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Homepage. This page: Two photographs believed to be of a veteran/vintage Napier motorcar, and a later Napier tourer.

Is this a Napier, and did it set a speed record?

Napier motor-car photo 1
Bronwen, who kindly sent over a photo of her father with his Aston Martin in the 1940s (Aston pic), also sent in these two intriguing photographs. These photos also belonged to her father, someone who was obviously well up on vintage and veteran motorcars, as he used to prepare an 1898 De Dion Bouton for the London to Brighton Run back in the 1950s, and of course owned the Aston already referred to.
On the reverse of the photographs are his own notes that say "90hp Napier - broke world record at Daytona Beach". A 90hp Napier did indeed break the 100 miles world record at Daytona, early in 1906, but that car was a much racier looking number, so perhaps the pencil note refers to Napier being the same make as the car that took a record at Daytona, or else perhaps the car was re-bodied at some time, and is shown in these photos in a later guise? either way, if someone who is well versed in the history of Napier, S.F. Edge etc, can shed any light, it'd be appreciated. I'm also intrigued by the lettering on the radiator, that is only partially visible in the first image (-ury). The registration is LN-2628. Thanks again to Bronwen for sending these two photos over.
Napier motor-car photo 2

Circa 1909 Napier tourer.

Next, a photo of a vintage Napier being worked on in New Zealand. This car is believed to have been imported for taxi duties as Dane, who scanned and sent this old photo in, explains:
As far as I know it is one of a small fleet that were imported into Dunedin in New Zealand as a fleet of taxis and hire cars. I believe that the mechanic is one Charles Albert Rofe. He gave me the photo in 1971 because a friend and I had found a Napier in the North Island near Marton.
A 1909 Napier car seen in New Zealand
When Charley (then about 84) heard of our find, he got in touch. He told me how he had been working in England (I think, for Napier) and was detailed to be the mechanic with the fleet of cars bound for Dunedin.
Motor licensing (registration) in NZ was rather haphazard for many years. It was first in the hands of local government, and I believe that the number on the Napier being DN-O-328 indicates 'Dunedin Otago'
In 1911 Charley moved to the North Island and settled in Marton, whereupon he started a Ford dealership. Marton is in the Ragitikei district and shortly after Mr. Rofe started selling Fords there, the district started to register motor cars. The Mayor got 'R 1', but Charlie got 'R 2'. Of course, at the time, motorists had to provide their own number plate.
My second photograph is of the number plate that Charley Rofe made to go on his car. It was suspended by leather straps so could easily be moved from one car to another, but I'm not sure if that was legal.
A NZ car registration plate R2
As you can see the plate is in the shape of the Ford winged pyramid which was the company symbol at the time. The edging and lettering are German Silver, but the registration number is copper, and Charlie told me that he used to polish the silver, but not the copper.
Charley Rofe told me how he set out the Ford winged pyramid in coloured concrete on his showroom floor. The script and edges were left as a groove.
When work was being done to re-metal bearings (T's and A's had cast big ends and mains- not slipper bearings), the old white metal was melted and poured into the grooves, so in time the symbol on the floor was very similar to the number plate.
Unfortunately many years later the road outside the showroom had to be widened and so the front of the building was demolished along with that bit of motoring history.
When I first saw the plate, it had been chrome plated. Charley loaned it to me to restore, then he fitted new strap-brackets to it. Because he saw how enthusiastic I was about the plate, he sold it to me for the only note that I had in my wallet. "Because I know it is going to a good home". I have been its custodian ever since.
I would imagine that it is one of the most unusual and rare number plates in motoring history.
Charley Rofe also patented a lifting device for cars, details of which can be seen here (external link).
Return to the old transport photos - Page 5.
Napier also built vehicles for the commercial vehicle market. A photograph of two WW1-era Napier lorries can be seen here, while an in-depth look at a 1912 sale catalogue for Napier vans and related vehicles, may be found here.
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