Tag Archives: Premier Motor Manufacturing Company

On The Road With Premier

1911 Premier Ocean to Ocean Tour
1911 Premier Ocean to Ocean Tour

During the infancy of automotive history, consumers were skeptical of the reliability of automobiles. So to prove their products’ capabilities on the road, many automakers sponsored coast-to-coast trips.

Premier Motor Manufacturing Company was one that followed this policy. In fact, 12 Premiers in 1911 became the first caravan of autos ever to cross the United States. They used a network of roads to travel from Atlantic City, New Jersey, to Venice Park, California.

The journey started with an idea formed by several wealthy Premier owners, mostly from Pennsylvania and New York. They wanted to show that previous sponsors of transcontinental races had overplayed their victories by describing the roads as more treacherous than they were.

So, 40 travelers out of the group set out from the Atlantic Ocean on June 26, 1911, and headed west to report their findings.

1911 Premier Prairie Schooner
1911 Premier Prairie Schooner – Photo provided by NAHC

Premier supported the effort by supplying the caravan’s 12th vehicle, a mechanic, and factory test driver to accompany the travelers. Nicknamed the “millionaire auto party,” the caravan made headlines across the route.

Premier used the success of its 1911 Ocean-to-Ocean tour as part of its advertising campaign.

They stopped each night in the best hotels available in the location and traveled in relative luxury for the time. Each vehicle traveled about 4,617 miles with mechanical troubles amounting to only four broken springs. After 45 days, the group concluded their journey by dipping their wheels in the Pacific Ocean.

“There is a general feeling that the Pacific and Atlantic coasts have been brought closer together,” according to Motor Age, “and transcontinental touring by pleasure parties is now expected to become common since the first tour of this kind has been such an unqualified success.”

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Carl Fisher’s 1905 Premier Vanderbilt Cup Racer

I believe one of the most interesting cars in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s Hall of Fame Museum is Carl G. Fisher’s 1905 Premier built for the Vanderbilt Cup Race. What makes this car so interesting is that it possesses one of the world’s first automotive engines with an overhead camshaft operating overhead valves. It was air-cooled and was one of the first American race cars to use magneto ignition.

Fisher earlier enjoyed some success with a 1903 Premier Comet racer, which is why he turned to George A. Weidley, co-owner and chief engineer of Premier Motor Manufacturing Company of Indianapolis, to build his new Vanderbilt Cup Racer for one of the important speed contests in the world.

1905 Premier side view
1905 Premier side view

The four-cylinder engine that Weidley designed had a bore and stroke of 7.0 in. by 5.5 in. for a total displacement of 846.6 cu.in. The single overhead valve camshaft operated 45-degree valve rocker arms above the valves in the hemispherical cylinder heads.

Weidley shared some thoughts about one of the car’s first shakedown runs along East Washington Street. He commented that the racer’s seats were remarkably easy riding. Then he reportedly ran close to a mile in a minute clip for a short distance with the throttle slightly opened with the exhaust muffled to a mild roar. He soon wondered what the car would do with the throttle wide open and without a muffler.

Unfortunately, the car exceeded the 2,200-pound maximum weight limitation in the rules for the race by some 300 pounds. The crew went to work drilling 470 holes in the car, but it was still 120 pounds’ overweight and not eligible for the race. Weidley placed a Premier advertisement in several trade papers criticizing the Vanderbilt Cup’s race commissioners for lack of sportsmanship for failure to allow the car to compete because it was overweight versus underweight.

Weidley’s 1905 Premier ad
Weidley’s 1905 Premier ad

Later, Fisher drove the car in one race at the Indiana State Fairground’s one-mile horse track on October 21, 1905. In the five-mile handicap race, he won the contest, turning the final lap at 59.21 mph.

Weidley’s design for the Fisher Premier race car had many features far in advance of the time frame and would later become popular on racing cars.

The next time you visit the Speedway’s Hall of Fame Museum I invite you to take a careful look at Carl G. Fisher’s 1905 Premier racer. A number of innovations debuted on this car which would later be standard on race cars of the future.

For more information on our automotive heritage follow this link.

California or bust

During the infancy of automotive history, consumers were skeptical of the reliability of automobiles. So to prove their products’ capabilities on the road, many automakers sponsored coast-to-coast trips.

1911 Premier Ocean to Ocean Tour
1911 Premier Ocean to Ocean Tour

Premier Motor Manufacturing Company was one that followed this policy. In fact, 12 Premiers in 1911 became the first caravan of autos ever to cross the United States. They used a network of roads to travel from Atlantic City, New Jersey, to Venice Park, California.

The journey started with an idea formed by several wealthy Premier owners, mostly from Pennsylvania and New York. They wanted to show that previous sponsors of transcontinental races had overplayed their victories by describing the roads as more treacherous than they were.

Premier Prairie Schooner
Premier Prairie Schooner

So, 40 travelers out of the group set out from the Atlantic Ocean on June 26, 1911 and headed west to report their findings. Premier supported the effort by supplying the caravan’s 12th vehicle, a mechanic, and factory test driver to accompany the travelers. Nicknamed the “millionaire auto party,” the caravan made headlines across the route.

The cars reached Indianapolis on Sunday, July 2, 1911, after the longest one-day leg of the journey-236 miles from Zanesville, Ohio, to Indianapolis. The next day, Harold O. Smith Premier’s president, treated the motorists to “a clam bake and picnic, lasting all day, at beautiful Broad Ripple, where boating and swimming are chief diversions.” The travelers also visited the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “Several impromptu races have been arranged among the amateur drivers,” The Indianapolis Star said.

They stopped each night in the best hotels available in the location and traveled in relative luxury for the time. Each vehicle traveled about 4,617 miles with mechanical troubles amounting to only four broken springs. After 45 days, the group concluded their journey by dipping their wheels in the Pacific Ocean.

“There is a general feeling that the Pacific and Atlantic coasts have been brought closer together,” according to Motor Age, “and transcontinental touring by pleasure parties is now expected to become common since the first tour of this kind has been such an unqualified success.”

How’s that for a transcontinental twist on the phrase “California or Bust.”

For more information on our automotive heritage follow this link.