1911 STANLEY 10 HP MODEL 63 FOUR SEATER TOURER
Registration No. X 2135
Car No. 6066
Dark green with yellow running gear and coachlining, black interior
Engine: parallel horizontal two cylinder double-acting, 3¼ x 4¼ ins. bore & stroke, slide valves and link reverse motion, under-floor mounted with direct spur-gear drive to back axle, 18ins. fire-tube boiler with semi-automatic burner; Suspension: front and rear, full-elliptic leaf springs; Brakes: rear-wheel brakes. Right-hand drive.
The activities of the identical twins Francis Edgar and Freelan Oscar Stanley from Maine and later of Massachusetts are sufficient to fill a book, and have recently done so, and a large book it is too. Suffice to say that after successfully creating a business making photographic dry plates for the glass-plate cameras of the day and thus becoming comfortably financially independent, they built a lightweight steam car for their own pleasure in 1897, and between then and 1927 they made about 11,000 more.
After selling their first steam car business in 1899, which resulted in the Locomobile and the Mobile steamers, in 1901 F.E. and F.O. started again on their own account and following a dispute over patents they settled on one of the design features that helped to define the Stanley steamer: a horizontal twin-cylinder rear-mounted engine driving the back axle through simple spur gears. For 1905 they moved the cylindrical boiler from under the seat to the front of the car. It was enclosed under a flat-topped bonnet, the front of which formed a semi-circle, and was the Stanley pattern that continued for the next ten years, oddly-named the 'coffin-nose' - coffins must be differently made in Massachusetts.
Although most Stanley sales were in the States, the cars were exported, the main English agents from 1905 being W. Galloway & Company of Gateshead, whose suppliers plate this car carries. This northern location rather restricted the scope for sales, despite some publicity coming from successes in hill-climbs where the Stanleys were not apparently discriminated against for their sprinting abilities - the frequent claim of steamers being unfairly treated in competitions regularly arousing the ire of Frederick Coleman, the White steam car importer. Initially only complete cars were imported, but in time bare chassis came as well and these had locally-made bodies built by coachbuilders across the river in Newcastle-on-Tyne. Some additional customers may have resulted from the opening of a London showroom off Shaftesbury Avenue in 1909 but it is doubtful if the total number of cars sold by Galloway exceeded two hundred.
This car was brought early into the fold of old car preservation being acquired by Leonard Taylor of Portishead, Somerset, from a buyer at a Northumberland farm sale in 1946 who passed it on because he was upset that someone had stolen the engine before he could collect the car. Mr Taylor tracked down an engine in Leicester and after what he described in the July 1949 issue of the Veteran Car Club's Gazette as 'several months hard work' had the car on the road later in 1946 where it took part in the Coventry to Birmingham Jubilee Cavalcade in September - one of several such events that year to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the British motor industry. Part of the hard work had involved the making of a new boiler that originally was made of steel. In the interest of minimising corrosion this was constructed of 10-gauge copper, with the upper and lower plates being made from ¼-inch 'Monel', a nickel-copper alloy with high corrosion-resistance, the whole cylindrical construction then being wound with four layers of 16-gauge piano wire. It was satisfactorily hydraulically tested to 1000 lbs per square inch, twice its normal working steam pressure. The car was described by Mr Taylor as being in remarkably good condition after thirty years of hibernation and he commented that: 'the body is built rather like a battleship and nearly as strongly'. He also observed that 'The great joy of driving a steam car comes, I think, from its effortless smooth silence. … I feel amply repaid for all my trouble, by the thrill of its silent power.'
The car carries a plate on the front of the windscreen that states that the car is called 'Priscilla', with the added information 'born 1911, adopted 1946'. It has survived its second period of hibernation remarkably well - it will be interesting to know in theBButure if the BB cars probably now at a higher level than it has been since such cars were new, the opportunities to obtain a genuine Stanley with such good provenance are few and far between.
As a postscript, the April 2005 edition of Journal of the Steam Car Club of Great Britain carried a picture of X 2135 taken around 1949 together with the question: 'I wonder if the car still exists?' Coincidence - or what?
Coincidence - or what?