James AllisonJames Allison

A Biography of the Engine Manufacturer and Indianapolis 500 Cofounder

James Allison was one of the movers and shakers of the early automobile industry.  In 1904 he and Carl Fisher founded Prest-O-Lite which powered the early automobile headlights.

With a passion for the automobile, Allison was one of the cofounders of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  As Europe entered World War, Allison and Fisher financed two auto racing teams to ensure there were plenty of competition at the Speedway.  To keep the cars running, Allison started a high end machine shop, Allison Engineering.

During World War I, Allison Engineering switched its focus to designing parts for the Liberty Engine.  After the War, Allison engineers discovered the underlying cause for the Liberty engine’s premature failure and the company gained a major contract to refurbish Liberty engines.  This led to Allison Engineering’s storied history of manufacturing aircraft engines including the V-1710, the workhorse of World War II.  Today, the machine shop started by Jim Allison is part of Rolls-Royce Corporation in Indianapolis.

After retiring from active business life in Indianapolis, Allison joined Fisher who was developing Miami Beach.   Allison started an aquarium on Miami Beach which rivaled major aquariums in Detroit, Boston, New York and Naples, Italy.  He later started a high-end hospital.

Aficionados of the early days of the automobile and racing will enjoy learning about Allison’s contribution to the Indianapolis’ vibrant automobile industry and the Speedway.   Business owners and students of business history will find the challenges of Prest-O-Lite, the Speedway, the Miami Aquarium and Allison Hospital are applicable to today’s business life.

The book is available through Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com.   The publisher is McFarland & Company.