#0044 - National Semi-Racing Roadster, 1912
Photographed: Saint Michaels Concours d'Elegance, 2008. Owner: James Grundy
Over in Indianapolis: The proud National Motor Vehicle Company was based in Indianapolis, and so it is fitting and proper that the only stock car to ever win the Indianapolis 500 was, in fact, a National. The car was a 7-litre speed model stripped down to the bare essentials, and it completed quite the historic victory, overtaking Ralph DePalma's foundering Mercedes on lap 198 after trailing in second for that entire duration. It remains motorsport history's biggest disparity between laps led and laps trailed for a winner and non-winner, and it happened in 1912.
The National pictured here is not the race winner, (which still bears the running number 8 today), but is a close kin, displaying features that, at a glance, are quite similar. The stripped down body, leather shrouds on the flanks, blue and white paint, and matching artillery wheels make this example a fitting representative, but bears a major difference in the exhaust side, which on the Indianapolis winner was carried out the left of the car. This difference calls question to the motor employed in this racer, whether it is a variation of the 7-litre 40 horsepower unit used by the Indy winner.
In any case, the car is remarkable, a rigid platform of minimalism with a sturdy four-cylinder unit under an otherwise commonplace bonnet. Many racing cars of the period are of an identical configuration and you'd be hard pressed to distinguish this car from, say, a contemporary E.M.F. Raceabout, a version of which has floated through the show circuit lately. Perhaps the most notable feature of the National is its exhaust collection box, an intriguingly unfinished piece of riveted metal hanging by the side of the car. The finishing throughout the rest of car is surprisingly thorough, with all components taking a gleam uncommon to well worn period machinery. This completes a dynamic piece of racing history that is wonderful to inspect in detail, and as a whole.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum: A monument to the heart of American motor racing
Simeone Foundation Museum: Featuring a 1912 National Speed Model in the collectionBack to Index