The National Automobile & Electric Co. of Indianapolis, Indiana was founded in 1900 by two former Waverly employees, L.S. Dow, and Philip Goetz. Waverly specialized in small electric runabouts, and the company was a subsidiary of Col. August Pope’s American Bicycle Company. Dow and Goetz were promoters of the electric car, and they used their experience at Waverly to build their small electric buggies. Production steadily grew to about 500 vehicles per year by 1905. All along, the gasoline-powered automobile was gaining popularity, and soon National began building one of their own. The first their gasoline cars were light touring cars powered by a small twin or four, with a more powerful Rutenber-powered four-cylinder model appearing in 1905. New management came with Arthur C. Newby, and National grew exponentially, significantly expanding their gasoline-powered catalog. Newby was an avid cyclist and bicycle racer, as well as one of the founders of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Racing became an integral part of their marketing strategy, with National entering a three-car team in the inaugural Indianapolis 500 mile race of 1911. They managed a seventh-place finish on this first attempt only to return the following year to claim an upset victory after Ralph de Palma's Mercedes lost its engine in the closing stages of the race. Under his leadership, National moved upmarket, phasing out all-electric production by 1906. National motor cars quickly grew in size and stature, with a mighty 50/60 horsepower six joining the ranks in 1906, and even a twelve-cylinder car appearing in 1915.
The Model N was National’s most potent four-cylinder car of 1908. Available as a seven-passenger touring car or a roadster, it was priced at a hefty $3,700 (the equivalent of about $100,000 today). Remarkably, that price tag put it near the middle of National’s highly exclusive lineup, which stretched all the way to $6,500 for the massive six-cylinder, 75 horsepower Model T limousine. The Model N was still a highly exclusive motorcar, with a 50 horsepower engine, robust chassis and finely crafted coachwork. Just a handful of examples from this marque are known to survive today and are coveted for their performance and exclusivity.
This rare and stunning 1908 National Model N 7-Passenger Touring is a fabulous, wonderfully restored example from this distinguished American marque. This incredible motorcar comes to us via an avid collector and champion of brass-era touring who used it regularly on numerous events around the country. It is a proven, powerful and exciting machine that has been expertly prepared and remains ready for immediate enjoyment.
In addition to being in fine mechanical order, the presentation is outstanding. The National has a commanding presence thanks to its grand scale and bold, attractive color scheme. Paint quality is excellent, finished in a period-appropriate combination of duo-tone red with dark blue trim and off-white coach stripes. The wooden artillery wheels are finished with a complimentary red/white/blue pattern and are shod with black wall tires. The livery is punctuated with highly polished brass accessories. These body fittings are in excellent order, including Gray & Davis carriage lamps, acetylene headlamps, and the distinct gullwing-shaped radiator shell. Other details include a brass acetylene tank, twin outboard storage boxes and pyramid-pattern aluminum on the running boards and driver’s floor.
Passengers enjoy a commanding view of the road ahead, as well as spacious accommodations in the black button-tufted leather seats. A pair of jump seats allows room for two additional passengers, and a tan folding top gives a modicum of weather protection. As with the body, the quality of the presentation is outstanding, with period-correct details and materials. Typical for a brass-era car, controls are basic, with a Jones speedometer being the sole instrument on the dash. Woodwork on the steering wheel and dash is exquisitely finished, and trimmed in more lovely polished brass.
Fully dialed-in for touring, the National is fitted with an electric starter for ease of operation. It runs very well, with tremendous power and torque coming from the high-capacity four-cylinder engine. Power is sent through a three-speed sliding gear transmission with shaft drive, for smooth and dependable running on the road. The engine presentation is very good, with lovely brass and copper components contrasting the black cylinder blocks. Signs of use are apparent on the engine and drivetrain, and while this car has been extensively toured, it has also been very well maintained, feeling very much “on the button” and ready to enjoy. Benefitting from cost-no-object care and regular use in the hands of its most recent owner, this mighty National Model N Touring car is a rare and potent machine from the exciting early days of American motoring. It is beautifully prepared and is sure to satisfy the next keeper with the unrivaled experience that comes with piloting a grand and powerful Brass Era motorcar.