Napier Vehicles – Lambeth
Montague constructed his first Napiers at his Lambeth Works. He finished his first 8 hp car 5 days before the start of the 1900 Thousand Mile Trial that April. Not surprisingly the vehicle had teething troubles but after overcome them it had the power and reliability to complete the 1,000 miles and in doing so winning its class. This was a remarkable achievement for everyone at Napiers since it was their first car. Although it had been ordered for a Mrs Kennard, Edge had her permission to run it in the trial. The car followed the Panhard System in virtually all respects with Napier fitting wheel steering, electric ignition and Dunlop pneumatic tyres. The major difference was the twin cylinder engine that had a 360 degree crankshaft with both cylinders on the same throw and a counter balance hanging between the two conrods in an attempt to offset the vibration. The gearbox was completely Panhard system with a double crown wheel giving 4 speeds in both forward and reverse, making it very heavy.
David Napier then produced a 16hp vehicle based on same system with similar components but with 4 cylinders. Designs developed to a 50hp, 11 litre monster weighing over 3 tons. In 1901 a 9hp car was produced similar to the original 8hp with a conventional 180 degree crankshaft and a much smaller and lighter gearbox with only 1 normal reverse gear making a smoother and better performing car. In 1902 the 12hp 4 cylinder car was produced that proved to be very popular and was continued up to 1905. The later versions had mechanical inlet valves. Another interesting point was that the 12hp model was shipped to the USA and sold under the “Napier of America” brand; three survive today.
Mention must be made of the Napier engines with Napier reversing gear that Edge had fitted to a number of boats from 1901, first in 1901 using a 16hp Napier car engine and later in 1903 the 50hp engine taken out of an old racing car this produced 75 brake hp at 800rpm. Edge had of course to compete and won many motorboat racing trophies including the International Harmsworth Trophy after the GB race in Ireland in 1903. Edge and private boat owners such as Lord Montagu and Lionel Rothschild continued to compete although Edge withdrew from Boat racing in 1906. More detailed information is in Edge’s book ‘My Motoring Reminiscences’.
Probably the most famous of all the early road cars was on belonging to Mr Glidden. He owned a 1902 12hp Napier that he used for 42,000 miles circumnavigation of the world. Some parts of the run were using railway wheels by removing the road wheels. Further details about Glidden may be found in Andrew Jepson’s book “Around the World in a Napier”.