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2013 Stanley Vanderbilt Cup Racer

 
 
 
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Registration A548
Chassis Number 1740
Engine Number 851
Odometer reading 1,000 miles
Estimate £140,000 - £160,000

The Stanley Motor Carriage Company built cars in America between 1902 and 1924 but its relatively short life sent ripples around the world for many years after. Twins, Francis and Freelan Stanley founded the company after selling their photographic dry plate business to Eastman Kodak. They produced their first car in 1897 and, during 1898 and 1899, they produced and sold over 200; more than any other U.S. maker 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 mounted beneath the seat with a vaporizing 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. In early models, the vertical fire-tubes were made of copper and were expanded into holes in the upper and lower crown sheets. In later models, the installation of a condenser caused oil-fouling of the expansion joints and so welded steel fire-tubes were used instead. The boilers, fitted with safety valves, were safer than one might expect and, even if these failed, a dangerous overpressure would rupture one of the many joints long before the boiler shell was in danger of bursting; the resulting leak would relieve the boiler pressure and douse the burner with little risk to the occupants. Indeed, there has never been a documented case of a Stanley boiler exploding in use.

The engine had two double-acting cylinders, side-by-side, equipped with slide-valves and was of the simple-expansion type. Drive was transmitted directly from the engine crankshaft to a rear-mounted differential by means of a chain. Later, the Stanley brothers, to overcome patent difficulties with the design they had sold to Locomobile, developed a new automobile model with twin-cylinder engines geared directly to the back axle. Later models had aluminium coachwork which resembled internal combustion 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. When they later shifted the steam boiler to the front of the vehicle, the resulting feature was called by owners, the 'coffin nose'. The compact engine ran at considerable steam pressure with the 10hp boiler described in 1912 as having the safety valve set at 650psi with the burner set to automatically cut back when pressure reached 500psi. They produced a prodigious amount of torque and were popular in competition and record-breaking adventures. 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.

In 1903, two Steamer cars were produced by the factory to compete in the famous Vanderbilt Cup. This was an international event founded by William Kissam Vanderbilt II in 1904 and first held on October 8th on a course set out in Nassau County on Long Island, New York. It was run over a 30-mile course of winding dirt roads and winners went home with a large cash prize and an even larger cup. It then migrated away from public roads to the new and purpose-built track, the Long Island Motor Parkway. The cup itself is a formidable beast, cast in silver and some 2½ft high and is currently at the Smithsonian Institution under lock and key. The original Vanderbilt Cup Car was built and finished in December 1905 by the Stanley Motor Carriage Company for the 1906 race. The dimensions are sublime and it has been coveted by a number of distinguished collectors over the years.

One such gentleman with an eye for quality and a 1908 Model M already, had a yearning for a Vanderbilt Cup Car. The only people to speak to in the UK, were the Goolds. J.R. Goold Vintage Steam Restorations Ltd. is a small family business established in 1972 by John Goold and based near Bath. The company is now run on a day-to-day basis by his two sons, Justin and Grant. They specialise in the manufacture and reconditioning of both Sentinel and Stanley parts as well as complete restorations and the quality of their workmanship is second to none. 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 including fuel filters on the burner and so keeping the jets free of carbon blocks. The chassis was produced by American specialists'. 

The resultant quality is unsurpassed and now also features a number of safety devices such as a pilot flame re-igniter. 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. 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 real wheels through a high ratio back axle. The vendor has even offered, if desired, a day's tuition in 'Stanley Steamer Running and Care'.

This extraordinary example, complete with steam whistle and period speedometer is fully road-registered and ready to go and, with a heady mixture of brass and the most immaculate moss-green paintwork, ensures the most arresting sight. A leviathan from another age.