The National Motor Vehicle Company of Indianapolis has a relatively brief yet no less fascinating history. Founded in 1900 as the National Automobile & Electric Vehicle Company, their first automobile was a light, tiller-steered electric runabout. Electrics were fashionable accessories for wealthy urban women as they were clean, quiet and required no physical effort to start. The Style A runabout cost a not-insignificant $900, and other, more pricey and luxurious models were offered as well – the Style E and Style F coming in at $1650 and $1750 respectively. Horse-drawn carriages were offered as well, though that business was sold off in 1902 in the face of increasing demand for the more lucrative automobile. Electrics were still part of the catalog through 1906; however, petrol-powered cars joined the lineup in 1903 and soon overtook electrics in terms of sales. The man behind this shift to petrol power was Arthur C Newby, a businessman and one of the primary backers of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The earliest cars outsourced their engines from Rutenber, but by 1907 National had acquired its own foundry and engine plant, building large four and six cylinder engines in house.
National enjoyed quite a bit of sporting success, including winning the Elgin and Illinois Trophies in 1911, with their biggest win coming at the 1912 Indianapolis 500 – a feat that no doubt thrilled Arthur Newby considering his connection to the legendary speedway. Their winning speed of 78.72 mph was exceptionally quick and National still holds the record for the largest ever engine to win at Indy - 490 cubic inches over four cylinders! National continued through 1916 when they were sold to a New York concern that continued production of several models into the 1920s. The merger with Associated Motor Industries in 1922 diluted the once great National nameplate and production ceased in 1924.
This mighty 1914 National Toy Tonneau is a fantastic and highly desirable machine from the glory days of the marque. It is powered by the in-house designed and built T-head four-cylinder displacing a whopping 450 cubic inches. Purchased new by one Mr. Goulon of Louisville, Kentucky, he used it regularly, sending it back to the factory in 1918 for an update to modern fenders. For reasons unknown, he stopped driving the big National around 1922 and the car was placed into storage until it was sold in 1954. During this time, however, Mr. Goulon would be sure to turn the engine over once a week to ensure it stayed free. The purchaser, Glen Van Slyke (owner of the famous Van Slyke Volkswagen) of Knoxville, TN, paid $500 for the car and kept it for several years untouched. In 1968 he commissioned Coach Street Garage to perform a mechanical restoration which took two full years to complete. In 1976, Van Slyke passed the car on to Rodney Flourney who kept it in his care for 22 years. From there it changed hands three more times through 2008, always remaining in outstanding condition and enjoyed regularly. It was even featured on the back cover of the HCCA Gazette in September of ’08.
Today, this fabulous and imposing National presents in excellent restored condition. Don’t let the “Toy Tonneau” moniker fool you, that name simply refers to a touring car with a narrower rear passenger compartment. This is anything but a toy! The body style is more sporting than a traditional touring car, and we love its fantastic looks. Finished in dark green with black fenders, green wheels and green frame; it has a dark and imposing presence that only a big-engine car of this era can manage. It presents exceptionally well with a wonderful patina of use since its restoration. Bright trim is limited to nickel fittings and hardware, all of which is in good order and has been polished to highlight the body. A pair of gorgeous, fluted headlamps flanks the distinctly shaped radiator. Rear mounted spares add to the sporting appeal, while the top and full set of side curtains make for all-weather touring capability. The wood dash and toe-boards are in fine order, with a patina that matches the body and interior. Instruments and switchgear are all present and in good working order. We believe the black leather interior to be in fine original condition; the cracked surfaces and worn edges just add to the appeal.
The T-Head four cylinder is in wonderful order, presenting in tidy and orderly condition though not without signs of use, which just serve to encourage regular driving. Period correct wiring and fittings keep it all looking proper and the brass plumbing has been polished to provide a bit of visual pop. It is overall a very well sorted and great running machine.
This rare and desirable National is the ideal choice for an enthusiast who wishes to participate in Horseless Carriage Club touring or similar rallies. It is grand and powerful while presenting with a handsome patina that encourages regular use. Known history from new simply adds to the appeal. We love this potent powerhouse and we are sure you will be taken by its imposing beauty as well.
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