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Templar Motors: Superfine!

(This article originally appeared in Hemmings Classic Car #129, June 2015)

Templar0004In 1917 three prominent men from the Cleveland area started a car company.  Led by M.F. Bramley, President of the Cleveland Trinidad Paving Company, and using the talent and experience of engineers from several other car companies, the car they produced was a sporty, modern car that went by the name of Templar.  The company founders were members of the local Knights Templar hence the vehicles name and use of the Maltese cross in its logo.  To the car-buying public the Templar promised something different – a moderately sized car built to superfine specifications.

While the Templar was an assembled car, the company did build its own overhead-valve engines.  This fact was highlighted on an 8 ¾” X 12 ½” announcement flyer from 1918 that dedicated one full side to the “Vitalic Top-Valve Motor.”  That 4-cylinder, 197 cu. in. was good for 43 horsepower and, “of course, real fuel economy.”  Regarding the overhead valves, the flyer states how they “are completely enclosed and operate in an oil vapor” reminding potential buyers to “think what this means in positive, quiet valve action.”  The Templar would also feature Hotchkiss drive and a semi-floating rear axle.  This announcement flyer solicited potential dealers, luring them with the promise of a strong market.

Templar0001For 1919 Templar produced a six-page folder that provided specifications and descriptions for each of their cars ranging from the $2,185 touring car to their $3,295 five passenger sedan.  That sedan was a “custom built, aluminum body, solid pillar two-door type” offered in any desired color scheme or upholstery.  Standard equipment included “silk curtains, silver hardware, dome light, reading lights, vanity case, smoking set, flower vase and Perfection heater.”

In 1920 Templar produced its most complete sales piece to date, a 7” X 10” catalog featuring a color cover and 20 interior pages that were heavily illustrated and beautifully written.  This catalog again extolls the virtues of the Templar Top-Valve Motor, reporting that it “sets a new standard for power, economy and flexibility” and that four-cylinder engines have long proven themselves in racing cars and trucks.  While some focus is placed on the engine, the catalog finally has its main emphasis on the cars themselves.  The catalog author stresses beauty, strength and economy – key features of the Templar.  The catalog describes the contemporary buyer as one who “is looking, first of all, for performance; next appearance; and then, true economy.” The Templar satisfies all of these demands because it “is superfine in quality, beautiful in appearance, light in weight, small in size and inexpensive to operate.” Above all it combines “the rich man’s demand – quality and economy” with “the poor man’s need – economy and quality.”

The 1920 Touring Roadster promised real adventure as a fast & sporty car that “shows its class in every line.” The hand-hammered aluminum body roadster had staggered seats for comfort, a top that could be stored in a special bag carried in the baggage compartment and a top speed of “more than sixty-three miles per hour.”  This car came standard with a grade indicator, corded inspection lamp, rim-wind keyless auto lock and a compass and Autographic 1-A Junior folding Kodak camera housed in a compartment built into the side of the body.  Clearly, real adventure awaited the Touring Roadster owner!

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While Templar production would peak in 1920 with 1,850 cars, by 1921 the company would sell less than 700 units.  That same year a factory fire would deliver a nearly fatal blow but the company forged ahead.  Sales, however, continued to slide and in 1923 only 123 cars were produced and the company found itself in receivership.  Templar would introduce a six cylinder line in 1924 but those efforts were in vain — the last cars would roll out of the Lakewood, Ohio factory in 1924, a premature and disappointing end for “the car for the Twenties.”