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Carl Fisher’s World Beater



Carl Fischer who is best known for founding the Indianapolis Speedway, in addition to being an entrepreneur, was also a racing driver in the 1904-05 period. He was quite patriotic and wanted to produce a big win for an American automobile, which at that time was not up to the same level in racing as its British and European competitors. Carl had the Premier car company, of Indianapolis build this car for him to race, under the supervision of George Weidley, who favored air-cooled engines at the time.

Weidley created a monster, 7″ x 5 1/2″ 846 c.i. ohc engine, which was quite unusual and notable because of the hemi head. It had an open aluminum crankcase with the crankshaft and connecting rods totally exposed and lubricated by a total-loss oiling system. The cast iron cylinders and integral heads were supported by four pillars each, which along with the fins for air-cooling and the exposed rocker-arms, made for a very sinister and formidable looking creation.

Fischer entered it in the 1905 Vanderbilt Cup elimination race, but unfortunately the car ended up being around 100 lb. over the maximum weight allowed. In spite of a last minute weight loss program of drilling hundreds of lightening holes in many components, it did not show up for the official weigh-in. This barred the machines entry and it was not allowed to enter in spite of Fischer trying many different angles to get the race officials to allow it in the elimination race, while he worked on a further diet for the machine.

It’s only recorded entry in a competition event, ended up being a five lap exhibition race, along with winning a five mile handicap race, both at the Indianapolis fairgrounds in Nov. of 1905. After that the car faded away and ended up being stored in the Premier factory for many years. It has survived to this day and it is in the care of Indianapolis Speedway Museum. If you have the time to stop there, by all means go and hopefully you will be able to see this incredible creation in person.

The Peter Helck painting at the top, 1905 Carl Fischer’s World Beater, courtesy of the Helck family. Engine photos and text from an article in The Automobile, Oct. 26, 1905. Photo at the bottom from the Peter Helck Collection, courtesy of Racemaker Press.

4 responses to “Carl Fisher’s World Beater

  1. David,

    Seeing this in person is a revelation. If you are familiar with other 1905 iron, it is like seeing a revolver in a box of flintlocks. There are features in the top end that are superior to hemi’s designed in the 1960’s, and it could support over 100hp/ltr with the right bottom end. Weidley’s later SOHC 6, with central cam drive (+15 years before Jano) also show his brilliance. The car was built for the 1904 Vanderbilt race, not the 1095 race, and was completed in 1903 according to AQ. It may be the first US hemi powered car, because no Welch hemis were actually produced until 1907. The newspaper text cites a shaft drive, but the last photo and drawing clearly show a chain drive. This change was made in 1905 .


    • Paul….yes it is incredible and I spent an hour or so looking it over the last time I was there. I relied on the dates in Helck’s book Great Auto races and need to look at the AQ article again .
      If I remember correctly the chain drive conversion was part if the weight reduction program. Oh how I would love to hear this car run again.

  2. 923 cu in and no exhaust, better cover you ears…A journalist that rode in it said it was no louder than Niagra Falls at a 60 mph slight throttle cruise. Premier also built the (near) exact copies of the 1913 GP Peugeot for the Speedway team and Weidley designed the Pathfinder V-12 that his son drove coast to coast in top gear in 1916. When he got to NY he did a lap at the Sheephead bay track at 60 mph for good measure. I am looking for photos of the early Jackson hemi engine but no luck so far. Have you seen one ?


  3. Note that the AQ article is in error. The car was constructed for the 1905 Vanderbilt Cup race (VCR). Planning for the first VCR did not start until early 1904 after the Ormond Beach time trials where William K. Vanderbilt Jr. starred. Fisher and Weidley ran an ad protesting the VCR decision to refuse the car entry – that ran in the fall of 1905. The placard at the IMS Museum has been wrong for years, saying the car was developed for the 1903 VCR – a race that never happened.

    Also, the car was raced more than most people believe. Alonzo Webb also drove it in some short sprint races on horse tracks. Check out this link to the original article on this finding.

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