Another of the better-known autos in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum Indiana Automobiles: Precision over Production exhibit is the 1904 Premier.
George B. Weidley and Harold O. Smith organized the Indianapolis-based Premier Motor Manufacturing Company in 1903 with a capitalization of $50,000 to produce air-cooled cars. One of Premier’s claim to fame was the use of the oak leaf on its radiator badge, which the company said was the first use of an emblem as an automobile trademark.
Premier made the transition to water-cooled engines in 1908. When Premier completed the 1909 Glidden Tour, it had established an unprecedented record of three perfect scores. In a 1909 Motor Age advertisement, Premier boasted, “Do not judge the Premier by its best performance. Judge it by its average performance.” The company introduced its first six in 1908.
In 1911, 40 travelers in 12 Premiers participated in one of the first cross-country caravans. They drove from Atlantic City, NJ, to Venice Park, CA.
Starting in 1913 on, Premier built only sixes. On October 15, 1914, Premier entered receivership. In December 1915, the company was reorganized as the Premier Motor Car Company. The 1918 1920 Premier was notable mainly for its use of the Cutler Hammer “Magnetic Gear Shift,” an electric transmission system controlled by a push button arrangement mounted on the steering column. The overhead-valve, 295 c.i.d. engine was an advanced six, with a one-piece aluminum block, crankcase and pistons, and cast-iron cylinder liners.
In 1920, L. S. Skelton reorganized the company as the Premier Motor Corporation. Troubles followed the company through the spring of 1923 when the company emerged from another receivership as Premier Motors, Inc. In the same year, Premier obtained control of the Monroe Motor Company and then marketed the Monroe four-cylinder car as the Premier Model B in 1924. The Premier six-cylinder car remained as the Model D through late 1924.
Late in 1923 the company received a contract for building 1,000 Premier taxicabs. From then on, taxicabs were the firm’s only products. In October 1926, Premier sold out to the National Cab & Truck Company of Indianapolis.
Thanks to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum for showing this Premier. For more information on Indiana cars & companies, follow this link.
I must say congratulations to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum for the Indiana Automobiles: Precision over Production show. This show is open now thru March 26, 2017. If you are a historic car-buff, you must see this show.
The museum does a great job presenting this show in honor of Indiana’s Bicentennial celebrating Hoosier automotive production. In partnership with private owners and other automotive museums around the state, more than 35 historic Indiana-built cars like Auburn, Cord, Cole, Duesenberg, Haynes, Marmon, Premier, Studebaker, Stutz, and Waverley are in the exhibit. The galleries are staged as Indianapolis-built cars, Indiana-built cars, and Indiana race cars.
Over 40 Indiana cities and towns can claim some sort of connection to early automotive history. Approximately 400 firms – large and small – operated statewide between 1894 and 1963.
Many started as carriage builders in the 1800s, several experimenting, by the turn of the 20th century, with internal combustion engines. Many self-trained engineers created one-off “horseless carriage” prototypes in their own shops. The more successful eventually built factories and produced, in quantity, automobiles for sale to the public.
Providing a proving ground and testing facility for the early automotive industry was the impetus of building of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Not only would the track be available to companies for private testing, but the staging of occasional automobile races would give the firms an opportunity to demonstrate the worth of their products in competition, while the public observed from the grandstands. Companies like Cord, Duesenberg, Marmon, and Stutz continued to use the track to privately test and develop the vehicles they were selling to the public.
The Indiana Automobiles: Precision over Production exhibit tells this story well. The display presents some cars that you might be aware of. One that I especially recall is the 1920 Monroe Model S Touring car produced in Indianapolis by the William Small Company. Gaston Chevrolet won the 1920 Indianapolis 500-mile race in a Monroe designed by his brother Louis and sponsored by William Small.
I encourage you to visit the Indiana Automobiles: Precision over Production exhibit to experience Indiana’s automotive legacy.
For more information on our automotive heritage, follow this link.
As you know, my mission is “Celebrating Indiana Car Culture.” I am happy to announce that in honor of Indiana’s Bicentennial Celebration, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum is presenting a one-of-a-kind exhibition titled “Indiana Automobiles: Precision over Production,” starting on December 6, 2016 thru March 26, 2017
The exhibit is a celebration of legendary Hoosier-built automobiles, such as Cole, Duesenberg, Marmon, Premier, Studebaker and Stutz. More than 35 historic, Indiana-built passenger cars will be on exhibit, some of which will be making their first appearance on display.
In addition to the Hoosier-built passenger cars, a few of the most famous Indiana-built race cars will be shown, including IMS co-founder Carl Fisher’s 1905 Premier and the legendary Marmon Wasp that carried Ray Harroun to victory in the first Indianapolis 500 in 1911.
“This exhibit is intended to focus on Indiana’s early, widespread automotive industry, which spurred the development of acres of farmland into the world’s largest sporting facility. Lessons learned at ‘The Greatest Race Course in the World’ made their way into these outstanding passenger cars, which enhanced performance and safety,” said Betsy Smith, executive director of the non-profit Indianapolis Motor Speedway Foundation that operates the museum located on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway grounds.
I invite you to visit the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum to sample “Celebrating Indiana Car Culture.”
For more information on Indiana cars & companies, follow this link.
The 1916 Indianapolis 500 will be remembered forever as one of the most trouble-packed undertakings in the Speedway’s history.
Following the 1915 500-mile race, Carl G. Fisher and James A. Allison became concerned that European teams would not participate in International races during World War I. They decided to develop their own racing team to fill the expected gaps in the starting lineup caused by the growing absence of factory-sponsored entries. They commissioned five racers and formed the Indianapolis Speedway Team Company in September 1915. As part of the team, Eddie Rickenbacker encouraged them to include the two Maxwells sponsored by the Prest-O-Lite Team.
In 1916, Allison became the sole owner of the Indianapolis Speedway Team Company and moved operations to a small shop on the corner of the Prest-O-Lite lot in the town of Speedway. Of the 30 cars entered in the 1916 race, seven were from the Speedway Team and Prest-O-Lite Team companies consisting of two Peugeots, two Maxwells, and three Premiers.
Track officials also complied willingly with suggestions made by spectators and press representatives designating 300 miles as the “ideal distance” for high-speed championship events. More than half of the available cars were two or three years old. Fisher was skeptical of their ability to finish a 500-mile test.
When entries closed on May 1, the official list consisted of 30 eligible cars for the 33 available starting positions, not too bad under the circumstances. Track management, however, still had cause for considerable concerns.
Eleven of the 30, including three Speedway Team Premiers, were new cars still under construction. There was considerable doubt that any of the 11 could be completed in time. Several of the others were of questionable quality, with comparatively unknown drivers assigned to them. An honest appraisal of the situation convinced Track management that were only 13 bona fide contenders. These were the four-car Speedway Team, three Delages entered by Harry Harkness, two Duesenbergs, Dario Resta’s Peugeot, Barney Oldfield’s Delage, Ralph Mulford’s Peugeot, and an English Sunbeam assigned to Josef Christiaens.
The Track’s concern of a full field was not alleviated when only 10 competed in the first championship event of the year on the new two-mile board track at Sheepshead Bay, NY, on May 13.
Oldfield and Christiaens reached Indianapolis on May 16 to open the pre-race practice period, joining Johnny Aitken and Charley Merz on the track in Speedway Team-owned Peugeots. Resta and Tom Alley arrived two days later, with Rickenbacker and Pete Henderson also on hand to tune-up their Speedway Team-owned Maxwells.
The first two Premiers, painted green and assigned to Gil Anderson and Tom Rooney, were fired up for the first time on May 23. The Frontenacs arrived the following morning and all three members of the new Crawford team completed a tiring overland drive from Hagerstown, MD, later in the day at the wheel of their respective racers.
But only 22 cars were on the grounds for the start of time trials on Friday, May 26. Twelve of them still needed considerable work in order to attain the required minimum speed of 80 miles an hour. When the 10 successful qualifiers were joined by only four more on Saturday, race officials held an emergency meeting and set up an additional two-hour period for time trials on Sunday. Five successful runs against the clock increased the list of eligible cars to 19, including the third new Premier, which Howdy Wilcox qualified after driving it only eight laps.
Another extension of time permitted Ralph Mulford to qualify on May 29, and Eddie O’Donnell also made the grade in a Duesenberg. Several of the early qualifiers were far from satisfied with the performance of their respective cars, however, and insisted that additional practice time was necessary on race morning, May 30, for final “tuning.” Such permission was granted at another emergency meeting of officials, who also announced that any unqualified car could make another attempt to get into the lineup during the special practice session scheduled from 10 a.m. until noon. The start of the race was scheduled for 1:30 p.m.
Art Chevrolet “blew a cylinder” in the Frontenac that he had qualified earlier. Fortunately, he was allowed to start the race in another Frontenac previously qualified by Joe Boyer.
The 21 starting positions for the race were assigned according to speed in time trials, regardless of the day on which the various entrants had qualified. Members of the Speedway Team were strong favorites because they had captured seven of the first nine positions.
The starting lineup was Aitken, Rickenbacker, Anderson, Resta, Oldfield, Wilcox, Rooney, Merz, Henderson, Wilbur D’Alene, Art Chevrolet, Louis Chevrolet, Jules Vigne, O. F. Halbe, Christiaens, Billy Chandler, Aldo Franchi, Art Johnson, Dave Lewis, Jack LeCain, and Alley.
Rickenbacker and Aitken set the early pace. But a series of misfortunes engulfed every member of the Speedway team in rapid order. Rickenbacker broke a steering knuckle on the tenth lap, and Aitken blew a tire on his 17th lap. Resta, pressing them relentlessly at speeds up to 98 miles an hour, roared into the lead at this point and never was challenged seriously during the remainder of the event. After lapping the entire field and making his only pit stop of the day without losing first place, he built up a six-minute advantage over his nearest rival by running a steady 85 miles an hour and “coasted” to victory.
Wilbur D’Alene, a comparatively unknown young member of the Duesenberg team, finished a surprising second with Mulford in third, Christiaens in fourth and Oldfield in fifth. Rickenbacker, driving relief for Henderson after a long pit stop, struggled home in sixth position. Wilcox salvaged seventh place despite repeated ignition trouble. Louis Chevrolet in his Frontenac and Gil Anderson in his Premier finished 11th and 12th respectively. As for the others members of the Speedway team, mechanical failure ended the hopes of Merz and Anderson, and Rooney hit the wall in the third Premier.
For more information on Indiana auto pioneers follow this link.
Do think we have weather challenges today? Let me tell you about the 1913 Indianapolis Auto Show and weather challenges 102 years ago.
Indianapolis auto shows were open air affairs beginning in 1907, because of the lack of any building of sufficient size to accommodate a large show. Soon, over 60 dealers and garages throughout the district hosted thousands of visitors at these shows.
The successes of these early shows led the Indianapolis Auto Trade Association (IATA) to plan the March 24, 1912, tent show on three streets around University Park. However, a blizzard blitzed this show. The Indianapolis News reported: “A gang of workmen was busy nearly all day removing the snow from the top of the tent and succeeded in preventing it from breaking through anywhere.”
The next year’s event was inside, at the Coliseum and Coliseum Annex at the State Fair Grounds, March 24-29. No snow, but a torrential downpour started on Easter Sunday, March 23. By mid-week many parts of Indianapolis were stranded by the swollen White River and its tributaries. With the crippling of street car and other transportation systems, Indianapolis auto manufacturers came to the rescue.
Every factory and garage and many private owners placed their cars at the disposal of the police and other departments. New cars, test cars, factory trucks, and anything that would run was pressed into service in the flooded districts where it was sometimes too swift for boats. These vehicles carried the imperiled families to places of refuge.
For instance, the personal touring car of Henderson Motor Car Co. Vice President R. P. Henderson was placed at the disposal of authorities on the north side making trips carrying flood victims to high ground. One of the first trucks placed in service was “Old Bolivar,” the first Henderson touring car built, that was serving as the factory pickup truck. The truck transported a boat and officers to the flood area across the Fall Creek Bridge.
By Tuesday, March 25, the continuing rains caused the White River and other streams to rise cutting off access to the fair grounds, making it necessary to discontinue the show until Friday, March 28. On Friday the show was further discontinued until Sunday at 1 pm. The directors of the IATA decided that the Sunday receipts of the show would be donated to the flood sufferers relief fund. Freewill offerings to the fund were also accepted at the doors, and the IATA also scheduled two benefit theatrical performances at the reopening. The total amount taken in for the fund during the Sunday show approached $1000.
On Sunday, IATA estimated that at least 4,000 people inspected the cars on display. Indiana manufacturers, including Auburn, Cole, Empire, Haynes, Cole, Henderson, Marion, Marmon, McFarlan, Motor Car Manufacturing Co., National, Studebaker, Premier, and Waverley Electric, were part of the 36 firms exhibiting a total of 200 cars.
The show continued through the end of the week. The Coliseum ground floor featured pleasure car exhibits, and the promenade around the structure had more cars and motorcycles. The Coliseum Annex housed accessories and trucks. Warmer weather, bigger crowds, and better transportation facilities combined to make the later days of the show successful. A joyful carnival crowd greeted closing night on Saturday, April 5.
Hopefully, we won’t have any more weather challenges for this year’s iteration of the Indianapolis Auto Show.
For more information on Indiana cars & companies follow this link.