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:: [  Martin Fischer - Turicum - Fischer Werke - Automobilfabrik Brunau  ] ::
Investigative research by Bozi Mohacek



Fascinating photo received from regular contributor Joao Ferreira (Portugal) of a car with a strange badge and script on Radiator suggesting "Fischer".  He came across this photo taken probably in the Lisbon area but the registration is from the north of Portugal, - 'N' being from Oporto. Can we tell him any more about the car, the make and the year? - 


Fischer was not a name we had came across before so we had to set-to to dig up some basic information on the Fischer brand. There were four Fischer companies on the USA making cars, two Fischer companies in Germany, one Fischer in Canada and one Fischer in Switzerland. The obvious candidates in Germany were soon eliminated as one made electric cars and the other made cyclecars. A Fischer company in America was down as a 'manufacturer' of cars but there are doubts that any were actually made. Another Fischer company in USA made trucks and busses, another American Fischer did make a light car, but in 1914 only. There was also a Mondex company in USA which made a licensed Swiss car. In Canada a Fisher Company was formed to make the American Tudhope car when that failed, and another Fisher car company was connected with making a modern British fiberglass kit car much later on. 

So the only company that was left was the Fischer Wagen AG, from Zurich which became Automobilfabtik Bruneau, Zurich, lasting together 1908 to 1914. Unfortunately the only photos of Swiss Fischer cars we could find all featured a well made but conventional looking squarish bonneted Tourer with a large oval badge on a flat plain square radiator spelling out the Fischer name in normal capitals. Not the stylish advance designed model shown on the enquiry photos. There were certainly no photos of a similar car associated with this or any of the other Fischer/Fisher companies.



This is a very lovely looking car of somewhat Tutonic appearance with a V-ed windscreen which is split on the driver's side and has an openable top driver's section. It seems to have carbide headlamps and electric built-in scuttle sidelights, and an electric horn. The front mudguards also have stylishly v-ed front. It has a very unusual scuttle fuel filler cap in a body section that seems to look like a fuel tank between the scuttle and the bonnet. The bonnet is circular in shape with a very high hinge line, questioning the possibility of opening both sides of the bonnet simultaneously. Handle just visible for lifting the bonnet sides but no clear sight on the photo of the number or spacing of the louvers. The radiator is slightly bell shaped, oval at the top with a circular indiscernible badge. The header tank is stylishly slightly sloping back from the radiator front. A neatly built-in battery /toolbox case is in the skirt/running board, and an inspection plate not big enough to suggest chain drive is at the rear of the running board. Semi elliptic springs with no sign of front brakes. The roof is 'convertible' and neatly fitted to the windscreen but not clear as to how waterproof. It seems to be of the 'one-man' variety roof hood, allowing one man to take it up or down without central stays, but resulting in probably head-butting the sagging cross support on entry-exit.

Days of much fruitless searching followed leafing through books and trawling the internet but northing came up until a chance stumble onto a philatelist website featuring sets of automobile postage stamps. There we came across a Swiss 2015 Helvetia stamp that showed a car that the website named as a '1908 Turicum from Switzerland'. This looked exactly alike to our car, so confirmed that we were on the right track; a Swiss stamp showing a car from Switzerland involving two Swiss car manufacturers Turicum and Fischer. Enlarging the small size photo did not reveal the badge but the artistic background suggested a logo and the name Fischer.


So what does Turicum have to do with it? Well, it seems that Turicum was a follow-on company to an earlier enterprise founded in 1904 by a Swiss Martin Carl Fischer under his own name. Fischer was born in 1866 in Zurich and became a successful watchmaker but seemed  intrigued by developments of 'automobilism' and started carrying out his own experiments with some impressive original thinking. He built a type of buckboard single-seater vehicle with small wheels and with the engine at the front. It had chain drive to rear wheels, and steering was with the feet directly steering the front axle. The thinking behind the design was that it would fit through a standard doorway and could be carried up and stored in a flat! 



The second version of the machine used a leather covered cone friction drive disc arrangement as a clutch/gearbox before the chain drive, and had a rudimentary body. The photo below shows Martin Fischer driving his machine. 'Look mum. -  no hands!!"



In 1905 he designed a more conventional small car which he named 'Turicum', which was shown at the Paris Salon and created some interest. With backing from partners he formed a new company ' Automobilfabrik Turicum ' in 1907.  Turicum is the Roman word for Zurich.  Confident in his designs he at the same time filed a number of patents locally as well as in USA for his steering system and the friction drive system.

The Model A Turicum had an air cooled single cylinder 785cc engine and with Friction drive, which remained a Turicum feature. It had a false radiator which acted as a fuel tank. In 1907 the 10/12 hp model with four-cylinder engine of 1385 cc was introduced, and the single-cylinder model had its engine enlarged to 1045 cc. Two and four-seat, open and closed bodies were offered. 



In 1912 a 16/26 model with 2613 cc engine was announced which was offered with a conventional gearbox. Water cooled and four cylinder versions also became available. Various models and various body styles followed with conventional gearboxes. Cars met with success and a second factory was built at Uster near Zurich. A company was formed in Paris and agencies were appointed in Europe, South America and South Africa. 

There was also a totally separate company in Slatinany in Czechoslovakia, Slatinanske Tovarny Automobilu RA, otherwise a manufacturer of fire engines, which marked, as their own, a light car which was actually an assembled version of the Model D 8'18 Tericum car from Uster. (Picture of a Model D Turicum is shown below as received in 2020 from one of our an enquirer in Sweden for identification,)



Martin Fischer left the Turicum organisation in September 1907 to form Fischer Wagen AG in Zurich. Turicum carried on successfully with increasing production of over 200 chassis annually up to World War One when it encountered financial problems. It stopped production in 1912, - but remained on the books until 1925. A c1909 Turicum 16CV Tourer is shown below.



Martin Fischer continued with his innovative developments and designed two other revolutionary concepts which he patented locally and in the United States. He developed a "side-controlled slide monoblock engine" (variation on a sleeve valve engine and one of the first engines to have all cylinders cast as block.) and an "internal gear selection mechanism" (a type of epicyclic gearbox). The engine was shown at the Berlin Motor Show in 1911 and a number of European car manufacturers acquired licences to manufacture, including Dealaugere & Clayette, De Bazelaire, and the American company Aristos of New York City for their proposed luxury car 'Mondex-Magi '.



Having left Turicum, Fischer-Wagen was formed in 1908 with help from a silk manufacturer. The first car was very much a carry-over of the Turicum car. This was a 14'16 four cylinder 2009cc Torpedo with friction disc transmission and chain drive, made in conjunction with Weidmann of Zurich. Some 70 cars were made 1909-10 which enabled Martin Fischer to bring out his much more revolutionary car in 1911. 



This had his new sleeve valve 4 cylinder monoblock engine with two shafts with elliptic curves in the sump actuating crescent shaped sleeves on either side of the cylinders. The engine was 2722cc at 35HP. The vehicle was also fitted with his new 4 speed internal gearing gearbox which had gears facing inward rather than outward; the representation of which later became the logo on the radiator badge of the car we are investigating - annular gear inside which is a sun-wheel. 



It was at this time, about 1911,  that they changed the shape of the radiator from square to oval. The name of the company was changed to Automobilfabrik Brunau. Production in 1911-13 was about 200 cars, mostly sold to Germany, Great Britain and Brazil. Dealaugere & Clayette signed a licence for France where they exhibited the 24HP with a new body by Gangloff built by Bazelaire at the Paris 1913 Salon. Dealaugere & Clayette subsequently sucessfully used the Fischer engine to after WW1.  Fischer then made two six cylinder cars developing 40bhp from 4084cc which had his new sleeve valve monoblock engine.



From the very beginning Martin Fischer was looking at the bigger picture and looked at international markets for his innovations. He was very closely connected with two companies in New York administering the Fisher patents in the USA. One was the Motor and Gear Improvement Company, the other was Martin Fischer Motor Corporation, the latter was based in Church Street, Lower Manhattan. A rather macabre note is that Church Street was the location of where the World Trade Centre buildings were erected in 1973, and subsequently destroyed on September 11, 2001 when highjackers flew two Boeing aircraft into the Twin Towers, demolishing both.



Martin Fischer's connection with the United States further consolidated when in 1914 he signed an agreement with the 'Aristos' Company of New York to build and market the Fisher cars in the US. Aristos was a manufacture of accessories for motor vehicles and had various other products under the Mondex name, including car polishes. The agreement was that a separate company would be formed to market the 40 and 60HP Fischer slider engine cars as expensive up-market "Mondex Magic", both bodied as touring cars. Manufacture of the vehicles was to be undertaken by Palmer and Singer of Brooklyn, as shown below. They were to make a smaller car of 40HP from 4,2 litres and the bigger car of 60HP from 7 Litres. Unfortunately the venture was short lived because of the earlier death of Henry U. Palmer and the subsequent material shortage caused by the start of World War 1. This also contributed to the collapse of the Mondex company and the Mondex Magic.



World War One was also the final curtain for the Turicum and Fischer companies. Turicum ran into financial difficulties and closed down in 1914. Fischer-Wagen likewise had to close the Swiss factories in 1914. Martin Fischer survived the war and remained in touch with the motor industry, There was an attempt in 1919 of a restart between the Swiss SIG of Neauhaussen to develop a small cyclecar with a MAG V2 motorcycle and Fischer friction drive. After a few prototypes, this seems to have stopped by 1922 with possibly no vehicles made. Martin Fischer died in 1947 aged 81.



Despite what is actually a very interesting history involving Martin Fischer, not very much is written or known about the man or the cars. Very few cars in reality were built under the stewardship of Martin Fisher across his four companies which built cars. It is believed that no more than about 400 vehicles were made. Surprisingly, therefore, a handful remain. A couple of Turicum vehicles are in museums and some remain in Road use, and a 1913 Tourer, as above, can be seen at the Swiss Transport Museum in Lucerne. This car is dated variously as 1913 or 1914, and described variously as a Fischer 10'28 or as a Fischer 16'20. No further information about it is shown. What is noticeable is that other photos of the 16'20 show a conventional bonnet, whereas only this photo has the 'brass' fuel tank band between the bonnet and the scuttle. We have contacted several sources in Switzerland to obtain positive identification , but as yet we have not received any information from any of them.



So what is the car shown on the enquiry photo. To be quite honest, at this stage we do not precisely know, It is indeed a Swiss Fischer very similar to the one exhibited at the Swiss Transport Museum at Lucerne. It is a big car and it has the waistband fuel tank which other photos of the 1913'14 Fischer SS 30 and SS 35 Tourers do not have. Lacking any other evidence, we are therefore left with the possible conclusion that this could be one of the two 1914 Fischer SS 40 Six Cylinder 40 HP sleeve valve Torpedos.  No further Fischer cars were made after that date so, at the very least, this must be one of the very last of them !

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