1913 Napier 30/35hp 4,122cc Type 44 Landaulette Coachwork by The Cunard Motor & Carriage Co., Ltd. Registration no. CD 7937 Chassis no. 11610 Engine no. 18779
"Napier's list of customers, like the passenger list of the Titanic, recalls all the thundery afternoon sunlight of Edwardian England. Here is ancient landed wealth: here is the recent profit of industry and finance: here are the rich Radical politicians. Here is a memory of the days when there were forty servants below stairs at Longleat, when Sir William Lever, vastly rich on soap, could say he was 'in love with petrol', and when the Liberal Party, profiting by the social discontent which is the other side of the medal, could promise something recognisably like the Welfare State and sweep the Conservatives from office. And all behind a Royal Navy that could send sixty-four battle ships to sea at once, and in the reign of the German Emperor who both patronised motor racing and made indiscreet, threatening speeches about 'shining armour'."
How well Charles Wilson and William Reader in Men and Machines A History of D Napier & Son, Engineers, Ltd. summarised the background against which Sir Joseph Robinson ordered his new Napier Landaulette in 1913.
This magnificent 30/35hp landaulette was built by D Napier & Sons Ltd at their factory in Acton, West London, and furnished with landaulette coachwork by Cunard who were Napier's in-house coachbuilders at the time. It was despatched from the factory on 13th June 1913, its first owner, Sir Joseph Robinson of Cape Town, South Africa, parting with £1,075 or so the list price for the 30/35hp landaulette model. Sir Joseph, a successful gold miner in the Witwatersrand of South Africa, was a contemporary of Cecil Rhodes and Barney Barnato, father of Woolf Barnato, Chairman and Sponsor of Bentley Motors Ltd. Sir Joseph had taken up residence in Cape Town c.1913. It is known that Sir Joseph purchased a Hupmobile with landaulette coachwork in 1917 so it is likely that the Napier covered limited mileage during his ownership. At one stage the Napier shared a motor house in the grounds of Sir Joseph's home with the Hupmobile, a 1919 Daimler, a 1931 V16 Cadillac and a beautiful carriage. The Napier passed to Sir Joseph's daughter Ida who married His Excellency Count Natale Labia, Consul General for Italy in South Africa. Count Labia was posthumously awarded the title of Prince by the Italian Government, his wife adopting the title Princess Ida. Following Princess Ida's death in 1961 the Napier was disinterred from the Hawthornden Estate in Cape Town by South African veteran car enthusiast Robert H Johnston and the Labia family had the Napier cosmetically refreshed in Cape Town prior to shipping the car to London. Upon arrival in London the coachwork was repainted and lined by a Mr Willis in Meopham, new tyres were fitted and missing lamps were replaced and the magneto was overhauled. During the 1960s the Napier participated in a number of Veteran Car Club events, taking the team prize on occasion in 1967 and 1968 alongside the Napiers of VCC stalwarts Bryan Goodman and Derek Grossmark. After 55 years of ownership in Sir Joseph Robinson's family the Napier was sold at auction in 1968, passing into the ownership of veteran car connoisseur Victor Crabb. Further mechanical restoration ensued during Crabb's ownership and some 25 years later the car passed from the Crabb family. The subsequent owner used the car little but participated in the Centenary of the Napier car at Brooklands in June 2000. The present owner acquired the car in March 2002 and during this ownership the suspension and braking system has been overhauled and the exhaust valves replaced. Replacement wings have been fabricated to the original pattern, the hood leather has been replaced and the coachwork re-liveried and coachlined. The interior upholstery remains original.
CD 7937 sits on Rudge Whitworth detachable wire wheels with spare wheel mounted on the driver's side running board. Driving equipment includes Lucas self-contained acetylene headlamps, Lucas oil side lamps and rear lamp, scuttle-mounted double twist bulb horn, driver's rear-view mirror, chauffeur's speaking tube, Pratts 2-gallon spare petrol can mounted on nearside running board and a roof luggage rack for the longer motor tour. Coachwork is trimmed in black leather to the front and original beige cloth to the rear with detailed embroidery to the door panels. Wilton carpets are fitted to the rear which is furnished also with occasional seating. Dashboard equipment includes original Napier gauges, S Smith & Son speedometer and a brass petrol pressure hand pump. Fittings throughout are brass.
Here is a powerful, six-cylinder Edwardian landaulette of outstanding quality and originality with continuous history and exceptional provenance. Not only will it stand well in a Concours d'Élégance or conservation judging class but here is a car well capable of serious long distance motoring with potential to hold pace with most of its peer group and many younger motor cars. The car is offered with a Swansea registration document, current road fund licence and MoT certificate to May 2011, along with a substantial file of correspondence and bills from the present ownership and a small library, mainly biographies of Sir Joseph Robinson, and an original Napier Owner's Handbook covering the Type 44. It comes also with VCC Dating Certificate no.2406.