Walter Lorenzo Marr

When Detroit became automobile manufacturing home of the United States, a great deal of talented and creative engineers flocked in. Among them, some names deserve extra credit for their effort in development of early American automotive industry.

Walter Lorenzo Marr was certainly one of those remarkable minds. He was born in 1865 near Lake Huron, Michigan. Coming from a modest family background, Walter needed to work from a very tender age in order to support his family.

This helped him adapt to physical and mental hard work, a feature on which he later built a successful business career. His first serious jobs included low level positions in a local sawmill and steamboat engineering company. As a young man Marr was fascinated with steam engines.

From the start it was clear that Marr showed great promise. Aside from the obvious talent for mechanics, he had a friendly and reliable personality to match. His stylish choice of clothing and nurtured appearance drew the attention of many women, but it was Abbie Farrar who ultimately captured his heart.

Eventually, Walter Marr saw an opportunity to enter the business of bicycle manufacturing and opened a small door to pursue his dreams in the automobile industry. A better financial position in 1898 provided Walter with the possibility to create his own four cylinder gasoline engine. The automotive pioneer community was rather small and he soon met other promising engineers such as Henry Ford.

Walter Marr intended to improve the existing engine design by placing the valves in the motor head. As a result, the engine could produce more horsepower. It was basically the forerunner to an overhead valve engine that came many years later. In 1903 his Marr Autocar Company built a runabout with a single cylinder engine mounted under the driver's seat.

The following year a fire destroyed the main plant in Elgin, Illinois along with 14 models planned for sale. Only a single Marr Autocar survived to this day. Ironically, his life changed because of a boat. David Dunbar Buick hired him to develop a stationary boat engine, which he intended to sell on the market.

An automobile company soon bought the Buick's enterprise, but kept the name. It was led by another great pioneer William C. Durant, who planned to merge several smaller car manufacturers in a single strong company called the General Motors. Walter Lorenzo Marr helped him as the chief engineer of Buick division. Automobile industry grew steadily and he became pretty wealthy.

Being on the leading end of the largest car company meant a great deal of stress, responsibility and power. He was also known as a racing chauffeur who preferred practical demonstration of the machines that he designed.

In any case, the early car designs made by Walter Lorenzo Marr set a lasting foundation for the General Motors, a car company that was at the very beginning in those days. His work pushed the reliable Buick models to the top of America's most desirable brands and earned him a reputation as one of the most respected engineers in the early automotive industry.

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