The Marmon Wasp

Marmon Holdings, Inc. derives its name from the Marmon Motor Car Company (1902–
1933). In addition to passenger cars, the company made the Marmon Wasp, which won
the first Indianapolis 500 race in 1911. While the Wasp’s name came from its color scheme
and the shape of its tail, its place in racing history came from the winning strategy devised
by engineer and driver Ray Harroun and his Marmon team.

Racing cars of the day were all two seaters with room for a “riding mechanic,” who would
watch for other cars approaching from behind. Defying convention, Marmon built the
Wasp as a single seater, thus saving the weight of a second person while creating a more
streamlined body. To allay safety concerns among competitors, Harroun improvised a rearview mirror, believed to be the first one installed on an automobile.

Key to the race’s outcome was Marmon’s strategy regarding tire life. Blown tires were
common and the related downtime was significant. The Marmon team determined that
while cars could run at average speeds of 80 miles per hour or faster, if they ran at 75
miles per hour or slower the tire life could be doubled. On race day, the Wasp made just
four pit stops and had no blowouts. Meanwhile, the second-place car stopped 11 times and
needed 14 tires changed. The Wasp’s winning average speed was 74.6 miles per hour,
exactly as planned.

Marmon’s highly disciplined approach worked—combining innovation, differentiation, and
an intense focus on what mattered most to winning.

While the Marmon Motor Car Company did not survive the Great Depression, the Marmon
business name continued when Walter Marmon started a new company called Marmon-
Herrington to produce all-wheel drive vehicles. By the early 1960s, Marmon-Herrington
made heavy-duty axles and was one of a dozen industrial businesses owned by the
Pritzker family of Chicago. In 1964, the Marmon name was chosen for the growing group
of companies.

More than a century after Ray Harroun drove the Wasp to victory, Marmon Holdings is
still growing. Thanks to the quality of our people and their commitment to providing the
customer with innovative, practical solutions, we are still winning, too.

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