National built cars from 1900 to 1924 in Indianapolis, originally powered by electric motors. Electricity was phased out as a power source in 1906 when Arthur C. Newby became the company president. Newby was one of the four founders of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway where National won the 500 mile race in 1912 at an average speed of 78.72 mph. National still holds the record as the largest engine to ever win the Indy 500 with a four-cylinder engine that displaced 490 cubic-inches!
National factory teams raced throughout the US with wins and success in such races as Elgin, Santa Monica, Los Angeles to Phoenix, Visalia, Panama-Pacific, Savannah and many others. The factory effort ended in 1912 after Joe Dawson's win at Indy, but private owners continued with limited success (and limited factory help) until 1919. In 1922 National merged with Dixie Flyer Company and went broke in 1924.
Chassis Num: 3272
Engine Num: 7273
The early history of the National Motor Vehicle Company involved electric runabouts. When Arthur C. Newby took control a few years later, the destiny of the company changed. He was an enthusiastic bicyclist, loved racing, and one of the four founders of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1909.
After 1906, the National Company concentrated on powering their vehicles with four- and six-cylinder gasoline engines. As early as 1905, Nationals had been raced using gasoline engines and a National won a 100-mile endurance race at Indiana Fairgrounds during that year. Many more historic accomplishments soon followed, such as becoming the first car to cover more than 1,000 miles in 24 hours. The vehicle covered 1,094 miles at an average speed of 51.9 mph.
When the new Indianapolis Speedway opened in 1909, Nationals were there. In May of 1910, amateur driver Arthur Greiner, drove a National Model 40 in a series of events ranging from 5 to 200 miles. The Model 40 was void of any unnecessary items and its engine tuned for optimal performance. The car and driver proved their potential by earning the 'Best Amateur' trophy award.
The inaugural 500-mile race at the Brickyard was held in 1911. Three team cars were entered for National. Each were 40 horsepower racers and each qualified for the race by averaging 75 mph or more over a quarter-mile distance. The car driven by Charlie Merz placed in seventh position, the highest for the National team. The race was very competitive, with the top 12 cars all finishing the full 200 laps. After 500-miles, the pack was still a tight bunch.
A Speedway Roadster was added to National's line-up in 1911, in part to celebrate their accomplishments at Indianapolis.
In 1912, Joe Dawson won the Indy race with his 491 cubic-inch National and earned the purse of $20,000. The car had averaged 78.22 mph.
After this historic accomplishment, the National Company's goal had been ascertained and their focus switched back to improving their road-going cars. Around the same time as Packard was introducing their Twin Six, National introduced their Highway Twelve. Both were very impressive vehicles, but at a base price of $1,990, the Nationals cost around $1000 less than the Packard. The Twelve continued until 1919 and by 1922 the National Company merged with Dixie Flyer and Jackson to form Associated Motor Industries. Part of the companies' demise was the retirement of Arthur Newby in 1916.
What was once that National Motor Vehicle Company was completely gone by 1924 as the company was in receivership. Chassis Number 3272
This 1910 National Indy Race car has two-wheel mechanical brakes, a three-speed selective sliding gearbox, and a four-cylinder, T-head engine that displaces 447 cubic-inches and produces 40 horsepower.
This was Greiner's car that had several modifications to make it very competitive for racing. After its early racing career, it was returned to the factory, fitted with a Speedway Roadster body, and sold to a private customer. There are many indications that this car was once a racer, such as its chassis cross-members had been drilled in efforts to save weight, there is a shortened gear shift and brake levers, a steeply raked steering column, and chassis-mounted seats. It retains its original oil and race fuel tanks, and the double spare tire mounts. The owner who purchased this car was the founder of the National Mining Company. Apparently, he had traveled to Idaho with a National car in 1906 and had found substantial deposits of silver and cooper. The company he formed was in honor of the car that had carried him to this treasure.
By 1959 this car was found in a barn near the Calgary National Mine where it was in very original condition, albeit in need of restoration. It wore the later-style roadster body, fenders and lamps.
A complete restoration was performed on the car brining it back to its race-winning condition. It's racing career continues; in 2002 and 2005 it raced at the Goodwood Festivals of Speed. It won its class as fastest pre-1914 car in 2002 and nearly repeated this accomplishment in 2005.
In 2007 it was brought to the Gooding & Company auction held at Pebble Beach, Ca where it was estimated to sell for $500,000 - $700,000. Sadly, the vehicles reserve was not met and it left unsold.By Daniel Vaughan | Apr 2008