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Homepage. This page: Information is sought on these rare Napier trucks, seen here in South Wales.

Napier Lorry.

Tony is doing a research project at Swansea Museum, and is trying to learn more about the two Napier lorries that feature in this faded old photograph. The Napier firm is perhaps best known for its road cars and aero engines, hence information on their commercial vehicles is less easy to unearth. Both of the Napiers shown were in use with an ice and salt merchant in Swansea, serving the South Wales area.
Two WW1-era Napier lorries
The vehicle furthest from the camera boasts few creature comforts for the driver, and to compound his discomfort it's running on solid rubber tyres. The righthand van has the luxury of a roof so would be a little more pleasant to drive, and has pneumatic tyres also. Initially I thought the registration was MK 897, but that series was used in 1925 and 1926 only, so seemed unlikely unless the van had been re-registered at some point. More likely it was in fact MX 897, again a London series but used much earlier, from 1912 to 1917, which seems to fit better with the Napier's WW1-era appearance. Napier produced a large number of vehicles for the war effort, so the vehicle above could well be ex-military.
Handily there is a reference to the products of D. Napier & Sons Ltd in The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Trucks and Buses, published in 1982. It seems that production of commercial vehicles commenced in 1902 and continued until 1920, with a design for a mechanical horse being proposed in 1931. Initially only light commercials were built, although a design was proposed for a 5 ton lorry utilising a 4.9 litre engine and water-cooled transmission brakes. However this didn't proceed beyond the design stages. In 1903 a chain-drive 6.4 litre lorry was offered but only sold in small numbers.
In 1912 a truck department was established at Napiers, the intention being to develop a range of larger trucks to complement the lightweight offerings that hitherto had been available. A range of four-cylinder Napier lorries was launched in 1913, available in 1.5, 2 and 3 ton ratings. In 1915, with WW1 in full swing, a new 2.25 ton lorry was put on sale, designed very much with military sales in mind, along with a larger 4.25 tonner. After the war, only a 2 ton lorry was offered, although only for a short time. In 1931 a three-wheeled mechanical horse was designed, at the behest of the London and North Eastern Railway, and at least one prototype was built. Rather than go into production of this themselves, Napier sold the rights to Scammell Lorries Ltd, who went on to refine the design, before launching their Mechanical Horse in 1934.
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