World record 1904 Napier 15hp sale!

Posted by Chris Graham on 13th February 2023

We report from last November’s Bonhams sale of vintage and veteran cars, which saw a 1904 Napier 15hp smash the wold record! 

1904 Napier 15hp

This 1904 Napier 15hp went to make an outstanding £368,000. (Pic: Bonhams)

Bonhams’ annual sale celebration of the Veteran Car Run was staged at its flagship saleroom in Bond Street, London, on November 5th last year, and realised a total of £2.86 million with an 88% sale-through.

An ahead-of-its-time 1898 Peugeot Type 15 8hp twin-cylinder double phaeton with four-speed transmission led the record-breaking sale, selling for a staggering £494,500, surpassing its top estimate and becoming the most valuable Victorian-era Peugeot. It was a past winner of the Regent Street Concours held the day before the annual Veteran Car Run, which it has successfully completed a number of times.

1904 Napier 15hp

The advanced Peugeot Type 15 8hp twin-cylinder double phaeton. (Pic: Bonhams)

The other grand dames of the sale included a 1904 Napier 15hp rear entrance tonneau, which achieved £368,000. This supercar of the pioneer era had been found propping up a barn by its late owner in the 1950s, who then restored it as a labour of love. Offered with more than 66 years of single-family ownership, the motor car set an auction world record for a veteran Napier.

As for The Owl, an 1897 Daimler twin-cylinder 4hp tonneau, the oldest example of the marque still on the road and offered following 72 years of single-family ownership, it achieved a thumping £345,000, becoming the most valuable Victorian Daimler to be sold at auction.

The 1907 Stanley Model EX steam runabout (No. 3595),  FN 3997, also created a new steam car record in concours condition, when it sold for £140,300; yes, you did read that correctly!

1904 Napier 15hp

The oldest-known Daimler on the road, a 1897 twin-cylinder 4hp tonneau known as The Owl, sold for a record £345,000. This model wasn’t known for speed. (Pic: Bonhams)

Rarely is a Stanley offered for sale in this condition and so extensively documented, this example having been in the previous (family) ownership for 87 years. First owner, Ed Hunter, bought the Stanley from George Grappotte’s dealership in Watertown, New York, USA. Then, on August 10th, 1924, Hunter sold the car to Fred ‘Pickle’ Jackson of Dexter, NY, making it this small rural town’s first automobile. By then the EX was well worn, and Jackson contemplated turning it into a sleigh because of the nice coachwork. 

The preceding owner’s father happened to be there and persuaded Jackson to sell it to him instead. He was in Dexter visiting his mother, and left the car in her barn where it stayed until 1953. It was then that he decided to entrust its restoration to Ed Beagle of Bennington, Vermont. Beagle repaired the Stanley and got it running in fairly good order. 

1904 Napier 15hp

The stunning 1907 Stanley EX went on to create a new world record at £140,300. (Pic: Bonhams)

Two years later, in 1955, the Reverend Stanley Ellis featured Beagle and the then 80-year old previous owner in his seminal book, Smogless Days: Adventures in Ten Stanley Steamers. This publication influenced the preservation of Stanleys by popularising – even facilitating – steam car collecting. In fact, the cover car featured on the book was owned by Ellis at the time, and is now in the UK in excellent order and for sale by Trevor Gurr, in East Sussex; it was featured in Old Glory last year. 

Beagle kept the Stanley EX until 1972, when he turned 100. The car has had a new boiler and burner and much more while in the UK, and was supplied with full certification. As we’ve said, it was a stunner and went on to create a world record when it was sold on Friday evening.  

That wasn’t the only steam car on sale, though; as the 1903 Stanley Model CX 6.5hp steam runabout No. 507 engine No. 1200 was also offered.

Looking good, the controls of the EX. (Pic: Bonhams)

Francis E and Freeland O Stanley were identical twins, who’s Stanley Dry Plate Company produced photographic equipment. The brothers also designed steam cars, experimenting with a solitary prototype in 1887, before reviving the project in 1897. By the following year they had completed three more, one of which completed a spectacular demonstration in Charles River Park, Boston, where it successfully scaled an 80ft incline that had defeated its rivals.

Orders for 200 cars resulted and the Stanleys were in business. That first design was sold to John Brisben Walker and manufactured as the Locomobile, while the Stanleys progressed to a non-condensing engine driving the rear axle directly, with a rear-mounted boiler, production of which commenced in 1902. 

The Stanley EX’s bodywork was certainly draughty, with the rear seats outside the cab. (Pic: Bonhams)

Listed in Kelly R Williams’ Stanley Register and the Sprague Register (when owned by Art Hart), this CX runabout was previously purchased by one A Sinclair from G Brese in the USA, and imported in a partially dismantled state in June 2008. It was rebuilt with the assistance of FJ Theobald of the UK Steam Car Club and, on Mr Theobald’s death, was sold to Trevor Gurr. 

The immediately-preceding owner acquired the Stanley in February 2013, and a considerable amount of additional work was carried out, mainly by JR Goold Vintage Steam Restorations. The rebuild was completed in 2015, and the boiler and its larger tank are the only notified deviations from factory specification. The car’s previous owner purchased the Stanley at Bonham’s London-Brighton Run sale in October 2015. It went on to sell for £40,250 here. 

This 1903 Stanley CX runabout could have been yours for £40,250, with boiler certificate. (Pic: Bonhams)

An early motor car from the former British bicycle maker Swift was a 1904 7hp two-seater, which sold for £103,500, surpassing its top estimate, Remarkably it had been owned by the vendor’s family since 1931.

Tim Schofield, head of department, Bonhams Collector Cars UK, said: “We are so pleased to have achieved such fantastic and well-deserved results for this exemplary ‘Golden Age of Motoring Sale.’

The Stanley CX runabout’s engine. (Pic: Bonhams)

“It is particularly apt that the Napier should set a new auction world record in the 120th anniversary year of the marque’s success in the Gordon Bennett Cup, the pinnacle of early motorsport.”

The sale report comes from the latest issue of Old Glory, and you can benefit from a money-saving subscription to this magazine simply by clicking HERE



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