Paul Lewis - 1937 Airomobile


    The Airomobile was a one off prototype that although stimulated great interest, never made it into production. Plans for the Airomobile were first drawn up in 1934 by Paul Lewis in the USA. Lewis believed that the 3-wheeled configuration would meet his needs for streamlining and economy. After many technical problems were sorted out with the the vehicle it was eventually built in 1937.

The vehicle was powered by a horizontally opposed, 129-cu.in overhead valve, air cooled four cylinder unit (57hp) created by the Dorman Marks Engine Company. The body was created from steel and was very aerodynamic with it trailing to the rear and having two large fish like fins. The Airomobile did have a very low centre of gravity and was said to take corners faster than any 4-wheeler at the time. Lewis toured the USA on a promotional tour with the Airomobile covering over 45,000 miles. Prospective dealers were told that they would not be able to follow the Airomobile for one mile over rough terrain without damaging their driving mechanism. Lewis would then drive through ploughed fields and ditches without the need to slow down and return to show no damage had been sustained to the vehicle.  As a result many dealers became interested in the Airomobile and Lewis was able to establish possible dealers throughout the USA.

In 1938 the Airomobile was slightly redesigned with a new front section that included the lights being moved from the top of the wings and built into them. Lewis again toured the USA but interest in the vehicle had diminished and plans to put the vehicle into full production were squashed with the onset of the second World War and so the vehicle never became anything more than a prototype.

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In 1937, the Airomobile was a one-of-a-kind experimental model built by engineers from Franklin Auto and Lewis American Airways. It was intended to be a low-priced, mass produced car. The design was the result of Paul M. Lewis, who wanted a simple inexpensive ( target price of $300 ) and safe automobile in 1934. The three-wheel design met his needs for streamlining, and was also quite stable.

A year after developing the basic design, Lewis incorporated as Lewis-American Airways and offered stock in the company. He then selected Carl Doman and Ed Marks, former engineers with the Franklin Automobile company, who had formed the Doman-Marks Engine Company, to design and build the car.

The Airomobile stimulated great interest but never made it into production. After many technical problems were sorted out with the the vehicle a prototype was eventually built in 1937.

The vehicle was powered by a horizontally opposed, 129-cu.in overhead valve, air cooled four cylinder unit (57hp) created by the Dorman Marks Engine Company . This unit was later to find great success in light aeroplanes. The body was created from steel and was very aerodynamic with it trailing to the rear and having two large fish like fins. The Airomobile did have a very low centre of gravity and was said to take corners faster than any 4-wheeler at the time. Lewis set off on a cross-country promotional tour with the Airomobile, logging some 45,000 miles in only a few short months. Along the way, he managed to convince numerous interested parties in his vision of an affordable, safe automobile for all Americans. In the Jan./Feb. 1971 issue of Special Interest Automobiles magazine, Lewis is quoted as stating that "The Airomobile was carefully engineered to turn corners very fast. Even faster than possible with a 4-wheel car, rear-wheel driven. To accomplish this, we needed to build the Airomobile with a very low center of gravity. The engine was mounted forward of the front wheels and the passengers rode, therefore, on the long end of the teeter-totter. This made for a very easy ride."

In 1938 the Airomobile was slightly redesigned with a new front section that included the lights being moved from the top of the wings and built into them. Lewis again toured the USA but interest in the vehicle had diminished and plans to put the vehicle into full production were squashed with the onset of the second World War and so the vehicle never became anything more than a prototype. The vehicle was studied by Porsche in 1937 and they took great interest in the vehicle's flat-four transaxle design. Shortly afterwards a very similar design appeared in the Volkswagon Beetle and went on to power it for many years.

Built by ex-Franklin engineers Carl T. Doman and Edward S. Marks and Paul Lewis of  Lewis American Airways?

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Aircraft engine sources report that a group of Franklin engineers, led by , bought the assets at a bankruptcy sale and formed Air Cooled Motors Development Co. Air Cooled Motors, also located in Syracuse, developed the Franklin line of aircraft engines from 1938 through WW II. In Oct. 1945, Air Cooled Motors was purchased by Republic Aircraft Corp.

According to an automotive source (K&C, pp. 20-21), Doman and Marks, formerly of Franklin, formed Doman-Marks Engineering Company. In 1937, D-M designed a 126 cu.in., 50hp, horizontally-opposed air-cooled engine to be installed in Airomobile Co.'s 3-wheeled "streamlined" car. The Airomobile car was unsuccessful, but the engine was enlarged and developed further for light planes (apparently to the 4AC-150) by Doman-Marks. This source also says that Doman-Marks was purchased by Republic before WW II and then sold by Republic to the Tucker Co. post-WW II. This latter is consistent, but the Republic purchase date apparently is in error in K&C.

 

   

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