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Centennial bash planned for W.Va.-made car

Journal file photo John Copsey Jr., left, and his father, John Copsey Sr., take a close look at the 1914 Underslung Six.
Journal file photo
John Copsey Jr., left, and his father, John Copsey Sr., take a close look at the 1914 Underslung Six.

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — The only known surviving Norwalk Underslung Six rolled out of the assembly plant in Martinsburg in 1914 and its 100th anniversary will be celebrated Sunday by the Friends of the Norwalk Foundation Inc. with a cruise-in, two huge birthday cakes and several activities at the Washington County, Maryland, Agricultural Education Center.

“The Foundation is a team of 20 people who really care about the car,” Pam Cook, a member of the foundation and The Journal’s Newspapers in Education director, said in a recent interview. “Someday, we hope to build a car museum in Martinsburg.”

Until then, the Norwalk Underslung Six is on loan to the Agricultural Educational Center for display at its Rural Transportation Museum, located at 7313 Sharpsburg Pike.

“(The museum) has given us a spot to display the car,” Cook said. “We’ve gotten a lot of great response. The museum has been wonderful and they offered to host our 100th birthday party.”

The Norwalk’s anniversary celebration is being held in conjunction with a NIE cruise-in fundraiser at the center from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. that will feature concessions and a bake sale, door prizes, a D.J., a 25-cent table for kids, and a crafts and flea market. The proceeds will go to NIE, the center and Relay for Life.

NIE provides newspapers in classrooms in Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties for teachers to use as teaching aids. Cook gives educational tours of The Journal newspaper and The Journal sponsors a design-an-ad contest for grades two through 12.

The Rural Transportation Museum will be open, as well as other attractions at the center.

The Foundation will be selling raffle tickets for a baby-blue 1996 Dodge Dart GT convertible. This is their sixth raffle. The money is used to pay off the $300,000 loan the Foundation took to buy the Norwalk.

Raffle tickets are $5 apiece or six for $20. The drawing will be Oct. 19, during the Mountain State Apple Harvest Festival in Martinsburg.

The Foundation was formed in 2008 to buy, preserve and bring home the Norwalk. The group bought the car from a Colorado rancher and transported it back to Martinsburg. It was welcomed home with a big celebration at Poor House Farm Park in September 2008.

The Norwalk Motor Car Co. originated in Norwalk, Ohio, in 1910. The company had financial trouble and a group of Martinsburg investors bought the company and its stock of parts in 1911 to bring to Martinsburg.

Norwalk assembled several models at the Martinsburg plant, including firetrucks, from 1912 to 1922. The assembly line was located on Miller Avenue – now Norwalk Avenue – adjacent to the Winchester and Western Railroad tracks and between Winchester and Porter avenues.

The Underslung Six was the premier model of the Norwalk brand. It was a big, luxury touring car with several technical advances that would become standard equipment on later cars, such as an electric, push-button transmission.

It was called the Underslung because its frame was slung under the axles and suspension, giving a much lower-than-usual center of gravity, which made it very stable; and Six because it had a massive 500-cubic-inch, in-line six-cylinder engine…

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