Friday 16th October 1903
Napier Cars announced a 6-cylinder car for 1904, thereby becoming the first to make a commercially successful ‘six’, described as a ‘remarkably smooth and flexible’ 18-bhp, 4.9-litre engine with 3-speed gearbox and chain drive. Within 5 years, there were 62 manufacturers of 6-cylinder cars in Britain alone. 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 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 duration and Edge drove his car for the entire run. The record stood fr many years. However the flowing 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 withdrew 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 famos 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 he ‘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 in a boat in Australia. The replica is capable of 100 mph.
Britain might be considered a late starter however the motor industry made enormous technical strides in a vey short period of time. Napier was soon roaring ahead of most British and European manufacturers in the first decade of the 20th Century.