Oct 13 2015

Mystery Foto #41 Solved: The 1905 Premier Racer That Was Not Allowed to Run in the American Trial

Chuck Rudy, Jr., challenged you to identify this historic race car.

Answers to Mystery Foto questions:

  • Identify the race car and its manufacturer

Premier racer built by the Premier Motor Company of Indianapolis, Indiana.

  • How was this race car connected to the Vanderbilt Cup Races?

Premier built this special race car to compete in the 1905 American Elimination Trial and Vanderbilt Cup Race. The four-cylinder car had a huge 923.4 cubic inch engine; the largest air-cooled motor in existence and some speculated that it could produce 100 horsepower.

The Premier Vanderbilt Cup Racer  was slated to be driven by track racer, promoter and entrepreneur, Carl Fisher. Premier and Fisher, who later founded the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1909 and developed Miami Beach and Montauk Point, were determined to compete with the Europeans.

Unfortunately, the car was far and away the heaviest entry for the 1905 American Elimination Trial at over 2,500 pounds – easily 300 pounds over the allowed maximum weight. When Fisher and Premier’s chief engineer George Weidely realized their blunder, they set about lightening the car. Some 256 half-dollar size holes were drilled in the chassis, axles and other hardware. A drive shaft with a heavy bevel-gear assembly was removed and replaced by chain drives to the wheels.

Still 80 pounds over the 2,200 pound weight requirement, Fisher and Weidely appealed to the Vanderbilt Racing Board for an exception with the understanding that they would find a way to eliminate the extra weight before the Vanderbilt Cup Race. This request was denied.


  • What was the earliest month and year that this photo was taken? Provide a rationale.

As seen in the Mystery Foto, the holes drilled in the attempt to make the weight for the 1905 American Elimination Trial were never filled.  Accordingly, the earliest date of the photo was September 1905.

  • Where is this race car today?

The Premier Racer is currently exhibited at the Hall of Fame Museum at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The holes in the racer can still be seen today.

  • Bonus: The back of the photo reads "AJ Saliers, Houston, Texas". Provide any information of AJ Saliers and why he was sitting in the race car.

​AJ Saliers was a driver who participated in a Houston race in November 1903 driving an Oldsmobile. There is no known direct link between Saliers and the Premier except for this photo.

Congrats to Wayne Carroll Petersen (Barney Oldfield's great-great-nephew), Greg O. and Ariejan Bos (see Bos' Bonus) for identifying the Premier Racer. Kudos to Wayne Carroll Petersen, Ted, Art Kleiner (see Kleiner's Korner) and Greg O. for researching information on the mysterious A.J. Saliers.


Howard Kroplick


After their racer was not allowed to participate in the 1905 American Elimination Trial, Premier ran this ad.

The Premier Racer as it looks today at the Hall of Fame Museum at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Note the holes in the chassis.

Bos' Bonus (Submitted by Ariejan Bos-Netherlands)

Barney Oldfield in the Premier in Chicago (1906)

Barney Oldfield in the Premier at the Indianapolis Speedway during a vintage racer parade lap.

1905 Premier  racer at Indianapolis

Premier racing car

Kleiner's Korner (Submitted by Art Kleiner)

Houston, November 24, 1903

Horseless Age, Volum 12, 1903


Oct 09 2015 Ted 6:28 PM

I might be able to work on this one and come up with something,I’ve got some ideas on this one

Oct 11 2015 Wayne Carroll Petersen 12:28 PM

Carl Fisher’s commissioned (1903-1905?) year is debatable, Premier Racer for the 1905 Vanderbilt Cup Race but exceeded the weight limit for the race. Built by Premier Motor Car Company. air cooled, 900 cu.in., 2320 lbs.  on display at Indianapolis International Motorspeedway Hall of Fame. Looks like AJ Saliers drove a Oldsmobile Hawkins in the first ever auto race in Houston, TX. in 1903, but ran over a bird dog which put him out of the race, not quite sure if this is the race that he ended up sitting in the Premier Racer?

Oct 12 2015 Ted 1:47 AM

All that I could find was that AJ Saliers was a driver for G.W Hawkins,a leader of the racing event committee,driving an Olds(stopped down) on Nov.24 1903 a 5 mile race,the first big race in Houston and he hit a bird dog ,ran off the road,bent an axle,was out.If nothing else I gave a little something more about Saliers.I know that the Olds isn’t the car,I think it’s a horseless carriage By stripped down,means no fenders or engine cover,to cut down on the weight

Oct 12 2015 Art Kleiner 1:13 PM

Not too much from on this one besides A. J. Saliers. 

A. J. Saliers was the driver of an Oldsmobile at what was listed as one of the first auto races in Texas, held in Houston on Tuesday, Nov. 24, 1903.  The race was five miles for “Light Machines, Stripped”.  Organizers included G. W. Hawkins, M. J. Lossing and S. H. Hart. 

Unfortunately (for a dog and for Saliers) the car ran over a dog in the the first lap, bent an axle and left the race. 

Might this be a photo of Saliers in the Oldsmobile which as mentioned above and noted in Kleiner’s Korner documenation needed to be stripped of engine covers and fenders and thus the date would be Nov., 1903? 

And knowing Howard, might it be in his Roslyn garage or somewhere in route there?

Oct 12 2015 Greg O. 5:17 PM

I’m out on this one!
Didn’t have the time to look into it for too long, but it looks like all I could quickly find was A. J. Saliers was a driver for G. W. Hawkins driving an Oldmobile during the first auto races in Houston on Tuesday, November 24, 1903.  He hit a dog and ran off the road into a curb. The Olds suffered a bent axle and was out of the race.
I don’t think this mystery photo is that Olds, nor could I say if it is related those races either.

Oct 12 2015 Greg O. 6:06 PM

Identify the race car and its manufacturer
1903 Premier racing car- Premier Automobile Co, of Indianapolis

How was this race car connected to the Vanderbilt Cup Races?
The Premier had been built specifically with the intention of challenging Europe’s finest racers in the first (1904) Vanderbilt Cup

What was the earliest month and year that this photo was taken? Provide a rationale.
According to this website; “the plaque describing the car at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum is in error. The car was not constructed in 1903 - there was no Vanderbilt Cup in 1903. It was constructed probably in early 1905 in anticipation of that year’s [1905] race.”

Where is this race car today?
Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum

Bonus: The back of the photo reads “AJ Saliers, Houston, Texas”. Provide any information of AJ Saliers and why he was sitting in the race car.
Good question! Still looking…

Oct 13 2015 Howard Kroplick 12:21 AM

From Ariejan Bos:

The racer is the 1905 Premier developed for the 1905 Vanderbilt Cup trials. Premier’s racing involvement started in 1904, when Carl Fisher drove his Premier Comet with varying success at different tracks. In 1905 Fisher commissioned a new racing car to participate in the Vanderbilt eliminating trials. Geo E. Weidely of the Premier company designed a car with a 4 cylinder air-cooled engine with overhead inlet- and outlet-valves actuated by a single overhead camshaft. In fact except for the valve operation it was identical to the engine used in their pleasure cars, but increased in size to reach the desired 100hp output. The car is described in full detail in The Cycle and Automobile Trade Journal of October 1905. All efforts however were in vain, because despite some promising test runs the car appeared to be too heavy, even after extensive drilling of the chassis and after a change of the final drive from bevel gear drive to chain drive. This was done not earlier than 10 days before the actual race, evidenced by a Premier advertisement in The Motor Way of October 1905.

What happened to the car next is unclear, though several photos of Barney Oldfield in this Premier exist: two of these would have been taken in Chicago, 1906, the other clearly was taken in Indianapolis and must be of a much later date (see below). From 1904 till and with 1907 he always raced his famous Peerless Green Dragon and I can’t find any proof that he did actually race this Premier. 

Some Google research turned up Mr. Saliers as a racing driver. In 1903 he drove an Oldsmobile in the first car race of Houston, Texas. (http://www.motortexas.com/doc.aspx?id=the-first-automobile-race-in-houston.1271) He didn’t own that Oldsmobile, so if he owned the Premier seems doubtful. Certainly he must have had the intention of racing the Premier, but I couldn’t find his name anywhere in the official racing annals. It seems however to make sense, that his photo was taken after the 1906 Oldfield photos.

The Indianapolis photo with Oldfield was apparently taken during the 1916 Indianapolis 500 Mile race, the last one during World War 1. In this race a team of 3 Premiers competed, of which the tail of one can be seen on the right side of the photo (compare with the 1916 Premier photo from the blog of The Old Motor). Also the letters PR(EMIER) can be seen painted on the wooden fence behind the cars. Did Oldfield, the Premier factory or Carl Fisher own the car at that moment? Oldfield didn’t have a relation with Premier at the time, he himself drove a Delage during the race, so it seems to be more a moment of nostalgia. Or had it something to do with the fact that he had planned to retire from racing after the Indy race? Also another photo turned up, apparently at the same event. Is this Carl Fisher at the wheel?

The car is now on display in the Indianapolis Hall of Fame Museum, where it is kept in the condition as seen on the photo with Oldfield at Indianapolis.

Oct 13 2015 Ted 11:57 AM

I knew I had something on this one and I stuck to it and finally was right. I should do this good with every mystery. Ya Art,wouldn’t it be great if Howard had it? Ha Howard are you thinking about it?

Oct 13 2015 Art Kleiner 1:34 PM

Interesting stuff!

Oct 14 2015 frank femenias 11:07 PM

I thought Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt’s 250hp double engine Fiat driven by Paul Sartori held the monster machine title but not sure anymore. What monstrosity this one is. 900+ c.i. displacement to produce 100hp compared to today’s 1000 c.i. @ 2100hp. We’ve come a long way.

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