Bonhams is set to auction off a historic piece of automotive history – the 1904 Napier L48 “Samson” with an anticipated price tag of roughly one million dollars. This iconic vehicle, dubbed “Samson” due to its distinctive copper cooling tubes resembling the flowing hair of the biblical strongman, was the first car in the United States to achieve a remarkable speed of 100 mph.
Powered by a colossal 15-liter engine, it boasted the world’s first successful six-cylinder power unit, a design aimed at delivering smoother and more balanced power delivery, a trait still valued in modern six-cylinder engines like that found in the Toyota GR Supra.
The L48 made its mark at the 1904 Portmarnock Sands Speed Trials in Ireland, but its crowning achievement came a year later when driver Arthur MacDonald shattered the Flying One Mile World Record, reaching an astonishing 104.65 mph on the sands between Florida’s Ormond and Daytona Beaches.
Notable records continued to be set, including in 1906 when Dorothy Levitt, the first British racing driver, secured the Women’s World Speed Record over the Flying Kilometer, clocking a speed of 90.88 mph.
Following its racing career, the L48 transformed under the stewardship of Alan ‘Bob’ Hawker Chamberlain, who painstakingly rebuilt the engine using original schematics, even unearthing parts from the Cornwell pottery factory.
In 1982, after 67 years of dormancy, the engine roared back to life, and the car was shipped to the UK for high-speed runs. Ownership eventually passed to Peter Briggs, and the car continued to make appearances at prestigious events like Goodwood and the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.
Now, over a century after its creation, the Napier L48 “Samson” is poised to find a new home at the upcoming Amelia Island auction, where it is expected to fetch between $900,000 and $1,100,000. Among the other notable vehicles joining the auction are the 1929 Bentley Speed Six Le Mans Replica Tourer, 2005 Ford GT, and 1966 Jaguar E-Type.