1907 NAPIER 60HP TYPE 21 TWO-SEATER
Registration No. SH 294
Chassis No. 3044
Engine No. 4057
Green, with brown upholstery - for restoration.
Engine: Six-cylinder (three blocks of two), 5ins x 4ins bore & stroke, 7,752cc, side valve (L-head), Water-cooled; Gearbox: 3-speed and reverse with right-hand gate change; Suspension: semi-elliptic front springs and platform rear suspension; Brakes: internal expanding on rear wheels from right-hand lever, external-contracting on transmission from foot pedal. Right-hand drive.
The Napier story is dominated by two individuals: Montague Napier and Selwyn Francis Edge. The Former was the head of the respected precision engineering firm of D. Napier & Son that since 1808, had been in business in Lambeth, South London, whilst in 1900 Napier entered into an agreement with Edge that provided this ebullient figure with the exclusive rights to sell all of the firm's output of motorcars. These Edge vigorously promoted by publicity stunts and participation in competitions of every sort including motor racing.
In the first years of the new century the most important event in the motor sport calendar became the Gordon Bennett Trophy race. It was run annually and the competing cars represented their country of origin. When Edge won the Trophy in 1902 it was personal triumph, but also a major achievement for Napier, and the first British motor racing success. There was a huge surge in demand for Napiers and a large new motorcar factory was built at Acton, West London.
A Napier initiative was to introduce a six-cylinder motorcar to its 1904 range of models. Despite Edge's claim, Napier did not invent the six-cylinder engine, nor was it the first firm to use one for a motorcar, but it was the first to make the six-cylinder car a commercial success. For those that could afford them, a 'Noiseless Napier' rapidly became the English car to own.
At the end of June 1907 Edge led a team of three 60hp Napiers in an assault on the World's 24-hour speed record at Brooklands track. He succeeded admirably, averaging 65.9 mph and creating a record that stood for eighteen years, whilst the other two stock Type 21 cars averaged 64.1 and 63.5 mph respectively. The event achieved world-wide publicity and added to the demand for Napier motorcars and the respect in which they were held.
The 60hp Type 21 Napier of 7.7-litre capacity had been introduced in the latter part of 1905 for the coming year and featured a revised engine design with a conventional side valve layout (an L-head) as against the previously used F-head configuration of pushrod operated overhead inlet valves. The cars had shaft drive based on that used on the Gordon Bennett racers, semi-elliptic suspension all round, and initially a 123-inch wheelbase. The Autocar commented that 'This car has been turned out in deference to a demand for a suitable car for touring at high speeds on the Continent, although by reason of the extreme flexibility of its engine and the constant torque on the crankshaft, it will run as slowly and with more quietude than a voiturette in town'. What it did not mention was the chassis price was £1500, which would have been sufficient to buy a whole clutch of voiturettes!
An extra six inches was soon added to the chassis lengh to accommodate formal coachwork and for 1907 additional changes were made. The gearbox was completely redesigned and fitted with a gate change, the wheelbase further lengthened to 134 inches, and platform rear suspension adopted with the transverse rear spring supported on a tubular chassis extension, whilst the chassis price had been reduced to £1,295.
The Works Records show that Napier number 3044 fitted with engine number 4057 and gearbox number 2133 left the factory on the 16th March 1907 and it is noted as a 'Type 21 60hp Pleasure vehicle with bevel axle'. Unfortunately the names of owners are not recorded. However, in 1952 the Napier was bought by an old car enthusiast George Evan Cook. He had located it at Coldingham, Berwickshire, Scotland, the county of its 'SH' Registration, and prior to purchase he received a written outline history of the car from the seller, Thomas Sinclair.
'I first met the Napier during the 'flu epidemic of 1918, the local doctor used it with paraffin vaporiser (still fitted I think), all the war, since when it has been used as shown in the Registration book as a shop car (sentimental reasons) and has stood on jacks ever since 1931 - I think.
Originally it was a limousine belonging to some of the Usher family (Brewers & Distillers - Edinburgh), then converted by Dr Celder into an open two-seater by Johnston Garage - Coldringham, where I bought over the business two years ago keeping on Mr Johnston as Manager .... he is one of those people who set great store by old things including the Napier. It is complete in every way - lamps etc., but the tubes are, of course, perished'.
The log book confirms that the car was not taxed after 1931, except briefly again in 1958. Evan Cook had some work done to the brakes, fitted new tyres and windscreen glass, and drove the car for about 60 miles. Its only public appearance was at the 'Napier 150th Anniversary Car Meeting' in Regent's Park, London, in June 1958, shortly after which it went back into extended hibernation.
As it stands at present the Napier hides its light under a bushel, looking more like a pensioned off commercial vehicle than the splendid specimen it must have been with new. The radiator is by Coventry Motor Fittings - Suppliers of radiator of all sizes to the trade - and was presumably fitted when the car was converted to its two-seater form. The domed Franconia mudguards whilst an acceptable updating when first introduced in 1910 now look entirely inappropriate for a 1907 motorcar, even one fitted with a 'sporty' body of indeterminate age.
Mechanically, the car appears complete and of correct specification except in respect of the engine. This is missing the Napier carburettor and inlet manifold, the water pipes (although the water pump is present), the fan, the Napier synchronised ignition system, and the crankcase inspection plates. Through the apertures that these should cover the substantial crankshaft, big ends and lower ends of the con-rods can be seen, and when the engine is turned on the handle these components as they come into view look to be in surprisingly good order.
Of the 103 Type 21s built only four are known to survive, including this car. The 60hp Napier was rightly regarded as one of the great cars of the true Edwardian era. It deserves to be restored to its former glory.