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Napier, A Brief History

Derek Grossmark

The family engineering Company D Napier was founded in 1808 specialising in precision products initially printing machinery and progressing to bullet machines,hydraulic presses for IK Brunel and precision coin machines for the Royal and European Mints ,making the winning medals at both the Great Exhibition in 1851 and 1861.

Then the third generation of Napiers entered the dawn of British Motoring at the end of the 19th century

Napier cars and commercial vehicles were the most important component of Napiers history in the early part of the 20th century virtually the only Napier product that left the works as a complete entity under their own name. The substantial extent of the manufacture of Napier vehicles in the first two decades of the 20th century is generally not realised as they were one of the most outstanding and prolific British car manufacturers.

The well published meeting of Henry Royce and Charles Rolls was overshadowed by an earlier meeting at the end of the 19th century which spawned a greater number of vehicles,both luxury cars ,great sporting achievements and commercial vehicles. Montague Napier, S F Edge and Charles Rolls had a passion for cycling which was a popular sport in the 1980’s and they met at the many cycle events. Rolls and Edge both had Panhard et Levassor cars which interested Montague Napier and in 1898/99 he converted the Edge Panhard to wheel steering, electric ignition and pneumatic tyres. This clearly started a train of thought with Napier which  resulted in the manufacture and production of the first Napier car in 1900

Cars at that period were either designed on the Daimler/Panhard basis or the the Benz style.Benz styled a light car with a horizontal single cylinder rear mounted engine driving through belts. The Panhard system was based on a vertical multi cylinder engine in front followed by clutch,gearbox and drive by chain and capable of much higher performance. In view of his appreciation of the Panhards owned by Rolls and Edge ,Napier followed the latter path.This set the scene and in 1899 the manufacture of an 8hp car commenced. The third component was Sales. Generally engineers are not known for sales expertise and this is where SF Edge came in. He was appointed the SOLE agent for Napiers. Edge was an entrepreneur in modern terms who had the force and imagination to attract the interest of the fledgling motor enthusiasts by all possible means His strength was in Motor Sport in which he brought many accolades to Britain and much publicity to Napiers

Napiers started production of cars in 1900 and ceased in 1925 and in that 25 year period made a total of under 10,000 vehicles!!!

Made up as follows:

Cars, taxis and commercial vehicles based on car designs                   7395*

Commercial vehicles designed as such and recorded accordingly          2052#

Total vehicle production                                                                9447

*  numbers of the 1900 8hp and 1901 9hp have been approximated at 15 cars,probably on the low side

* A total of 198 cars were  built after WW1

# Records for specific commercial designs started in 1912 and of the total of 491 were produced  after WW1

Of the total production just over 100 survive ,about 50% in Australia and the remainder mostly in the UK

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