1905 steam-powered race car could fetch $300k
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Following on from the Jaguar E-type Reborn programme, in which Jaguar Classic is selling factory-restored examples for $535,000, comes another recreation but this time from nearer the dawn of motoring than the modern day.
It’s a Stanley Steamer - yes, steam-powered - racing car, which is coming up for auction on May 20 and estimated at $265,000 to $300,000.
Although the auction listing has it as a 2013 car, it’s based on original parts from 1905-6, meticulously restored where possible, with the remainder refabricated to exact Stanley patterns during a rebuild started in 2011.
The steam engine produced a prodigious amount of torque and became popular in record-breaking and racing endeavours. In 1906, a Stanley Steamer set the world record for the fastest mile in a car of 28.2 seconds - a record not broken until 1911.
The original Vanderbilt Cup Car was built and finished in December 1905 by the Stanley Motor Carriage Company of Newton, Massachusetts for the 1906 race.
The Vanderbilt Cup was an international event founded by William Kissam Vanderbilt II in 1904 and first held on a 30-mile course of winding dirt roads on Long Island, New York. The winners received a large cash prize and an even larger silver trophy.
This car came into being after the owner of a 1908 Stanley Model M decided he wanted a Vanderbilt Cup car.
The only company to speak to in the UK was J.R. Goold Vintage Steam Restorations Ltd, which specialises in the manufacture and reconditioning of both Sentinel and Stanley parts, as well as complete restorations.
A deal was done and in 2011 work began using a number of original parts as well as newly remanufactured parts, when required, to exact Stanley patterns. The chassis was produced by American specialists.
The heart of any steam car is its boiler and this model benefits from a new one during its build and comes with a current boiler certificate tested to 600psi.
The engine is a 30hp unit with a gas-fired pilot burner driving the rear wheels through a high ratio axle.
The fuel, apart from water and a little additive, is a 50:50 mixture of petrol and diesel; it has a range of 50 miles on one tank of water and approximately 100 miles on a tank of fuel.
This extraordinary car, complete with steam whistle and period speedometer, is fully road-registered and ready to go and, with a heady mixture of brass and immaculate moss-green paintwork.
The vendor has even offered, if desired, a day's tuition in “Stanley Steamer Running and Care”.
The Stanley Motor Carriage Company built cars in America between 1902 and 1924. Twins Francis and Freelan Stanley produced their first car in 1897 and, during 1898 and 1899, they produced and sold over 200; more than any other maker in the USA at the time.
Early Stanley cars had light wooden bodies mounted on tubular steel frames by means of full-elliptic springs. Steam was generated in a vertical fire-tube boiler beneath the seat with a vapourising gasoline (later, kerosene) burner underneath.
The boiler was reinforced by several layers of piano wire wound around it, which gave it a strong, yet relatively light-weight, shell.
Drive was transmitted directly from the engine crankshaft to a rear-mounted differential by means of a chain.
Later models had aluminium coachwork which resembled internal combustion-engined cars of the time but retained the many steam-car features such as no transmission, clutch or driveshaft, as well as a fully sprung tubular steel frame.
According to Historics, which is selling the car, the Stanley boilers were safer than one might expect and, even if the safety valves failed, too much pressure would simply rupture one of the many joints long before the boiler shell was in danger of bursting. It claims that there has never been a documented case of a Stanley boiler exploding in use.
It’s perfect the perfect car for driving in Britain in one important respect - if it fails to proceed, a soothing cup of tea is available in seconds.