Rolls-Royce and its rivals

Browse pages
Current page

1

Current page

2

Current page

3

Current page

4

Current page

5

Current page

6

Current page

7

Current page

8

Current page

9

Current page

10

Current page

11

Current page

12

Current page

13

Current page

14

Current page

15

Current page

16

Current page

17

Current page

18

Current page

19

Current page

20

Current page

21

Current page

22

Current page

23

Current page

24

Current page

25

Current page

26

Current page

27

Current page

28

Current page

29

Current page

30

Current page

31

Current page

32

Current page

33

Current page

34

Current page

35

Current page

36

Current page

37

Current page

38

Current page

39

Current page

40

Current page

41

Current page

42

Current page

43

Current page

44

Current page

45

Current page

46

Current page

47

Current page

48

Current page

49

Current page

50

Current page

51

Current page

52

Current page

53

Current page

54

Current page

55

Current page

56

Current page

57

Current page

58

Current page

59

Current page

60

Current page

61

Current page

62

Current page

63

Current page

64

Current page

65

Current page

66

Current page

67

Current page

68

Current page

69

Current page

70

Current page

71

Current page

72

Current page

73

Current page

74

Current page

75

Current page

76

Current page

77

Current page

78

Current page

79

Current page

80

Current page

81

Current page

82

Current page

83

Current page

84

Current page

85

Current page

86

Current page

87

Current page

88

Current page

89

Current page

90

Current page

91

Current page

92

Current page

93

Current page

94

Current page

95

Current page

96

Current page

97

Current page

98

Current page

99

Current page

100

Current page

101

Current page

102

Current page

103

Current page

104

Current page

105

Current page

106

Current page

107

Current page

108

Current page

109

Current page

110

Current page

111

Current page

112

Current page

113

Current page

114

Current page

115

Current page

116

Current page

117

Current page

118

Current page

119

Current page

120

Current page

121

Current page

122

Current page

123

Current page

124

Current page

125

Current page

126

Current page

127

Current page

128

Current page

129

Current page

130

Current page

131

Current page

132

Current page

133

Current page

134

Current page

135

Current page

136

Current page

137

Current page

138

In the days before Rolls-Royce announced the 40/50hp Silver Ghost, the Napier was regarded by many as Britain’s Top Car. Rolls-Royce soon corrected that, the Derby company doing everything it knew how to build a quality car, including taking a close look at its opposition. In fact in the 35 years or so from 1909 onwards, R-R engineers tried a total of some 36 other makes. Naturally, one of the first was their rival, the Napier from Acton.

Claude Johnson had sampled the 30 and 60hp Napier by 1909 and found their gearboxes more silent and with an easier change than on the current Rolls-Royce cars. He thought the easy change might be due to the plate clutch but said it was R-R’s duty to find out, and advised buying one of its cars.

By May 1912, the R-R test driver was asked for an opinion of a Napier he had driven from London to Derby. He told Mr Johnson that it had reminded him of a poor Rolls-Royce with too high a c.r, a light flywheel and no slipper-drive. The clutch was the best plate type he had tried. Gearbox good, engine not very flexible, and not as quiet as R-R’s when idling. Rolls were very concerned that their cars were near-silent “when standing”.

By that September the matter had become serious and Johnson said that if the R-R gears could not be improved they would need to resort to finishing the gears with Brown and Sharpe cutters, in spite of the difficulty of getting these from America. R-R’s Mr Clarke was surprised that the box on a 15hp Napier had been thought so good, as these varied considerably, but conceded that the 45hp Napier had by far the best to come out of Acton.

Napier had the same problem as R-R with metal engine gears rattling at idle and ringing at high rpm. Carburation was found too weak, spoiling acceleration from a crawl and making starting up difficult. Their expert R-R tester found that the Napier made a “terrible chatter” at 1600rpm (50mph) and the Eight flywheel caused lumpy idling.

He got about 12mpg . The pistons knocked, and at full power pulsations could be felt not good enough by R-R standards. Had Napier’s S F Edge known he would surely have had hysterics! The stiff steering was tiring after a day’s run but Platford found Lanchesters worse. Springing very fair, air on the floorboards cooler than on an R-R, exhaust very quiet, and “suction noises” about as on a R-R.

These findings caused conscientious R-R to test a Polyrhoe carburettor on the Napier, clutch plates on both cars to check ‘jingling’, and test steering pivots by running over obstacles in a ten-hour bashing on a Napier, both front shock absorbers, a brake rod and both silencer straps broke.

After the war, in 1920, Royce was not anxious to use Bosch magnetos unless from the English makers, and told Barrington “I shall be very pleased to hear what is wrong with the Watford magneto”. At the 1920 Motor Show Royce received a report on short runs in such challengers as Hispano-Suiza, Lanchester, V12 Packard and 40/50hp Napier. He found the Napier harsher and noisier than the Hispano and much more so than the 40/50hp Rolls-Royce. Idling, the Napier had a distinct knock due to the oh-camshaft drive. The gears were noisier than those of an R-R, the rear-seat ride uncomfortable, and the driver spoke of 55/60mph as the best speed he could get. They treated cars roughly, judging by a 6mph run up a 1-in-16 hill, when at the top the Napier’s engine “missed and knocked badly and the transmission clunking became apparent”. The 1920 Lanchester was judged the worst of all the four cars. All of which must have cheered up Henry Royce, Johnson, Elliott, et al!

Thus did Rolls-Royce check the opposition, to defend their claim as “the Best Car in the World”, which until the early 1920s few questioned.

Related articles

Related products