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SNAPSHOT 346: 1920 Moon Superb Six

This English photograph of an American Moon shows that there was some effort to export to the UK, the sole concessionaires being North Western Motors in Liverpool (“Immediate Delivery. Price £885 Liverpool. Includes spare tyre and tube.”)

Joseph W Moon was a carriage builder. After selling out his half share in the Moon Brothers Carriage Co. to his brother in 1893, he set up a buggy company – and in 1905 he built his first car. The Moon Model A, shown at the New York Automobile Show in January 1906, was a 5-seater touring car with a front-mounted 30hp Rutenber 4-cylinder engine. The Moon Motor Car Co. was incorporated in 1907. Moon hired P. Mooers, formerly with Peerless, who designed a 4-cylinder engine with an unusual single rocker arm per cylinder. That partnership was dissolved in 1909 and as parts needed to be updated they were increasingly sourced from outside the company. Nevertheless, the company built a reputation as a maker of dependable mid-level cars using high-quality parts. The downside of this policy of buying in components was a high degree of manual assembly work, leading to marginal profitability.

By 1916, the cars were exclusively powered by six-cylinder engines sourced from Continental. In 1919 the company introduced its sharp-edged radiator, said to be a blatant copy of the Rolls-Royce design but in fact without the flat top. Even more noticeable, and visible in our Snapshot, was its moon-shaped radiator ornament.

The first cars imported into Britain by North Western Motors were to a high specification, including overhead-valve Continental engines and Wagner electric lighting and starting, but by 1922 the specification had made a backward step, with side-valve engines. At the 1923 Olympia Show North Western cars had three Moon cars on display, all with British-built bodies. Curiously, North Western were in 1923 also offering another American make, Roamer, whose radiator was a blatant copy of the Rolls-Royce design.

Back in the USA, 1923 was also a successful year for the company, particularly in Chicago, where it was outselling most other makes in the city. The reason becomes clear from the name of the super-salesman who was working at that time for the Moon distributors Quinlan Motor Co.: Errett Lobban Cord.

Thereafter, the company became embroiled in some increasingly unfortunate ventures, including the launch of the low-priced 8-cylinder Diana car in 1925. The car’s reliability problems drove Moon into the red for the first time. They hastily sought a replacement, the Aerotype of 1928, designed by the independent Howard ‘Dutch’ Darrin from his Paris office and rushed into production because they could not afford to pay his consulting fees for very long.

Moon compounded their problems by starting another marque in 1929, the Windsor White Prince, attempting to capitalise on the fame of the Prince of Wales. Its name caused problems with the British importer and the cars were sold as Moons in the UK. The final demise of the Moon company arrived in 1930 when they became involved with New Era Motors, who wanted a factory to manufacture their new front-wheel-drive Ruxton car. A complicated exchange of shares and assets in both companies meant that the bankruptcy of New Era in 1930 brought down Moon as well.

Photo courtesy of The Richard Roberts Archive.

One response to “SNAPSHOT 346: 1920 Moon Superb Six”

  1. New Era Motors and Archie Andrews is one of the lesser-known automotive stories of the late 20’s and early 30’s.

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