Formerly the property of Rod Blood, President of the Veteran Motor Car Club of America, 1942-44
1908 NAPIER 45 HP TYPE 23A SEVEN SEATER TOURING CAR
Chassis No. 4234
Engine No. 3347
UK Registration: LB 5500
Engine: six-cylinder, 4" W 5" bore & stroke, 377 cu" (6,178 cc), side valve (L-head), water-cooled, dual ignition. Transmission: multi-plate clutch, 3-speed & reverse gearbox with right-hand gate change. Final drive by shaft to bevel gear back axle.
Chassis: pressed steel with semi-elliptic front springs and platform rear suspension. Wheelbase 11 foot 2 inches, track 4 foot 8 inches. Brakes: internal expanding on rear wheels from right-hand lever, external-contracting on transmission from foot pedal. Wooden wheels with detachable rims, originally fitted with 880 W 120 beaded-edge tyres. Right-hand drive.
Price when new: chassis: £795; complete car with touring bodywork £915.
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, and in 1900 Napier entered into an agreement with Edge that provided him 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 a personal triumph, but also a major achievement for Napier, and the first British motor racing success. There was a surge in demand for Napiers and a large new motorcar factory was built at Acton, West London.
A collaborative Napier and Edge initiative was the introduction of a six-cylinder motorcar to the 1904 range of models. Despite Edge's claims, 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 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 45hp model, the Type 23A, was introduced in September 1908. Whereas the earlier 40hp model had a 'square' engine, that is with a 4-inch bore and stroke, the 45hp had an extra inch on the stroke to provide additional torque from the engine at low speeds. A new design of clutch and gearbox was fitted, the former a neat multiple-disc unit, whilst the gearbox provided direct drive when the top speed was engaged. The Autocar magazine of the 19th September 1908 opened its review of the 45hp car with the words:
'We are pleased this week to give publicity to the special features of this, one of the new types of Napier cars, which Messrs. S. F. Edge & Co. are putting on the market for 1909. The chassis under review is the particular model designed for the Right Honourable H. H. Asquith, the Prime Minister, the first one to be turned out at the works having been delivered to, and now being in use by, him. Lord Derby has also become possessed of two similar cars.' The journal concluded its lengthy review by commenting: 'Improvement in detail throughout their whole construction is the dominating note of the 1909 Napier models, of which this taking 45hp car is not the least interesting.'
The Napier works records show that this car, Number 4134, left the Acton factory on the 30th October 1908. Because of the arrangement with Edge whereby his business sold all the cars made, the Napier records do not give the ultimate purchaser of any car, and the records of S.F. Edge & Co. have not survived. Also it is not known whether it was sold as a running chassis or as a complete vehicle with body, but the touring coachwork on the car today has the appearance of being a standard Napier product.
However, it has to be assumed that the car was exported new directly to the United States as it is known to have been part of the collection of old car enthusiast Roderic M Blood of West Newton near Boston, Massachusetts, in 1948. His primary interest was Packard automobiles of which he owned over a dozen examples dating from 1906 onwards, but he also had a 1906 Pierce Great Arrow Opera Coach, a 1922 Franklin, and the Napier in his collection. Rod Blood was an early member of the Veteran Motor Car Club of America and was its President for 1942 to 1944. When he died in the late 1960s the car returned to England having been acquired by the father of the vendor.
An imposing car, the 45hp benefits aesthetically from having its slightly smaller engine than the '60' since this allows the radiator to sit just far enough back to give the car more balanced visual proportions.
Today the Napier has survived in particularly original order. Its seat leather has been replaced in the present ownership, but door panel trims to the rear compartment give a feel of how the car would have been originally as well as showing that it has had only modest wear over the near century of its life.
The paintwork appears to have been refurbished at some point also, but this has seemingly been completed over the original, presumed sun baked finish, with the result that today it has the kind of aged appearance frequently recreated by restorers in search of artificial patina, however on this car it can safely be assumed that this is the car as naturally aged. This is set off perfectly by the cross-hatched dark brown linoleum which is fitted to the running boards and driving compartment, which also has gained age gently.
The full length canopy top has been replaced in more recent times to ensure its usability in the British climate, where it has been regularly exercised.
The car is copiously appointed with period accoutrements from big Lucas King of the Road headlights, Wynford scuttle mounted sides and twin Lucas tail/numberplate lights, to a coiled 'Nonpariel' bulb horn, running board mounted spare, luggage rack, twin swivelling occasional seats and folding windscreen, all being other details worthy of note. All brightwork has a nickel finish. Close inspection of the car reveals even more attractive and rare details such as Lodge's own Napier Sparkplugs still being fitted and operational.
Of further interest are the engraved radiator script and original plaque mounted to the coil box on the dash that proclaims proudly but with subtlety the relationship described above and confirms Mr. Edge's original supply of this car.
The rest of the dash is equipped with a plethora of instruments including original Napier fuel pressure pump and two Napier gauges. Alongside these and presumably arriving on the car while it was in America with Rod Blood are a Miller electric gauge/ammeter, Watford odometer and gradient meter, a British Rippon Bros.'Doxa' clock completes the dash instrumentation and all are in Nickel finish. It is dominated by the large original plunger type starter button.
The original fuel system has been bypassed and a modern pump has been fitted to aid starting. On its most recent inspection, this was proven to be a practical addition as the car started incredibly easily. With six cylinders and more than 6 litres we are informed that the Napier is comfortably capable of 60mph cruising speed which should make it a fine touring car for events.
As when new, the Napier brand has always been coveted, and today examples of the larger horsepower cars reside in some of the world's top collections. This exceptional example offered from long term private ownership presents the opportunity to be part of this exclusive group and to experience first hand the quality of these cars.