We at the Surrey Vintage Vehicle
Society have an active Help Page on our website where the general public can get
free assistance with identification of old cars from old photographs. While
searching for answers we often come across photographs of interesting vehicles
which we put aside for later study and investigation. One such case is the photo
above showing a car that we had not been able to identify at the time.
The photo is titled “Hough-McRae Motor Co”. The car dealership in the
background is for Harroun Cars. Roy Harroun was the first winner of Indianapolis
and later went to make his own car. Our suggestion is that he could be the
figure on the left. He manufactured about 2,000 cars called the Harroun A1 or
AA1 during 1917 – 1921. He then introduced the Model AA2 in 1921 shortly
before production stopped.. We have not been able to find any pictures of the
AA2 to be able to compare and wondered if the car in this photo is one of them?
The slight worry is that the radiator and bonnet seen very familiar, being
similar to other American cars of the period. The rest of the car does have
close similarities to the AA1. The license plate is a 1919 Michigan
We contacted the AACA Forum in the USA who have been very helpful in the past
and further digging revealed that the photo was taken at "Hough-McRae Motor Company
showroom at 3829 South Fox Street in Englewood Arapahoe County Colorado"
and confirms the Harroun car connection. However, search on Google streetmaps
suggests the address is very much in a residential area?
AACA Forum contributors suggested that the car was of pretty generic design,
although it is lacking an manufacturers logo or emblem. Perhaps the best
clue as to its identity is the epilogue in the Wikipedia article on the Harroun
Motor Co. "After the war, the company tried to get started again, creating
a new model for 1922 sales year. Representatives took the car on a tour from Detroit to
Montana and on to Denver to prove its reliability. The picture is probably an
image from that trip. It shows a car that is obviously brand new (the paint
still has some "shine" to it!) with a Michigan manufacture/ dealer
license plate. Hurroun cars were built in Wayne, Michigan, and this one is parked
in front of a Harroun dealership in Colorado. This is probably the prototype, or
early production model, or it wouldn't sport that license plate. It appears
to have been driven to Colorado from Michigan a little worse for wear. Also
according to that entry, this was also the company's swan-song as they halted
production in 1922 and their assets were sold off in 1923.
By way of history, Wikipedia advises that "Ray
Harroun was born on January 12, 1879 and died January 19, 1968. Nicknamed the
"Little Professor" for his pioneering work in creating, with Howard
Marmon, the Marmon Wasp, which was a revolutionary design being the first
open-wheel single-seater racecar. Harroun is best known for winning the first
running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race on May 30, 1911. He is known to have
started at least 60 AAA-sanctioned races, during the years 1905–1911. From
1909 to 1911, Harroun drove primarily for the team operated by
Indianapolis-based auto maker, Marmon. However, at least one 1909 race result
shows him driving a Buick. Also, statistics from 1905 through 1908 show him
driving cars described as "Harroun Custom" and "Harroun
Sneezer." In 1916, Harroun started his own automobile company in
Wayne, Michigan, called the Harroun Motor Car Company. The venture folded after
World War I, and today a street in Wayne is named for him. In 1927 he joined
Lincoln Products, and he continued to work in the automotive industry until his
retirement at age 79. "
Interesting to note on the photo above and on the photo below is another Ray
Harroun invention, somewhat controversial, which helped him to win a lot of
subsequent races, until adopted by everybody. The rules specified that the
driver had to be accompanied by a riding mechanic who would be the lookout as to
what was happening behind. Ray Harroun was the first to fit a 'rear view mirror'
to his car thereby obviating the necessity for the riding mechanic, - and his
weight, The mirror can be seen on both photos as the strut supported unit on the
scuttle forward and above the steering wheel.
The Harroun was an automobile manufactured in Wayne, Michigan by the Harroun
Motor Sales Corporation from 1916 to 1920 having raised $10,000,000 in stock to
begin a car company. Harroun bought the buildings and equipment of the former
Prouty and Glass Carriage Company, a factory of some 80,000 square feet. This was
used for paint and upholstery, and in 1917 Harroun built a new 1,220,000 square
foot factory next door for all other processes. The company operated for 12-18
months producing 200 cars per day. There were three models offered, a roadster
and a touring car (each priced at $595) and a sedan ($850), each powered by the
company's own four-cylinder engine. Cars were only available with a green body,
brown roof and black fenders and upholstery. The roadster was only available in
midnight blue. In 1918 Harroun also invented and patented a shock absorbing
steering wheel to reduce driver fatigue.
In the spring of 1918 the company got a
government contract to produce 200,000 artillery shells during World War I, and
prevented them from making cars. After the war, the company tried to get started
again, creating a new model for 1922 sales year. Representatives took the car on a tour
from Detroit to Montana and on to Denver to prove its reliability. This we think
is the car in our mystery photo. The tour went well, but the company still
closed in June 1922 with apparently no others made. Overall Harroun production numbers have
variously been quoted as low as 500 and as high as 3,000 cars being built,
- and two are
known to survive.
In our searches we came across photos of two existing cars of the A1 types which
were in various stages of disrepair and repair, one of which shows the logo the
cars would have had. Also a photo of the very interesting exposed valvegear
engine. (Please click on photos to enlarge).
Harroun cars were made in Wayne, Michigan which is a few miles inland from 'Motowm'
of Detroit, which is on the shore of Detroit River, which is the water passage
between Canada and USA leading from the the Great Lakes to Lake Erie and out to
the Atlantic, We contacted the Wayne Historical Museum in Wayne City, and were
advised by their Tyler Moll that they do not have specific documented pictures
of the Harrouin car beyond that available from general sources. They did however
supply us with a couple of photos which showed the Tourer and the Roadster. We
have not been able to find a copy of the standard Sedan photo anywhere. In our searches
we came across an interesting website by Mike
from Wayne City who is assembling info on
So this research has had to come to the end with the conclusion that the photo
below may be
only photo in existence of a 1921 Harroun Model AA2 Touring
, This would make it quite a
find and it would be quite unique.
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