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The Owen Magnetic was a brand of luxury automobile manufactured between 1915 and 1922, and was notable for its use of an electromagnetic transmission. The manufacture of the car was sponsored by R.M. Owen & Company of New York, New York. The car was built in New York City in 1915, Cleveland, Ohio between 1916 and 1919 and finally in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania in 1920 and 1921.

While the cars were powered by a six-cylinder engine, power for the wheels was based upon the same electromagnetic principle that turned the propeller of the U.S.S. Battleship New Mexico.

Automobile author Henry B. Lent described the drive mechanism thus:

The drive mechanism had no direct connection between the engine and the rear wheels. Instead of a fly wheel, a generator and a horseshoe shaped magnet were attached to the rear of the engines crank shaft. On the forward end of the cars drive shaft, was an electric motor with an armature fitted into an air space inside the whirling magnet. Electrical current, transmitted by the engine's generator and magnet attached to the armature of the electrical motor, providing the energy to turn the drive shaft and propel the engines rear wheels. Speed for the car was controlled by a small lever adjacent to the steering wheel.

The first Owen Magnetic was introduced at the 1915 New York auto show when Justus B. Entz's electric transmission was fitted to the Owen automobile. Walter C. Baker, of Cleveland Ohio, owned the patents on the Entz transmission thus each of the 250 Owen Magnetic automobile produced in New York were built under license.

The car became as famous as the company's clientele which included Enrico Caruso and John McCormack. Owen Magnetic's were advertised as "The Car of a Thousand Speeds"

In December of 1915, the concern was moved to Cleveland when the R.M. Owen Company joined Walter Baker (of Baker Motor Vehicle) and the Rausch & Lang concern. The Baker Electric Car company would produce the car, Rausch and Lang would build the coachwork. Because of the combined resources, the 1916 Owen Magnetic increased its model range for 1916 model year, with prices in the $3,000 to $6,000 dollar range. Production continued through 1918 when Baker shifted its focus to War goods manufacturing.

The company reorganized as the Owen Magnetic Motor Car Company of Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania and resumed production, this time with an order for 500 vehicles from Crown Limited of Great Britain. Under the terms of the agreement, the cars were named Crown Magnetic, however the before the order could be fulfilled, Owen Magnetic filed for receivership.

The Woods Dual Power car manufactured by the Woods Motor Company in Chicago also used the Entz transmission. The Woods car was similar in many ways to today’s hybrids. It used both a gasoline engine and electric motors to propel the wheels and utilized braking to recharge the batteries.

References

  • Kimes, Beverly R., Editor. Clark, Henry A. The Standard Catalog of American Cars 1805-1945. Kraus Publications. ISBN 0-87341-428-4



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