Veteran to classic

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“Samson” postscript

Our article on the rebuilding of the historic 1904 Napier L48 in Australia by Bob Chamberlain (Motor Sport, December 1988) has aroused much interest, and a few further points seem justified about this, the first successful six-cylinder racing can which, in a versatile career lasting until 1908, proved itself one of the fastest cars in the world.

In the 1908 Match Race against Nazzaro’s Fiat at Brooklands, “Samson’s” driver was Frank Newton, who was unlucky to have a big-end bolt break while in the lead. The carburettor now used is a 27/16in one, not as previously stated. And the 1903 GB Napier now at Beaulieu differs in design from “Samson”.

When the first (15-litre) engine used in “Samson” was put into a racing boat its cr was increased not, as I said, by machining the cylinder heads, as these were integral with the cylinders, but by planing 1/4in off the top face of the crankcase. Incidentally, it is notable that originally the water jackets were formed of electro-deposited copper, approximately 0.03in thick, which, under the technique prevailing in 1903, went on in layers. It appears that the plating did not fully bond with a previous layer after interruptions and it later began to peel off in layers, repairs being made by soldering on copper patches. Bob Chamberlain had new jackets spun from 16-gauge copper sheet, manganese-bronze welded.

The cooling tubes along the bonnet sides, which are such a distinctive feature of L48, were designed two months before the car was first shown to the public, but apparemly were not ready at that time. Hence the normal Napier radiator was used until late in 1904, when the 80-tube 20-gallon cooling tubes were installed.

Regarding valve-timing, the exhaust valves open 50deg before bottom dead centre. It is amusing to find that lubrication of the clutch-operating mechanism is by wick-feed, as on the much later 61/2-litre Bentley. . .

At the end of last year some personnel from Daimler-Benz in Stuttgart, in Australia for the Sandown 1000ktn, asked if they could see Bob’s cars. They were especially interested in his two 1910 “Prince Henry” Benz, but were also most impressed with “Samson” — one of their engineers saying, as he took a great many photographs, that if he had not actually seen the big Napier he would not have believed it existed. WB

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