Marathon Motor Works factory in Nashville

Mike Wolfe of the tv show "American Pickers" opened his 2nd business shop here called Antique Archeology

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When Barry Walker acquired the long-abandoned Marathon Motor Works auto factory for $52,000 in 1986, most people around Nashville, Tenn., thought he was throwing good money after bad.

"Bad" barely begins to convey the site in the decades after the final touring cars and rumble-seat roadsters rolled off Marathon's assembly line in 1914. Not only was the factory crumbling to dust after years of neglect, but its surrounding downtown neighborhood was a no man's land plagued by poverty, violent crime and drug abuse.

"Marathon was nothing but bums and homeless back then--there were prostitutes all over the place," Walker says. "Everyone said, ‘You're crazy to do this. You're going to die.' So I bought a pistol--a .38 with a 6-inch barrel--and started cleaning house. I'd fire that gun every morning to clear everyone out of here.

Walker's efforts to keep Marathon Motor Works' entrepreneurial spirit alive extend beyond repurposing the property for the next generation: He also owns four of the eight Marathon cars known to survive.

The 1910 -1914 Marathon was the only car made in Tennessee before 1980.

William Collier, a Southern Engine and Boiler Works engineer, designed an automobile in 1906, and by 1910 approximately six hundred cars were made in Jackson and sold as Southerns. The two models, a rumble-seat roadster and a five-seat touring car, sold for fifteen hundred dollars. The discovery of another auto also called Southern led Collier to name his models Marathon.

Collier disagreed with the company president in 1913 and was demoted. Marathon had three presidents in four years, and its board of directors, composed of Nashville business leaders, did not watch the company closely. Collier filed charges of mismanagement; suppliers of parts claimed lack of payment. In 1914 Marathon stopped building cars.
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Marathon Motor Works factory in Nashville
Marathon Motor Works factory in Nashville
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