1916 Owen Magnetic
March 30, 2007 2:49 PM
Long before greenhouse gases spurned a fleet of hybrid cars on America's streets, the Owen Magnetic, built between 1916 and 1922, cruised our nation's asphalt in high luxury. Jay's love of innovation inspired his interest in this electric-powered feat of automotive know-how.
Originally manufactured by R.M Owen & Company, the car was built in both New York City and Cleveland, OH. Conceived not so much for any green-friendly prowess, but more for pure American muscle-like 0 to 25 miles an hour in 10 seconds flat. Mild numbers by today's standards but fast enough for the speed demons and celebrities of its day, including the famous Italian opera star Enrico Caruso. The Owen Magnetic was plugged in ads as "The Car of a Thousand Speeds."
With no mechanical drive, this beauty has a gas-powered engine, which through a magnetic field runs a generator that sends electric power to motors mounted in its wheels. The basic mechanism of power for the wheels was influenced by the same electromagnetic propulsion engines in the U.S.S. Battleship New Mexico.
But it's the Owen's electric transmission that was the tipping point of innovation. Instead of a conventional transmission, the driver clicks a lever on the steering wheel into a different quadrant. This lever controls a magnetic clutch that left the other cars of its day in the dust.
Really the Owen is more like a train than a car. And for the $9000 price tag you might've bought a train in 1916. But this sweet ride was definitely worth it.