Ray Harroun is best known for the 6 hours, 42 minutes and 8 seconds it took him to win the first Indianapolis 500 automobile race in 1911. But while the Marmon Wasp, the car he drove to victory that day, made him famous, it did not make the man. Rather, the man made the car.
A part-time racer, Mr. Harroun was foremost an engineer for the Marmon Motor Car Company, an early 20th century producer of passenger cars that are frequently cited as exemplars of the golden age of the American automobile. He designed the six-cylinder Marmon Wasp, so named for its yellow and black color scheme, from stock Marmon engine components. In those days, Marmon blocks came in two-cylinder units. Unlike most racecars of the period, the Wasp was built with a smoothly-cowled cockpit and a long pointed tail to reduce air drag. And Mr. Harroun came up with another innovation that has caught on pretty well – a little item called a rear view mirror. He was the first driver to race without a riding mechanic to watch for cars from behind.
Only 29 years old at the time of his victory, Mr. Harroun soon retired from competitive racing. But he was far from finished with any other part of life. He showed his staying power by taking a 50th anniversary lap in the Wasp at the Indy 500 in 1961.
Not long after Mr. Harroun’s return to Indy, Marmon-Herrington Company, successor to the old Marmon Motor Car Company, joined a growing group of businesses that had begun in 1953 when brothers Jay and Robert Pritzker acquired The Colson Corporation. By the early 1960s, the group included a dozen businesses, but lacked a name. In 1964, Marmon was chosen to connote excellence in engineering and performance.
The Marmon Group has since grown to comprise more than 175 business units, and we are still proud to associate ourselves with the heritage of innovation and quality exemplified by Ray Harroun and his Marmon Wasp.