Oldfield in Fisher Premier

This appears to be another angle from a photo shoot I believe was taken during the build-up to the 1916 Indianapolis 500. The driver is Barney Oldfield who retired from racing in 1919. A different photo has been more widely shared so this one is a very interesting find. Thanks to Rick Erickson of Mishawaka, Indiana for sharing this image with First Super Speedway. Rick also provided an image of the back of the photo which the previous owner dated, "May 27, 1916." Rich reports that the photo was given to him in the early 1990's by a car salesman who had obtained it from an antique dealer. Hardly a full authentication of the 1916 date but it is important to note that whoever wrote it got the original date of the car right: 1905. This is significant because even the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum has had this car incorrectly dated as 1903. For my explanation see the information that follows.
This car has its own special place in auto racing history. Commissioned by Indianapolis Motor Speedway founder Carl Fisher in 1905 (four years before the founding of IMS) the machine is a product of the Premier Motor Manufacturing Company. The car was developed to compete in the 1905 Vanderbilt Cup Race in Long Island, New York. The Vanderbilt Cup, first ran in 1904, was the major race in the United States during this time. The American automotive industry was years behind the French as well as Mercedes and Fiat and the failure of domestic cars to compete effectively was a constant concern. 
Ever patriotic (and optimistic) Fisher was determined to prove that Americans could compete and met with Premier's chief engineer George Weidley and conceived of a giant (923.4 cubic inch) machine. The engine was air-cooled, the largest of its kind. The problem was the car exceeded the weight regulations - it exceeded the 2,200 pound maximum weight allowance by some 300 pounds. Fisher put the Premier boys to work drilling holes in the car and removing the drive shaft to be replaced by heavy duty drive chains to each of the rear wheels. All of this was to no avail. Fisher pleaded his case, but was rebuffed. Angered, he and Weidley placed an advertisement (when you click on "advertisement" you will need to sift through several pictures to find the ad image) in the trade papers criticising the Vanderbilt Cup's race commission for a lack of sportsmanship.
Until recently, the only record of the car ever competing was in a five mile handicap race October 21, 1905 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds dirt oval. Fisher won after catching the final competitor he granted a head start on the last lap. He averaged 59.21 mph. However, First Super Speedway recently uncovered evidence the car was driven by A.C. Webb - the winner of the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Trophy and a widely respected driver during the first decade of the 20th Century - in additional races.
Check out the image I captured of this car at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum.

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