Napier Type 23A 45HP Open Drive Limousine

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Type 23A 45HP Open Drive Limousine





David Napier, second son of the blacksmith to the Duke of Argyll, was born in 1785. While cousins became shipbuilders, he took engineering training in Scotland and founded the company in Lloyds Court, St Giles, London in 1808. He designed a steam-powered printing press, some of which went to Hansard (the printer and publisher of proceedings of the Houses of Parliament), as well as newspapers. They moved to Lambeth, South London in 1830.

Between 1840 and 1860, Napier was prosperous, with a well-outfitted factory and between 200 and 300 workers. Napier made a wide variety of products, including a centrifuge for sugar manufacturing, lathes and drills, ammunition-making equipment for the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich, and railway cranes. David's younger son James, born 1823, joined the firm in 1837, succeeding him as head of the firm in 1867, and after his father's death in 1873, specialized in beautifully crafted precision machinery for making coins and printing stamps and banknotes. James proved an excellent engineer, but a poor businessman, considering salesmanship undignified. It became so bad that there were as few as seven employees in 1895, and James attempted to sell the business, but failed.

James' son Montague, born 1870, inherited the business in 1895, along with his father's engineering talents. Montague was a hobby racing cyclist, and at the Bath Road Club, he met "ebullient Australian" S. F. Edge (then a manager at Dunlop Rubber and colleague of H. J. Lawson in London, and amateur racer of motor tricycles.) Edge persuaded Napier to improve his Panhard ("Old Number 8", which had won the 1896 Paris–Marseille–Paris), converting from a tiller to a steering wheel and improving the oiling.

40hp (30 kW) 1904 with tourer body by Mulliner of Northampton for Sir Alfred Herbert

Dissatisfied, Napier offered to fit an engine of his own design, an 8hp vertical twin, with electric ignition, superior to the Panhards hot tube type. Edge was sufficiently impressed to encourage Napier to make his own car and collaborated with Harvey du Cros, his former boss at Dunlop, to form the Motor Power Company, based in London, which agreed to buy Napier's entire output. The first of an initial order of six, three each two-cylinder (8hp or 6.0 kW) and four-cylinder (16hp or 12 kW), all with aluminium bodies by Arthur Mulliner of Northampton and chain drive, was delivered 31 March 1900; Edge paid £400 and sold at £500.

In 1901, Napier and Edge decided to go racing, and built a 17.1-liter, two-ton competition car, but their more successful line was in passenger cars. One of their best customers, telephone magnate Charles Jasper Glidden of Massachusetts, carried the Napier name on a series of long-distance tours, one of which became the series carrying his name.

Napier achieved the distinction of producing the world's first commercially-viable six-cylinder engine, in 1904. A five-liter car with mechanical overhead intake valves, it soon spawned a 15-liter racing version. Napier, however, aimed squarely at the luxury market, a 60hp, 7.7-liter six becoming the best-known model. In 1908 came a five-liter L-head six with three-speed gearbox and shaft drive. Colonial models with a raised chassis had greater ground clearance for use in less-developed Commonwealth countries.

In 1912, following a dispute with Edge, Napier bought Edge's distribution and sales company and production rose to around 700 cars a year with many supplied to the London taxi trade. That year, only six models were produced. The last Napier car was designed by A. J. Rowledge, who also designed the Lion (and who went to Rolls-Royce in 1921), a 40–50hp (30–37 kW) 377 cu in (6,178 cc) (101.6 mm × 127 mm or 4.00 in × 5.00 in) alloy six with detachable cylinder head, single overhead camshaft, seven-bearing crankshaft, dual magneto and coil ignition, dual plugs, and Napier-SU carburettor; it was bodied by Cunard, then a subsidiary. 187 were built in all by 1924, and Napier quit car production with a total of 4,258 built.

Outside the racing program, Napier also gained notoriety in 1904 by being the first car to cross the Canadian Rockies: Mr. and Mrs. Charles Glidden (sponsors of the Glidden Tours) covered 3,536 mi (5,691 km) from Boston to Vancouver.

The American Napier was an automobile sold by the Napier Motor Car Company of America from 1904 until 1912.

Initially, the company imported assembled Napiers from England. From late 1904 the cars were assembled under licence in Jamaica Plain, a section of Boston, Massachusetts, in a building formerly used by the B.F. Sturtevant Company. The cars were offered with both American and British built coachwork.

In 1907 the company experienced financial problems and production was halted.

In 1909 a new company took over and production restarted in March that year. This lasted until 1911 when the Napier Motor Company took over the interests, but this venture barely lasted a year.


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