Owen Magnetic

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1920 Owen Magnetic Touring Car ad, from House Beautiful magazine
1916 Owen Magnetic at Crawford Museum
Owen Magnetic radiator emblem

The Owen Magnetic was a pioneering[1] American brand of hybrid electric luxury automobile manufactured between 1915 and 1922. Car models of the brand were notable for their use of an electromagnetic transmission and were early examples of an electric series hybrid drivetrain. The manufacture of the car was sponsored by R.M. Owen & Company of New York, New York. The car was built in New York City in 1915, in Cleveland, Ohio, between 1916 and 1919 and finally in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, in 1920 and 1921.

                                                          Body Style: 2-Door Electric Phaeton


The car was powered by a six-cylinder engine, but power was transmitted to the wheels based upon the same electromagnetic principle that propelled the Battleship U.S.S. New Mexico.

Automobile author Henry B. Lent described the drive mechanism thus:

The drive mechanism had no direct connection between the engine and the rear wheels. Instead of a flywheel, a generator and a horseshoe shaped magnet were attached to the rear of the engine's crank shaft. On the forward end of the car's drive shaft, was an electric motor with an armature fitted into an air space inside the whirling magnet. Electric current, transmitted by the engine's generator and magnet attached to the armature of the electrical motor, providing the energy to turn the drive shaft and propel the engine's rear wheels. Speed for the car was controlled by a small lever adjacent to the steering wheel.


The first Owen Magnetic was introduced at the 1915 New York auto show when Justus B. Entz's electric transmission was fitted to the Owen automobile: "R.M. Owen have leased the large new three story fireproof building at the corner of Fifth avenue and One Hundred and Forty-second street, New York, where they will build the new Owen Magnetic motor cars." The former Owen plant still exists and is presently a self-storage facility.[2]

Justus Entz's U.S. patent was No.1,207,732. The Entz transmission had no physical connection between the gasoline engine and the driveshaft, Walter C. Baker, of Cleveland, Ohio, owned the patents on the Entz transmission, thus each of the 250 Owen Magnetic automobiles produced in New York was built under license.[Note 1]

The car became as famous as the company's clientele, which included Enrico Caruso and John McCormack. Owen Magnetics were advertised as "The Car of a Thousand Speeds".

In December 1915, the company was moved to Cleveland when the R.M. Owen Company joined Walter Baker (of Baker Motor Vehicle) and the Rauch and Lang company. The Baker Electric Car company would produce the car, and Rauch and Lang would build the coachwork. Because of the combined resources, the Owen Magnetic increased its range of offerings for 1916 model year, with prices from $3,000 to $6,000. Production continued through 1918, when Baker shifted its focus to war goods manufacturing.

The company reorganized as the Owen Magnetic Motor Car Corporation based in Wilkes-Barre. The newly equipped factory was situated in the old Matheson works at Forty Fort, Pennsylvania.[3] The Wilkes-Barre Times announced the resumption of production for January 1, 1920, with the aim of producing 750 cars that year.[4]

Crown Magnetic[edit]

The company received an order for 500 vehicles from Crown Limited of Great Britain. Under the terms of the agreement, the cars were named Crown Magnetic. However, by August 1920, before the order could be fulfilled, Owen Magnetic was in receivership.[5]

The Crown Magnetic was displayed at the London Motor Show in 1920.[6]

See also[edit]

Other early electric vehicles[edit]


  1. ^ Some sources wrongly state that the Woods Dual Power car manufactured by the Woods Motor Vehicle Company in Chicago also used the Entz transmission. The Woods Dual Power had a drive-train based on Roland Fend's U.S. patent number 1,303,870, using a clutch between the gas engine and the electric motor, allowing the engine to also drive the car through the armature shaft of the motor, which itself was connected to the driveshaft. The Woods car was similar in many ways to today’s hybrids. It used both a gasoline engine and an electric motor to propel the wheels, had regenerative braking to recharge the batteries and in some circumstances the car could charge the batteries while running on gasoline.[citation needed]


  1. ^ MCG (24 June 2014). "Another five forgotten Detroit-built cars". macsmotorcitygarage.com.
  2. ^ Chicago Daily Tribune, January 26, 1915, Page 10.
  3. ^ Wilkes-Barre Times, August 16, 1919, Page 1.
  4. ^ Wilkes-Barre Times, October 23, 1919, Page 11.
  5. ^ Wilkes-Barre Times, August 30, 1920, Page 1; Wall Street Journal, September 2, 1920, Page 9.
  6. ^ The Times of India, September 29, 1920, Page A11.

External links[edit]