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Barley Motor Car Co.

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Defunct
Barley Motor Car Co. was a manufacturer of automobiles in Kalamazoo, Michigan. It manufactured the Roamer automobile (1916-29) and, briefly, the Barley (1922-24) and the Pennant (1924-25).

In 1913, Albert C. Barley bought the assets of the Streator Motor Car Co., which was put into receivership in 1911. Streator was itself the product of the Erie Motor Carriage Co. and had been manufacturing the Halladay automobile since 1905. Barley's new company was called Barley Manufacturing Co. and he reopened the factory at Streator, Illinois and continued to produce the Halladay for a few years.

Barley, Cloyd Y. Kenworthy, a New York auto dealer then selling only electric automobiles, and Karl H. Martin, who later developed the Wasp automobile, decided to build an upscale automobile, and incorporated Barley Motor Car Co. in New York State in September 1916 with a very small capitalization of only $50,000. It was established for the purpose of building motor trucks, cars, autos and accessories. Shortly thereafter, the company issued more classes of stock and was recapitalized with an additional $760,000, obtaining the existing assets of Barley's manufacturing company. Manufacturing was soon moved to Kalamazoo, occupying the former Kalamazoo Buggy Co. factory.

The initial model introduced in 1916 was called the Roamer. The name was suggested by Kenworthy's chauffeur after a popular racing horse of the era. The car was very stylish and the grill was nickel plated and modeled after the Rolls Royce grill. The initial model was called Roamer Six, a four-door touring car with a 6-cylinder Continental 24-hp engine. Oscar Wilde purchased one of the first cars built and his endorsement was featured in early advertising. Several models of the car were introduced over succeeding years. In 1918 the model C6 succeeded the Six but with a Continental 12XD engine developing 54-hp available in eight body styles from $2200 to $4900. In 1920, the model D4 Touring with a four-cylinder Duesenberg 75-hp engine went for $5,300 (4-passenger) and $5,400 (7-passenger). By 1922, only the model 6-54 remained.

The Roamer was marketed since its inception as "America’s Smartest Car." It was also successful in many early racing events. After six records were set for one kilometer, one-, two- three-, four- and five-mile sprints by a Roamer with the Rochester-Dusenberg engine at Daytona Beach in 1921, the advertisements crowed that "America’s Smartest Car Makes America’s Fastest Mile."

In 1922, the company introduced a lower-priced line called the Barley, named for Albert C. Barley, president of the company. The first Barley model 6-50 debuted in September offering torpedoes and sedans with a Continental-6 engine. The following year a Sport Sedan and Touring Sedan were added. The prices ranged from $1395 to $2250.

In 1924, the company announced a reorganization. Roamer Motor Car Co. was to be incorporated at Toronto, Canada, headed by George P. Wigginton, and the car would be manufactured at Toronto. A. C. Barley sold his interest in Roamer and the Kalamazoo factory remained the Barley Motor Car Co. and continue to manufacture the Barley. However, the Barley was not successful and it was rebranded the Pennant outfitted with a Buda 4-cylinder engine and targeted at the taxicab market. Its main competitor was the Checker, also built in Kalamazoo. The Pennant trade-dress was a maroon upper body and ivory lower body. Both the Barley and Pennant were out of production by 1925, and A. C. Barley was out of the automobile business.

Meantime, Roamer abandoned the Continental 6 engine and adopted the Lycoming 8-cylinder engine developing 88-hp but sold at the same price as the former 6-cylinder engine. The new model was called model 8-88 and is offered in seven body styles. Sales were disappointing however. In 1926, the Dusenberg Motor and Car Company was in distress and the Lycoming engine was no longer available to Roamer. In 1926, the Roamer Motor Car Co. bought the Rutenber Motor Co. of Logansport, Indiana, a company of which A. C. Barley had been an officer years earlier. The Barley family had been large shareholders in the company. Rutenber had an extensive factory complex and built engines used in many early automobiles.

Sales were weak and declining so that even before the stock market crash, in 1929 the company stopped manufacturing and was dissolved.

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