24 September 2013

Classic 1918 Roamer real treat to see

Market crash contributed to its demise


Last Sunday my concours judging assignment was in Canada for a second weekend in a row, a real rarity.

The event was the inaugural Cobble Beach Concours d’Elegance in Georgian Bay, Ont., and I have to say it was absolutely amazing.

One hundred cars lined up along the edge of the 18th fairway were reminiscent of Pebble Beach.

I have to take my hat off to the event founder and chairman Robert S. McLeese, his family and all other staff at the Cobbler Beach golf course and the volunteers who made the event run as smoothly as a Swiss watch.

The judging team was made up of a group of seasoned veterans who travel around North America together (yours truly included) and was led by my mentor John Carlson from Belcarra.

The master of ceremonies, whose voice was heard throughout the day, was none other than Ed Lucas who is the MC at a number of events during the concours season.

A very special guest at the event, who brought her 1930 Packard 740, was 103-year-old Margaret Dunning. I have never met such an amazing person. I suggest you Google the name! She remembers Henry Ford coming to her house to visit her father.

There is always one car that seems to catch my attention and on Sunday morning it was the 1918 Roamer four-passenger Sports Touring owned by Larry Burns and David Granger of Bradford, Ont. I have seen this car at other events but it did not stand out as it did on Sunday morning.

The white coachworks with red wheels and trim with the bay in the background was truly breathtaking.

Roamer automobiles were built by the Barley Motor Car Company in Kalamazoo, Mich., from 1916 until 1924 and later in Canada.

Albert C. Barley purchased the assets of the Streator Motor Car Company, which went into receivership in 1911.

He partnered with Cloyd Y. Kenworthy and Karl H. Martin and with a $50,000 investment the company was formed in 1916.

The name of their first model, the Roamer, was at the suggestion of Kenworth’s chauffeur after a famous racehorse of the era. It was marketed as America’s Smartest Car. If you look closely at the grille, you will see a striking resemblance to the famous Rolls-Royce trademark.

This was an expensive car, varying in price from $2,200 up to as much as $4,900. Roamer used Continental engines up until 1925, then switched to Lycoming as a supplier, a firm that also supplied engines to Deusenberg. But because Deusenberg was in financial difficulty, the supply of engines to Roamer dried up.

With poor sales and the pending stock market crash, the Roamer Motor Car Company, incorporated in 1924 in Toronto, and headed up by George P. Wiggington, came to an end and the factory doors closed.

There is always one car that seems to catch the attention and it was the 1918 Roamer four-passenger Sports Touring owned by Larry Burns and David Granger of Bradford, Ont.

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