I must congratulate Motor Sport for the excellent article on the Napier racing and competition cars by AS Heal in the December issue.
All this takes me back to the days when I was an apprentice at the Napier works from 1906 to 1913 and had a lot to do with the various cars–in particular the L48. I well remember assisting fitting the new crankshaft, giving a stroke or 178 mm, into the existing crankcase, the con-rod bolts only just cleared the sides of the case and it had seven main bearings ; the con-rods were tubular with four bolts, as were all the other models at that time. The cylinders were separate and after screwing in the valve chambers at an angle the jackets were copper-deposited. The chain-driven water pump had six separate outlet pipes to each cylinder jacket.
The valve diameter, if I remember rightly, was no less than 4 in, the exhausts being at the side and the inlets overhead in cages. These 4-in copper pipes from the carburetter fed the six valves, the carburetter being very low down on the near side—it was found at Brooklands that two float chambers were necessary to prevent starving on the banking. After ten laps on the outer circuit the exhaust valves would distort and lose compression, and I spent many hours grinding in the valves to restore it.
We had to make special clamp rings to hold the inlet cages on, the existing studs leaking badly. Another interesting job was to measure the capacity of each cylinder with oil and correct by shims under the cylinder flanges.
We rebuilt the engine with new crankshaft, new induction system, new inlet laminated flat springs, etc, and it thus gave about 212 bhp and so was ready for the Fiat match—three of us working until 10.30 pm and all week-ends for two weeks, for which we each received a bonus of £5. In those days bonuses were unknown. We thoroughly enjoyed the work. The only accident that this car had that I can recall was when the late Mr Draper was testing it on the outer circuit and ran a wheel over the edge of the banking, which dragged the car over and threw him out. Having disappeared over the edge they took some time to find and the driver was found unconscious still clutching part of the steering wheel. The car suffered little damage.
I also remember the Hutton. The special one for Mr JE Hutton had a very long-stroke crankshaft which lifted the cylinder lugs and we had to fit special long bolts to hold the cylinders—which were in pairs—to the crankcase. This was done on the spot in the Isle of Man for the Four-Inch Race.
Those were the days when we worked because we were keen and interested.
We did not realise that history was being made in the development of the motor car.
I am, Yours, etc.,
FH Hambling, Leeds.