Tag Archives: Frank H. Wheeler

Visiting Indianapolis’ automotive sites

Over the years I have developed Indianapolis Auto Tours to visit the city’s numerous automotive sites. I would like to share some of the highlights.

In the afternoon, we could kick-off our celebration at the James A. Allison and Frank H. Wheeler’s mansions along millionaire row on the Marian University campus. Let’s look inside these 100 year-old time capsules of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, automotive, and transportation founders.

Allison Mansion
Allison Mansion

Next, we’ll continue with an Auto Pioneer Burial Site Tour at Crown Hill Cemetery nestled along the Dixie Highway. Auto pioneers Carl G. Fisher and Louis Schwitzer are buried on Strawberry Hill near James Whitcomb Riley, President Benjamin Harrison, and Eli Lilly.

Later, we’ll tour the Stutz Motor Car Company complex on Capitol Avenue to view some automobiles built in the building from 1912 -1935. Building proprietor Turner J. Woodard has autos ranging from a Stutz Bearcat to a Stutz Pak-Age-Car.

On the next morning, we’ll go on an Auto Pioneers Tour visiting some mansions along Meridian Street and Fall Creek Parkway. We then continue along Indianapolis’ Automobile Row on North Capitol and auto manufacturing sites around the belt railroads circling the city.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum
Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum

After lunch, we’ll go to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum to see Fisher’s custom-built 1905 Premier racer designed for the Vanderbilt Cup Race and the Fisher-era Stoddard-Dayton. Our afternoon will finished up by touring by the Prest-O-Lite and Allison Engineering factories on Main Street in Speedway.

It is interesting how this part of Indianapolis’ business and social heritage started over 120 years ago when Carl G. Fisher, James A. Allison, and Arthur C. Newby met while being members of the Zig-Zag Cycling Club during the 1890’s bicycle craze. Their friendships went on to form the genesis for ventures like the Fisher Automobile Company, Prest-O-Lite Company, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Lincoln Highway, the Dixie Highway, the development of Miami Beach, Allison Engineering Company, Allison Transmission, Indianapolis Stamping Company (the predecessor of today’s Diamond Chain Company), and National Automobile Company. These men and their ideas have brought employment and enjoyment to tens of thousand’s of individuals through the years.

I invite you to contact me at Indianapolis Auto Tours to customize your visit Indianapolis’ automotive sites.

For more information on our automotive heritage follow this link.

Mileposts in Indiana automotive history-Part Two

In this series of posts, I’m sharing some of my list of Indiana’s mileposts in automotive history. I share this automotive heritage to energize and excite auto enthusiasts to get involved with collectible cars.

1906 American Motors Company of Indianapolis develops the American Underslung car, one of the first examples of low-center-of-gravity engineering.

1906 Maxwell-Briscoe, (predecessor of Chrysler Corporation), builds its plant in New Castle. It is the largest automobile plant in the nation.

1906 National Motor Vehicle Company introduces a six-cylinder model, one of the first in America.

1907-American-Underslung
1907-American-Underslung

1907 Willys-Overland Motors is established by auto dealer John North Willys, who takes over control of Overland Automobile of Indianapolis and moves it in 1909 to the old Pope-Toledo plant in Toledo, Ohio.

1909 Carl G. Fisher, James A. Allison, Arthur C. Newby and Frank H. Wheeler pool $250,000 in capital to form the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Company and transform an Indianapolis west side farm into a two-and-a-half-mile oval that becomes synonymous with automobile racing. The Speedway is designed as an automotive testing ground for U.S. manufactured automobiles to establish American auto supremacy. After the August motorcycle and auto races, the macadam track is repaved with 3,200,000 ten-pound bricks.

1911 The first Indianapolis 500 Mile race is held May 30. A Marmon Wasp averages 75 miles per hour to win. The Wasp employs streamlining via elongated front and rear sections and adds the innovation of a rearview mirror.

1911 Haynes Automobile Company is the first to equip an open car with a top, a windshield, headlamps and a speedometer as standard equipment.

1912 Stutz Motor Car Company is founded by Harry C. Stutz, who merges his Stutz Auto Parts with Ideal Motor Car.

1912-Stutz-Model-A Roadster
1912-Stutz-Model-A Roadster

1912 The Davis car is the first to have a center-control gearshift and the Bendix self-starter.

1912 The Stutz Bearcat is introduced with a design patterned on the White Squadron racing cars that won victories in 1913. Stutz also produces family cars, while the Bearcat provides lively competition for the Mercer made at Trenton, New Jersey.

1913 On July 1, the Lincoln Highway Association is created with Henry B. Joy (president, Packard Motor Company) as president and Carl G. Fisher as vice president. The Lincoln Highway is conceived as America’s first transcontinental highway.

1913 Premier and Studebaker concurrently introduce a six-cylinder engine featuring mono bloc engine casting.

1914 The Haynes is one of the first autos to offer the Vulcan Electric Gear Shift as standard equipment.

1914-Haynes-Model-28-Touring-Car
1914-Haynes-Model-28-Touring-Car

Mileposts in Indiana automotive history -Part One

To learn more about Indiana’s automotive innovation, I invite you to pick up a copy of Indiana Cars: A History of the Automobile in Indiana click here.

Made in Indiana 1913

Over one hundred years ago, Indiana made a name for itself in the automotive industry. In spring 1913, Indiana ranked second among the states in the manufacturing of automobiles. More than 40 manufacturers of pleasure cars and commercial vehicles marketed their products with a total value exceeding $50,000,000. Plus, Indiana manufacturers won the first two Indianapolis 500 mile races in 1911 and 1912.

But the story of early success begins a few years prior. Indiana’s plentiful supply of lumber lured several industries into its borders, including the makers of carriages and wagons during the mid to late 1800’s. The automobile industry in this time frame was a natural offspring of carriage manufacturers, which could provide not just parts but skilled labor as well.

1894 Haynes Pioneer
Elwood Haynes in the 1894 Pioneer
Copyright Elwood Haynes Museum

Elwood Haynes demonstrated one of America’s first gasoline automobiles along the outskirts of Kokomo, Indiana, on July 4, 1894. Nearly 20 years later Indiana was one of the leading automotive manufacturing states.

Instrumental to Indiana’s auto growth were Carl G. Fisher and James A. Allison, who met in Indianapolis during the bicycle craze of the early 1890’s. They went on to form the Prest-O-Lite Company to develop headlight systems. Their bicycling companion Arthur C. Newby was one of the founders of the Diamond Chain Company and the National Motor Vehicle Company. In 1909, these individuals along with Frank H. Wheeler founded the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to establish American automobile supremacy.

These are a sampling of the innovative Hoosier auto pioneers who contributed to the growth of Indiana’s auto industry.

The April 1913 American Motorist states “For though competition is as keen in Indiana as elsewhere, the attitude of the business man in the automobile industry in that State shows a spirit which is both refreshing and significant. The men of Indiana take a big and broad view that the market is large enough to take all of their products and pay good prices for them and that they can sell the output of their factories without crushing one another.”

American Motorist further noted “The fraternal spirit of the automobile men is crystallized in the Indiana Automobile Manufacturers Association. Like the Tribes of old, the men of Indiana annually marshal their forces and carry the banner of the Hoosier State through the villages and towns near their State.”

In 1912, during the IAMA’s Four-States Tour, 28 member vehicles participated in a 16-day trip through Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, and Kentucky. In this way, the participants reached the eyes and ears of about 5,000,000 people. These tours were non-competitive events operated under a gentleman’s agreement, which agreement was kept in letter and spirit.

Made In Indiana
Said the man form California
To his friend from Bangor, Maine:
“Have you heard the latest slogan?
Have you caught the sweet refrain?”
Said the man from Bangor,
Yes, Sir,”
And they warbled forth this glee:
“If it’s made in Indiana,
Oh, it’s good enough for me!”
–W.M. Herschell, in the American Motorist, April 1913

I believe that Indiana’s skilled laborers, entrepreneurial Hoosier individuals, and the IAMA fostered a spirit of cooperation and collaboration that allowed the member companies to grow and prosper in the competitive automotive market of the early 1900’s.

For more information on Indiana auto pioneers follow this link.