06/18/2011 2 Comments
One of the great and unexpected joys of writing the Cool History of Cleveland blog is the occasionally connection you make with a reader. A few weeks past I received an email from a David Buehler who owns essentially the final set of Templar Motor Cars in the world. Truth is I didn’t know what Templar Motor Company was all about and while it is cool he owns the cars what was the Cleveland connection? Turns out Templar Motors was Lakewood, OH’s only automobile manufacturer. It is one of those cool great stories about Cleveland (and its neighbors) that I worry is slowly disappearing from us.
During the seven year existence of Templar Motor Company only produced 6,000 cars of which only 30 are believed to exist today. The Company was formed in 1916 by a group of Cleveland investors. By early 1917 – a new factory was erected at Halstead and Plover Streets in Lakewood, OH at a significant cost of $2.5 million. The plant was constructed with an annual car capacity of 5,000 units – but never in the company’s best year did it hit a third of that capacity. Templar’s first car was completed and displayed in 1917. However, the United States entered WWI that year and the factory, fulfilling its patriotic duty, began to produce 155 mm shells. At this point nearly 1,000 individuals were employed at the plant.
The adopted slogan of Templar Motor Company was, “The Superfine Small Car.” While the company was noted for its two-passenger sport roadster it also offered a fiver-passenger and four-passenger “sportette” model. All of which were moderately priced though much higher than the very successful Model T by Ford Motor Company. The company achieved modest success in 1918 and 1919 and under the tutelage of President M. F. Bramley had streamlined operations and added five new buildings for production at a cost of $1,000,000.
Fun fact. In the summer of 1919, famous racing car driver – E. G. “Cannonball” Baker set a new world’s record in driving from New York to Chicago in a modified Templar vehicle. His record time of 26 hours and fifty minutes was an astounding six hours and ten minutes faster than the previous record.
Unfortunately, disaster struck Templar on December 31st, 1921 when the original three building plant burnt to the ground. The company successfully maintained production but never hit the 1918 and 1919 levels of car output and was in serious financial straits. Templar continued to plod along until the fall of 1924 when beset by poor financial conditions and shareholder lawsuits it finally closed its doors. More than 20,000 investors lost more than $6 million dollars (which would translate to more than $42 million today). But the cars were quite stunning and for a brief period of time captured the imagination of the U.S. with its built for speed reputation.