Once upon a time, Indianapolis was in contention to become America’s Motor City, with a variety of motorcar makers based in the crossroads community. Among them was Premier, founded in 1903 by George Weidely and Harold Smith. One of their few remaining creations, a 1904 model, will be the first from Premier to participate in the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run this fall.
“The Premier Motor Manufacturing Company quickly earned itself a reputation for producing technically advanced cars,” the London to Brighton organizers said in their announcement.
“The company’s early claim to fame was the use of an oak leaf on its radiator badge, which it said was the first use of an emblem as an automotive trademark. The badge also emphasized Premier’s engineering philosophy by proudly bearing the words ‘Quality Car’.
“The company initially built automobiles with air-cooled engines and, like many other pioneering motoring firms of the era, used motor sport to promote and improve the brand including starts in the local Indianapolis 500.”
Although Weidely and Smith produced more than 10,000 vehicles before losing control of their company, only a very few remain.
“Indeed, just a couple of early pre-1905 models eligible for the famous Veteran Car Run are known to be in existence,” the announcement continued. “One of these – a twin-cylinder 16hp example – fittingly resides in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum; the other has recently been restored and is coming to London for this year’s Regent Street Motor Show Concours d’Elegance (3 Nov) and the following day’s legendary trip to Brighton.”
After the demise of Premier, Weidely continued to work as an engine-builder and produced the V12 powerplant used by Pathfinder and Kissel.
The car competing in the celebration of England’s original Emancipation Run, now looks “resplendent in Brewster Green with canary running gear, this four-cylinder Model F was found in tired but substantially complete order during the late 1980s. It then underwent an exacting restoration based on the information available, and a new rear-entrance body was constructed in keeping with period images.”
The car was purchased at the Bonhams auction in 2017 at The Quail and the buyer, Steven Haines, explained: “It’s always been on my bucket list to have a car that’s eligible for the Run. I came once before as a passenger, but this will be my first time driving my own car.”
Haines is a businessman in Elkhart, Indiana, and collects cars produced in his home state.
“I remember Hyde Park was beautiful and sunny but, by the time we got to Brighton, it was pouring down with rain and I don’t think I’ve ever been colder in my life,” he said of his experience as a London to Brighton passenger. “But it was still fun and that’s why I’m now really looking forward to coming back.”
Haines’ car has an overhead-valve four-cylinder engine and sliding-gear transmission. Premier said it was capable to speeds up to 40 mph and, with a 10-gallon tank, had a range of 182 miles.
“It’s fun to drive and really gets up and goes,” Haines told London to Brighton organizers. “It accelerates surprisingly quick and boasts some good torque.”