The ex-D. Cameron Peck, in the museum's collection since 1949
1913 National Series V, Type N3 Model 40 Semi-Racing Type Roadster
Chassis no. 10316
Car no. 7321
Although little known today, the National Motor Vehicle Co. of Indianapolis built some great cars in its time. After staring out with an electric runabout in 1900, the firm was building increasingly large and expensive gasoline-powered cars by 1906. In 1909, Nationals raced, and placed well, on the dirt at the new Indianapolis Motor Speedway. National fielded three cars for the inaugural 500-mile race at the newly brick-paved Indy track in 1911, one of them finishing seventh. In 1912, a National piloted by Joe Dawson won the second annual Indy 500, averaging 78.22mph during the race.
In 1913 and 1914, National cataloged both a Speedway Roadster and a Semi-Racing Roadster in their 128-inch wheelbase, 4-cylinder Series V line. National then went on to offer a large V-12 powered car from 1916 to 1919. The last Nationals were built in late 1923. The Semi-Racer was built as a direct competitor to the Stutz Bearcat and the Mercer Raceabout. Fierce competitors on the track, National wanted to go head to head in the showroom. While never gaining quite the mythic reputation of its famous siblings, their performance was certainly on par. Maybe not quite as nimble and flexible as the Mercer, the National, with 90 extra cubic inches, could likely show the Stutz its spare tires and tail light.
The origins of the 1913 National Semi-Racer offered here are unclear. What is known for sure is that the car already existed in its current Semi-racer configuration when it was donated to the MSI collection in 1949 by the well-known pioneer Chicagoland car collector, D. Cameron Peck.
There has been speculation since that it may have been converted to its current configuration early on. The designation N3 indicates "touring improved," N1 being the designation for the semi or speedway racer. On the other hand, a recent inspection of the car reveals it to have factory-drilled cross-members, indicative of an original race-prepared model. The open roadsters cowl structure and steering column mounting are also seemingly factory-style items. The bucket seats and tank hardware all look correct. The most striking feature of the car besides it huge hood and radiator is how low it sits to the ground. The running boards drop down deeply giving the car a very sporting and nimble look.
According to a recent MSI inspection report, the paint and upholstery appear to have been redone in the 1940s, but remain in presentable condition today, although of course showing some aging and wear. At the rear, the spare tires are mounted in a near-horizontal position, while the tire mounting for the factory sport models was apparently more vertical.
The Semi-Racers truly massive 450-cubic inch, four-cylinder T-head engine is also in very good original condition and still retains its period correct carburetor and ignition system. The T-head engine design, with its inlet and exhaust valves placed on opposite sides of the cylinder, was state-of-the-art high-performance equipment in 1913. Stutz and Mercer were among the cars using a similar valve layout at the time. The car retains its original cellular radiator, which appears to be in good condition. The National is also fitted with a rare American Bosch two-spark dual magneto with correct A coil switch and rare secondary 1&2 switch.
The Semi-Racer 128-inch wheelbase chassis appears complete and does not show any signs of excessive wear or damage. The front end, steering apparatus, rear end, and transmission are rated to be in very good original condition and appear complete. The car retains its original 25 artillery wheels and has recently been fitted with new 34 x 4 1⁄2 tires.
Several period accessories are installed on the Semi-Racer, including a rare Humistat device, which introduces atomized water into the carburetor to optimize performance. The National also has front and rear Westinghouse shock absorbers. Both the electric lighting system and starter and generator system are rare period Gray & Davis accessory items.
The National Semi-Racer has been recently serviced and has been operated in the past few years. It is believed to be in good, mechanical condition overall. This is a great example of an early American high-performance sports car. Being an Indianapolis-built car makes it all the more historic. Seldom seen and rarely traded publicly, a National has always been considered a great prize for the knowledgeable collector. This car has a wonderful, rich patina; so becoming of a pre-WWI sports car. Most would want to enjoy it just the way it is. With worn seats and paint, it is brimming with the flavor of the heroic era of automobile racing.