Automotive History: Marmon’s Double Three Point Suspension

Since delving into Marmon’s history for the CC on the Marmon Sixteen of the depression years, I’ve come across several references to an earlier Marmon innovation, one that pretty much has been consigned to the dustbin of history: the Double Three-Point Suspension system.  It is a fascinating and unique concept in the building of an automobile, and I simply cannot let it go without sharing it.

Howard Marmon was an engineer’s engineer, never content to take the simple or cheap way out.  One vexing problem for early auto engineers was the need to accommodate harsh road conditions.  The bad roads of the 20th Century’s first decade could exact a terrible toll on a car’s structure, particularly given the poor quality of contemporary metals.

Marmon’s solution was to build the car with two frames of a roughly triangular shape.  The bottom frame mounted to both front wheels, and also to a central point on the structural differential case.  The resulting rigid structure meant that the engine and differential were always aligned, thus eliminating the need for universal joints on the propeller shaft.

The second triangular frame, which supported the body, was mounted at both rear corners and to a central point on the front of the lower frame.  There is a fabulous discussion of this innovation, accompanied by some wonderful demonstration pictures, in a Motor magazine from 1905, which you can read here.

Such an elegant, yet complicated and expensive, solution.  I would imagine that the design became obsolete as the quality of American roads improved, since I’ve never heard of such a system being used anywhere else.  I’d also think that body lean would become a problem at higher speeds.  Might some of our readers know better?  In any case, such an interesting concept is too good to be allowed to sink back into the depths of forgotten engineering innovations.