The Way It Was


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1915 The Maxwell may be a dusty footnote in automotive history, but there was a time when it was one of the three best-selling cars in the nation. The Maxwell was so popular that even a song was written about it in 1915: “Mack’s Swell Car Was a Maxwell.” Known for its excellent racing ability, the Maxwell was a buggy to be reckoned with, racking up several awards. Maxwell has a rather checkered history. It began in Tarrytown, N.Y., in 1904 as the Maxwell-Briscoe Co., named after founders Jonathan Dixon Maxwell and Benjamin Briscoe. The first model was the two-cylinder Maxwell Runabout. Maxwell began building cars outside of Indianapolis in 1907 after the plant in Tarrytown burned. In 1910, it became part of the United States Motor Co. Maxwell was the only survivor from that combine and was renamed the Maxwell Motor Co. and finally the Maxwell Motor Corp. The company relocated to Detroit in 1913. Its factory was on Oakland Avenue in Highland Park, where this image of a couple sitting in a 1915 Maxwell 25 Roadster was shot. In 1917, Maxwell also built cars at the financially foundering Chalmers auto plant at East Jefferson Avenue and Conner Street. In 1921, Walter P. Chrysler took a controlling interest in the company, which was then experiencing monetary woes. The Maxwell lasted until 1925, when Chrysler formed the Chrysler Corp. and renamed the auto the Chrysler Four, which later morphed into the Plymouth. But the Maxwell was a swell car while it lasted. Its full history can be found in the 2009 book Maxwell Motor and the Making of the Chrysler Corp., by Anthony J. Yanik.

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