Posts Tagged ‘Stanley Steamer’
In the earliest days of motoring, steam engines were immeasurably more reliable and powerful than petrol engines. Their disadvantages were – the now – that engine auxiliaries (furnace, condenser and other details) were more complex than the engine itself. Water consumption was always a big problem and the more efficient little units had intricate plumbing. The first-ever Stanley runabout was a frail little thing completed by F.E Stanley in 1897. He was joined by his brother in 1899. By then only four cars had been sold, but hundreds of orders received. To fulfill the promise the business was sold to Locomobile.
A feature of all Stanleys of the period was the light tubular underframe connecting both axles together. Bodies had their own chassis frame (of wood) and also carried the steam engine and works. The frames were separated by elliptical leaf springs (a transverse spring on the early Stanleys). The first two cylinder car had its engine positioned vertically under the seats, with the valve motion open to attack by dust and mud. The boiler, placed behind the engine was simple, but with the drawback that the water level had to be constantly watched. Surprisingly condensers (to improve water consumption) were optional extras.
Locomobile had lost faith in stream cars by 1903 and they sold back the rights to the Stanley brothers, who celebrated this by producing the EX model in 1904. This was so successful that it remained in production until 1909. There were no fundamental changes, although the tubular frame was now sprung on fully elliptic leaf springs all round and the burner was redesigned to run on high-grade kerosene. Boiler and furnace were moved up front, under the ‘bonnet’, and the two-cylinder engine was horizontally placed under the floor, with its crankshaft directly geared to the back axle. Cruising speed was about 30mph, but, with judicious over pressurizing of the stream engine, up to 50mph was possible. The range between stops for water, because of a big tank, was now 40 to 50 miles.
Stanley steam cars, in progressively improved form, were made until 1927. While many associate steam cars as primitive akin to steam engines of old – it is often forgotten just how fast, speedy and reliable steam power water driven early autos actually were and what a milestone rather than novelty automobile that they represent overall. Just ask proud vintage automobile noted auto collector and most proud owner of a vintage Stanley Steamer “Jay Leno” of “Tonight Show” fame and notoriety.
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