1904 Napier L48 Samson

America’s First 100 MPH Car Is Set For A $1 Million Auction Appearance

Bonhams has listed the 1904 Napier Samson L48 for auction, and they expect it to fetch at least $1 million at the end of February. 

The 1904 Napier is America’s first 100 mph car, and it broke the record in January 1905 with British mechanic Arthur McDonald at the wheel, clocking 104.651 mph.

Napier would set multiple records with the weird and monstrous race car. The Napier would even undergo an engine swap to boost its power and potential further.

The Napier Set The Women’s World Speed Record Was Set In 1906

Female racer Dorothy Levitt would go on to break the Women’s Speed Record with the car, and her record would stand unchallenged until 1963. Initially, the vehicle had a 15-liter six-cylinder gas engine under the hood, but this was soon upgraded to 20-liter when Levitt drove the car. 

Walter Thomas Clifford-Earp would race the Napier in a 100-mile race that same year against a certain Vincenzo Lancia. The same Mr. Lancia who would set up Lancia cars and was the creator of the Stratos, Fulvia, and 037. Remarkably, a tire blew out at mile 32, forcing Clifford-Earp to finish the race on three tires, and he would win by 50 seconds.

The Napier Endured A Difficult Life

The car had an arduous life. It was soon sold for scrap, with the engines set for a new lease of life. The engines would break records in high-performance speedboats, making Napier the only manufacturer in the world to hold both the world land and water speed records. 

After several decades, Alan ‘Bob’ Hawker Chamberlain discovered the original 15-liter engine in Australia. He took on the challenge of rebuilding the car, using researchers and original photos from Napier. After 67 years, the engine finally roared back into life in 1982, and since then, the car has toured as a show car and exhibition piece.

Bonhams expects the rare racer to sell for $1 million when it is up for auction on February 29th at the Amelia Island Auction in Florida.

Henry Kelsall

Author: Henry Kelsall

Title: Writer


Henry has freelanced for over eight years now, mostly in automotive matters, but he has also dabbled in other forms of writing too. He has a lot of love for Japanese classics and American muscle cars, in particular the Honda NSX and first-generation Ford Mustang. When not writing, Henry is often found at classic car events or watching motorsports at home, but he also has a curious passion for steam trains.

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