Napier 6-Cylinder Engines
Although one or two other companies had already manufactured a 6-cylinder car engine, D Napier & Son were the first to make production 6-cylinder engines. At the ‘insistence’ of SF Edge, the Company designed a 6-cylinder car engine and suitable all steel chassis to carry it. Early Napier cars were considered overweight however having gained experience in lightening the Gordon Bennett cars the Napier 6-cylinder vehicles became lighter and more efficient than those previously constructed.
Edge announced the Napier 6-cylinder engine car on 24th October 1903 for the 1904 season at a dinner at the Trocadero with many motoring notables present along with the press. The first car was shown during February 1904 and details published in the motoring magazines. A 6-cylinder car was a MAJOR motoring innovation at that time. The first 6-cylinder was built in the cramped conditions at Lambeth then production was moved fairly quickly over to Acton to cope with the demand.
The 6-cylinder cars were exceptionally successful in competition along with S F Edge’s enthusiasm in promoting the cars. Before Brooklands opened Edge organised for three 60 HP 6-cylinder cars for the well known 24 Hour Run. The cars averaged 60 mph for the durtion and Edge drove his car for the entire run. The record stood fr many years. However the fllowing year Edge withdrew from racing leaving private owners to continue on their own account. At one period Edge had a team of 6 Napiers racing at Brooklands. It is fair to say that car sales suffered after Edge wihdrew from racing, the Napier name not appearing in print to the same degree. However a considerable number of World Records were held by Napiers up to 1909.
Although Samson was a racing car it must be included as it is probably the most famous 6-cylinder Napier. L48 Samson competed in both the UK, on the continent and in the USA. Its original 6-cylinder engine was 6.125″ bore x 5″ stroke. It achieved 104 mph at Daytona in 1905 which is incredible when you consider that 5 years earlier average speeds were only 12 mph in the 1,000 Mile Trial. In the famous Napier Fiat race at Brookands it was timed at over 100 mph. Samson had a second engine fitted in 1908 (6.25″ x 6″) and later what is described as “Large Crank” giving a stroke of 7″ and a capacity of 20 litres. Samson won the 90 hp Class in 1908 being timed at 119 mph on a lap at Brooklands. It was clocked on the Byfleet banking at 30 mph but suffered a broken crankshaft, not surprising considering the ‘whip’ on the crankshaft. The car also won many sprint records. Bob Chamberlain in Australia manufactured a replica of Samson using the original engine which had been fitted into a boat. The replica is capable of 100 mph.
Britain might be considered a late starter hwever the motor industry made enormous techncal strides in a vey short period of time. Napier was soon roaring ahead of most British and European manufcturers in the first decade of the 20th Century.
Napiers then progressed to bigger HP 6-cylinder models using the same bore & stroke and eventually to larger capacity engines to suit both competition and the heavier bodies that owners required. The 40 then 60 hp models appeared quite quickly during 1905-6 progressing to the 45hp and 65hp models from 1908. These had a longer 5” stroke as well as 4 speed gearboxes replacing the earlier 3 speed. The 90hp model first appeared for competition in 1907-8 and then production models up to 1912. Not a great number manufactured as seen in the list above. The 60hp was capable of being driven in top gear from 4-80mph (assuming the body was not too heavy). There were 4 “Grand Prix” 90 HP cars manufactured, none are known to survive. Derek Grossmark commented that ” My own 60hp was timed at Brighton Speed Trials at 84mph over finish line. The problem was stopping before the Black Rock Swimming pool!!”