks, it also produced a line of medium-priced automobiles and manufactured auto bodies for other firms.
March 4, 1917 Boston Globe:
"LONGER WHEELBASE IN LATEST McFARLAN
"The McFarlan Motor Company offers the result of another year's tireless effort to produce a high powered, six-cylinder motor car of the highest efficiency, greatest dependability and the most correct design.
"Following their rigid policy of improving motor car construction wherever possible, but of adopting no change that has not been under close observation for many months, the McFarlan engineers have felt that they could best serve the public by directing all their thought, care skill, and energy to one chassis. It is sold here by the Anthony-Pilling Company.
"The new features incorporated in the McFarlan for the coming season will include a longer wheelbase, the McFarlan cradle spring suspension, improved body designs and some wonderful, though simple, improvements in motor construction.
"Pronounced among these features are the new valve setting and the combustion chamber, maintaining the highest efficiency known to any type of motor and at the same time minimizing service and the number of moving parts.
"Perfection in motoring depends upon an instantaneous getaway without shock or vibration, the ability to climb hills without resorting to the gear shifting lever and maintaining high speeds for the straightaway without signs of stress from the motor or the necessity of overgearing the powerline. The McFarlan fills every requirement.
"The McFarlan body designs which have been much sought for many years, are more distinctive than ever before.
"For the coming season are offered the most correct design for every requirement, both in closed and open touring models.
"The most discriminating taste is used in designing and selecting not only the lighting fixtures and prominent features for the car, but the locks, door handles and plates are designed differently for each individual type.
"The company offers you every possible range in color combinations, both in painting and upholstery."
March 12, 1922 Boston Globe:
"MCFARLAN SETS REAL HIGH STANDARD
"Safety, dependability, power, speed, comfort and beauty! These are the six standards set by the McFarlan Motor Corporation, represented here by P. P. Anthony, in designing and building its 1922 models, which include 10 body styles to meet every possible purpose; four open and six closed types.
"All McFarlans are powered with the twin-valve six motor, carrying an S.A.E. horsepower rating of 48.5, but which the company announces actually develops 120-horsepower. The motor is cast in two blocks of three cylinders each, with 4½ inch bore and 6-inch stroke. To assure complete combustion, two full ignition systems are installed, one on opposite sides of the combustion chamber, from a magneto, and the other on the intake valve side from the battery. Fuel is fed through a Rayfield carburetor, and lubrication through force feed only. The crankshaft is hollow to assure proper lubrication to all the bearings. Fuel is supplied to the carburetor through a Stewart vacuum feed system from a 26-gallon gasoline tank on the rear. A honeycomb radiator, through which the water is kept moving by a centrifugal shaft system pump, provides the cooling system.
"Other mechanical specifications include a pressed carbon steel frame, eight inches deep, lubricated by pressure cups; multiple disc dry plate clutch, sliding gear transmission with adjustable Timken roller bearings, full floating rear axle with spiral bevel driving gears. The wheelbase is 140 inches, and wood, disc or wire wheels are supplied, with cord tires all over. McFarlan cradle type springs are used on the rear and semi-elliptic on the front. A power tire pump is mounted on the transmission.
"In the open body types there are the sport touring, built for four passengers, but carrying an emergency seat folded into the rear cowl; seven-passenger touring, seven-passenger California and the sport roadster, with double auxiliary seats folded into the rear deck. Other mechanical specifications in closed cars include the seven-passenger sedan, five-passenger Knickerbocker, cabriolet, four-passenger sport sedan with two emergency seats folded into the front partition; five-passenger limousine, four-passenger coupe and five-passenger town car."
In a 2001 interview with Ellie Swain, former Connersville resident Charles McNaughton reminisced about his experience as a drafting intern at the McFarlan Motor Co.:
"Charles McNaughton (CM) – I knew that I had a lot of drawing experience, by having worked at the McFarlan Motor Car Company in Connersville, Indiana. I don’t know whether you heard about that or not, have you?
"Ellie Swain (ES): Uh-huh
"CM: Well the McFarlan Motor Car Company made one car a day, that’s all they turned out. While I was a senior in high school they called Bill Crone who was my drafting teacher. They asked him to send out a student for a drafting job and he sent me out because I was his number one student, he said. He sent me over there and I worked on the McFarlan. Now the head designer needed an assistant because he was a drunkard and he was gone a lot. He would tell me what to do and I’d just draw it up. I had a drawing board about 8 by 15 feet that hung on the wall, the T-square would hang down on the board and I’d draw that car full size on that space. That’s the way they did it.
"ES: Now tell me when this was.
"CM: This is 1922, I graduated from high school in ’23. It was right in that time.
"ES: In that period.
"CM: Yeah. I was about 18 then. I just loved that job. We designed cars for movie stars and celebrities. We didn’t have a direct railroad train from Chicago down to Connersville, they’d come in to Richmond. My job was to go to Richmond, pick up these celebrities and bring them back to Connersville to get their cars. So I met several, but I think the most outstanding were Paul Whiteman, Jack Dempsey, and Wallace Reed who was a movie star in those days, and Fatty Arbuckle. Paul Whiteman had an open top McFarlan, full size car. He had parked it in Indianapolis at the Circle Theatre, and the crowds came around. They had never seen a car like that. The police made him move it because the traffic was jammed up. Here’s what I remember, but the biggie was the gangster in Chicago. Al Capone wanted a car special. He wanted bullet proof glass; he wanted steel plates in the side—bulletproof; he wanted a machine gun turret in the back; and he wanted a turret in the bottom, so he could drop nails and tacks and bits of glass. He also wanted to do 90 miles an hour. Well our car would do 90, (and the police in Chicago could only do 60) and we turned this out for him. I went to Richmond to meet the henchman he had sent down to pick it up. I’ll never forget. He gave me a price list that looked like a laundry list. For breaking a guys knee, it was maybe $100 and breaking his arms $150 and on down the list. At the bottom, I’ll never forget, they’d kill a man for $500 and that was their price list for services rendered.
"A lady from Cleveland had a prize dog, (she had just won a national contest in New York) and she wanted a roadster designed so the dog would have a platform right in back of the front seat. So we designed this car, and it cost $18,000 then. We designed it just for that dog with a comfortable padded space with a little fence around it. That was a little different than most cars.
"The drafting that I had at McFarlan Motor Company set me up pretty good for drafting at Illinois Architectural School, because mostly what you do is draw. What I’m saying, I got along fine there. When my advisor told me that I should get out of architecture, and get something else. I looked around and found that teaching drafting was the best thing to salvage all the training that I’d had. I went into teaching and came out as a vocational teacher, since I’d had all this practical drafting. Then my first job was at Richmond High School."
Copyright 2001 Ellie Swain (Transcription of Interview with Charles McNaugton – Class of '28; University of Illinois Student Life 1928-1938 Oral History Project, Muncie, Indiana June 16, 2001)
McFarlans were known as "the most expensive car made in the US" and "the American Rolls-Royce" during the 1920s, a tribute shared by the Cunningham, a similar-appearing luxury car built in Rochester, New York, whose history mirrors that of the McFarlan.
One magnificent McFarlan Town Car displayed at the 1923 Chicago Auto Show had gold-plated interior and exterior hardware and reportedly cost $25,000. In a 2010 interview with 104-year-old former Connersville resident Wilbur David "Pete" Rigor, reporter John Estridgem states:
"He remembers some gangsters from Chicago who came down to pick up a specially made McFarland automobile from the Connersville factory.
"'They ordered it trimmed in gold,' Rigor said. 'I stood in front of post office watched it go by. People lined up to watch it go by.'"
By 1925 the McFarlan Motor Car Company offered 2 distinct lines with a total of 26 different models ranging in price from $2,000 to $10,000. McFarlan built at least one hearse on a 1925 TV Six chassis. It was built on a Twin Valve 140" wheelbase chassis with a huge six-cylinder engine of 572 1/2 cubic inches. The McFarlan TV Six motor had 24 valves (4 per cylinder) and a triple ignition system (3 spark plugs per cylinder). Ambulances, Funeral Cars and Fire Trucks were available on special order according to their advertisements in the funeral trades.
On August 8, 1928 bankruptcy was declared and roughly one year later, on August 1, 1929, the factory was sold to the Auburn Automobile Company. The Auburn Company used the factory for storage space for its unfinished automobiles.
April 8, 1928 Billings Gazette:
"Auburn Body Plant Booms Indiana City
"Connersville, Ind., April 7 – (Special) – With the Local Auburn Automobile company plant unit under steady production here and with associated industries following the trend, this city has joined in the general prosperity that is weeping the country, started primarily by the boom in the automobile industry.
"More than 1,000 employees have been added to the pay rolls of the Auburn body and trim plant, the Central Manufacturing company and the McFarlan Motor company in the last few weeks. Additional employees are being put on daily.
"The Central Manufacturing company and the McFarlan Motor company, also local concerns, are producing bodies for the finishing unit and are working at capacity.
"Thousands of dollars have been spent here by the Auburn company in rebuilding the plants of the Ansted Manufacturing company and the Lexington Automobile company which were purchased late in 1927, and turning them into the finishing plant, which now is one of the most modern painting and trim factories in the automobile industry.
"This new finishing plant contains 3,500 feet of line or track upon which the bodies are placed and move through the various processes of sanding, painting, drying and finishing. These processes, including drying, have been reduced to 23 hours.
"In this period each body receives seven distinct coats of paint, innumerable sandings, and polishings, is electrically wired, upholstered, glassed and inspected.
"Results of this taking over the idle plants of the Ansted Manufacturing company and the Lexington Motor company several months ago by the Auburn Automobile company were awaited with interest by the city and when announcement was made by E.L. Cord, president of Auburn, that a large body finishing plant would be put in operation, it was seen that the purchase would play a vital part in the industrial prosperity of Connersville and surrounding territory.
"Capacity of this plant is 125 bodies daily and it will assist materially in relieving the production strain on the main plant of the Auburn Automobile company in Auburn, Ind."
June 22, 1928 Oakland Tribune:
"Receiver Appointed For Auto Company
"INDIANAPOLIS, June 22 (AP) - Raymond S. Springer, of Connersville, has been appointed temporary receiver for the McFarlan Motor corporation of Connersville. Hyatt Frost, an attorney for the company, said the failure was due to the absence of Harry McFarlan, president, who has been ill for the past four years and to the recent death of Burt Barrows, vice-president. They were the principal owners. Appointment of a receiver followed, the filing of a petition by Attorney John W. Kern, in behalf of two Indianapolis and a Yale, Mich., firm. The company will complete a $40,000 contract for bodies during the next 20 days, it was reported."
June 26, 1928 Warren (PA) Morning Mirror:
"RECEIVER FOR McFARLAN MOTOR
"INDIANAPOLIS, Ind .— R.S. Springer, of Connersville, Indiana, has been appointed temporary receiver for McFarlan Motor Corporation, of Connersville."
Alfred Harry McFarlan, the man most responsible for the fabulous McFarlan automobiles, passed away on December 1, 1937 in Phoenix, Maricopa County, Arizona.
Arnheim, Marvin & Blommel's 1967 book 'What Was the McFarlan?' states that 18 McFarlans remain. At least two pre-Model J Duesenbergs are known to survive with McFarlan coachwork. The first, a 1927 Duesenberg Model Y Phaeton, chassis no. 912, engine No. 1594; the second a 1927 Duesenberg Model X Boat Roadster, chassis no. D96E. The latter boattail speedster, which was built for Chicago businessman and Duesenberg Race Team sponsor Arnold Kirkeby, clearly influenced the Auburn designers who introduced a very similar-looking body the following year. A handful of Duesenberg boattailed speedsters were reportedly built for the Model X/Y chassis, with coachwork supplied by both McFarlan and its neighbor, the Central Manufacturing Co. Both firms also supplied the speedster bodies that appeared on the 1928 Auburn.
In July 2009 Carbon Motors, a small automotive manufacturer founded by former Ford Motor Co. executive William Fontana Li in 2003, purchased a factory adjacent to the Connersville Industrial Park and expects to manufacture purpose-built police cars in the facility starting in 2012.
© 2004 Mark Theobald - Coachbuilt.com with special thanks to Keith Marvin