Vincent L. Schwing, 91, founder of city car dealership

October 10, 1998|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Vincent L. Schwing, founder of one of the city's oldest automobile dealership and the holder of several racing boat world speed records, died Thursday of Alzheimer's disease at the Keswick Multi-Care Center.

He was 91 and was a former Mayfield resident.

A self-taught auto mechanic, Mr. Schwing decided during the Great Depression to establish an automobile dealership with his wife, the former Louisa Storath. In 1930, they opened Schwing Motor Co. Inc. in Roland Park and began selling Fords from a showroom in the 3300 block of Keswick Road. The business has operated in the same location for 68 years.

"During the Depression when people had no money, he was able to fix their cars, and that is what carried him through. During World War II, he often would barter car repairs for meat," said his son, Frederick W. Schwing of Mays Chapel, president of the company.

From 1945 to 1956, Mr. Schwing sold Hudsons until he switched to high performance luxury cars, such as Ferraris, Saabs and Triumphs. The company has also sold BMWs since 1966.

"What made him successful was the fact that he was a practical mechanic," his son said.

Mr. Schwing said his father was a "born mechanic. He could fix anything. He was an extremely mechanically minded man."

Mr. Schwing enjoyed racing high-performance boats and hydroplanes throughout the Middle Atlantic region. He also designed and built 19-foot wooden-hull boats powered by 700 to 800 horsepower engines in a shop behind his Keswick Road showroom.

"He knew how to make things, and he could make them better than anyone else," his son said.

Mr. Schwing was a member of the Boat Racing Hall of Fame and holder of several world speed records. He also was a national hydroplane champion in 1946, 1947 and 1948.

"When he was 65 years old, he got behind the wheel and drove one of his boats at 100 miles per hour," his son said.

A man of medium-build who was known for his gracious manner, Mr. Schwing was always at his desk ready for work by 7 a.m. He retired in 1981.

He enjoyed playing the clarinet and saxophone and, for many years, visited nursing homes and hospitals entertaining patients. In recent years, he had become interested in growing roses.

In 1987, Mr. Schwing created the Elm Avenue Playground at 3416 Elm Ave. in Hampden, and presented it to the city. For years, he and his wife had maintained the lot for neighborhood children, and when she died in 1984, he upgraded it and presented it to the city in her memory.

Born in Louisiana, he was the son of Bavarian immigrant parents. The family moved to Fells Point in 1909, and Mr. Schwing attended city schools until he left in the sixth-grade to help support his family.

During World War II, he taught engine maintenance courses at the Coast Guard base in Curtis Bay.

He was a communicant of St. Francis of Assisi Roman Catholic Church, Harford Road and Pelham Avenue, where a Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 11: 15 a.m. today.

In addition to his son, Mr. Schwing is survived by his wife of 13 years, the former Peggy Bremer; three daughters, Mary Louise Ferris of Towson, Jane Offermann of Potomac and Elizabeth Frech of Mayfield; 10 grandchildren; and 12 great-grandchildren.

Pub Date: 10/10/98

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