I was very interested to read in your review of “Cars in Books” the mention of George Henderson’s Napier Rolls-Royce.
I was told that this car, as a Napier, was a staff car in World War 1. It was captured by the Austrians and recaptured by us, when it was found that the engine was unserviceable. It was at this time that George Henderson acquired the car and had the Rolls-Royce Falcon aero engine fitted. I owned this car for a short time around 1934-35, having bought it with the intention of competing at the first Bo’ness hill climb, having been derelict in Skelmordie since about 1924. I found that Panhard van disc wheels were the same size as those on the Napier and, having acquired two, was able to fit twin rear wheels.
On the morning of the Bo’ness hill climb, on testing the car a short way from the garage the front universal boss split at the keyway. This was welded up and the car got to Bo’ness in time, but with no practice. On the first run it was second fastest and we had great hopes for the second run. Unfortunately the grime of ages in the petrol tank landed in the carburetter and the engine passed out half way up the hill.
The same thing happened going home outside the “Golden Lion” at Stirling and the carburetters were dismantled and re-built in front of an admiring audience. This car was used occasionally on the road and proved quite an easy starter. By mounting a starting magneto on the dumb-iron together with magneto switch, one then turned the starting handle over a couple of times, made contact and twiddled the starting magneto, when it readily fired.
[This subsequent history of the aero-engined Napier constructed by Col. Henderson is most interesting. Mr. Millar tells us the car was last heard of in Glasgow around 1935. As remarked previously, there were more of these aero-engined hybrids built, for use on the road as well as for Brooklands’ racing, than is now generally realised. For instance, in 1921 a Capt. J. V. Nash of Windsor put a V8 Hispano Suiza aero engine from an SE5a aeroplane into a war-time Crossley chassis, retaining the Crossley gearbox and using a 2.25 to 1 axle ratio. Used on the road, this hybrid gave 15 m.p.g. About the same time, I seem to recall that someone put an aero engine into a Buick chassis but details are forgotten—Ed.]