(This article originally appeared in Hemmings Classic Car #116, May 2014)
In the crowded automotive market of the early 1920s, car manufacturers had to do something special to stand out from the rest of the field. From rock bottom prices with fuel efficient engines to luxurious custom bodies and creatively bold paint schemes, innovation was the key. During this time, hundreds of companies would come and go; few would realize their potential or promise. One such company was the Parenti Motors Corporation from Buffalo, NY.
Formed in late 1919 and producing its first car in 1920, the Parenti Motors Corporation boasted innovation and touted its cars that had no frame, no axles, an air-cooled motor and no unsprung weight. According to the company, those features provided “very high mileage on gasoline and tires; unequaled riding comfort; extraordinary ease of handling; and greatly extended useful life.”
The body and frame of the Parenti car was one integral unit. The lower main rails of the unit body consisted of Haskelite plywood that was 12″ deep and 3 3/4″ thick. It was said that the body and frame unit of a Parenti car only weighed 350 pounds! The body was suspended via five transverse leaf springs; three in the front of the car and two in the rear.
Parenti’s most interesting feature was the fact that it did not have solid axles in the front or rear of the car. It offered four wheel independent suspension by housing drive shafts within a suspension box created by a set of leaf springs on the top and bottom of the box. This allowed each wheel to rise and lower independently from the others.
Parenti initially offered a 350-lb self produced air cooled V8 engine that produced 35 horsepower but their design would prove to be unreliable at best. By August of 1920, Parenti would give up on its own engine and use a Cameron Six engine.
The lifespan of Parenti was brief and by late 1922 the company and its assets would be absorbed by the Hanover Motor Car Company in Pennsylvania. It is believed that only eighteen Parenti cars were ever produced and it is doubtful that any of them still exist.
Although it only produced a few cars, Parenti advertisers put forth a solid effort with magazine advertising and traditional sales catalogs. One such catalog for the 1921 model year features a brown cover with black and gold embossed lettering. Measuring 4 1/2″ X 6 3/8″ with twelve pages, the catalog emphasizes the Parenti suspension, wood unit-body construction and air cooled motor. There is a center-spread that folds open to reveal the Touring Car ($2000) and Sedan ($3000). Both body styles had a 123-inch wheelbase.
Three pages of the catalog explain the air-cooled engine in detail covering its lubrication system, construction and cooling. Cutaway illustrations are included giving the reader a glimpse into the inner workings of the engine.
Lastly, this catalog also includes a pull out sheet that compares conventional automobile suspensions to the Parenti type. While the illustrations are likely exaggerated, they do a great job of highlighting Parenti’s most interesting feature, the four wheel independent suspension.