Sunday 6 January 2008, by Roy Gasson
Mr Gliddens Napier
Montague Napier at the Lambeth works finished the first 8 hp car 5 days before the start of the 1900 Thousand Mile Trial in April. This car not surprisingly had teething troubles but after overcoming the major problems had the power and reliability to complete the 1000 miles winning its class. A remarkable achievement with their first car. Although the car was 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 that the twin cylinder had a 360 degree crankshaft with both cylinders on the same throw with a counter balance weight hanging between the two conrods in an attempt to offset the vibration, surprisingly although present at tickover the engine smoothed out on the move. The gearbox was completely Panhard system with double crown wheel giving 4 speeds both forward and reverse, resulting in a very heavy gearbox.
Napier then produced a 16hp based on same system with similar components but a 4 cylinder engine and eventually a 50hp ( 11litres capacity) “ monster” weighing over 3 tons more about this car in the next section. Then in 1901 a 9hp car similar to the original 8hp with a conventional 180 degree crankshaft and a much smaller ( and lighter ) gearbox with only 1 normal reverse gear. This resulted in a smoother and better performing car. In 1902 the 12hp 4 cylinder car was produced this proved a very popular car and was continued up to 1904-5, the later ones with mechanical inlet valves. The other interesting point was that the 12hp (called later 15 or even 16hp) as a number were shipped to the USA and sold under the “Napier of America” Logo, three survive today. Probably the most famous of all the early road cars was Mr Gliddens 1902 12hp Napier that he used for 42,000 miles to travel around the world, some parts of the run by removing the road wheels and using railway wheels to follows the tracks in more difficult areas.
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 the 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 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 Motoring Reminiscences.
1903 Napier Launch