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Frequently Asked Questions


I was hoping to get a schematic design of the Stanley steamer.  I wanted to compare the design to similar steam engine designs of the time.  Can you help?

I take it then you are interested in the mechanical design of the steam engine itself.  In that case you might want to contact the Stanley Museum in Kingfield, Maine.  They are the official archives for the Stanley family including their cars.  If you visit the link on my home page for the Stanley Museum you'll see that they offer for sale a complete set of Stanley engine drawings for the 20 horsepower engine which was their most popular.

Do you know of any small scale model Stanley steamers or Whites for sale?

I'd like to suggest that you watch eBay.  From time to time (somewhat frequently) die-cast models appear on there.  eBay has a feature that sends you an email whenever something you're interested in appears.

What temperature did the boiler run at?

A Stanley Steamer boiler generates nominally 550 to 600 PSIG of steam pressure.  Saturated steam at that pressure range is between 475 and 486 degrees Fahrenheit.

I noticed from your boiler section that you talk about modern replacement boilers and show a picture of one being made.  Are some people that are making replacement parts for the Stanley?  Like can one buy a boiler or motor etc? 

I needed a new boiler for my car and ended up building it myself.  If you go to the Restoration section of the web site I describe how I built my boiler.  If you do not want to build your own, there are several people that do make them.  The reason I made my own is that I needed a condensing car boiler and those have the flue tubes welded in place.  The ones you can buy are for non-condensing cars where the flues are not welded.  I have been trying to keep my car as original as possible thus the desire to make the boiler a condensing boiler with welded tubes.

As for the Stanley engines, yes they are available as well, when you can find one.  Generally engines when available, need work.  Depending on what you get you can end up spending $5,000 and higher for a 20Hp engine and getting it rebuilt.  Over the 25-year production period of the Stanley there were a number of engine combinations made so you also have to know what you're looking for.

I would like to get technical information on the Doble's atomizing burner, as used in the revised Stanley Steamer cars of the early 1920?s.  Can you assist me?

Doble's atomizing burner was never used on a Stanley Steam Car that I am aware.  In fact the Stanley Steam Car production had pretty much ended by the time Doble started making his steam automobile (Stanley production was really winding down in 1922-1924).  The Stanley cars all used a vaporizing burner very similar to that used with Coleman Camp Stoves.  That's not to say that someone in later years didn't change the boiler and burner on a Stanley to use an atomizing burner.

The Doble atomizing burner is actually the basis for the design of the burner found in most home heating units and even for industrial boilers and such.  It is basically a nozzle with a very fine pin-hole in the end.  Oil under pressure is sent to the nozzle where a blast of air literally blows it into a mist.

How much would a new 30hp boiler cost and are they hard to come by?

New boilers for a 30 HP steam car are in the neighborhood of $4,000 to $6,000.  This would be for a copper tube, non-welded boiler.

How do I get additional info on how the pistons/engine actually works?

Actually the Stanley engine is not unlike a locomotive.  It is dual cylinder, double acting, steam engine and uses slide valves operated by a Stephenson Link motion.  If you want to visit the web site http://www.billp.org/Dockstader/ValveGear.html  you'll find some good programs that allow you to see various valve gear actions.  The 20 horsepower Stanley cars used engines with a 4" bore and 5" stroke.  Steam pressure is 600 PSIG.  The engine develops about 125 horsepower if you can maintain 600 PSIG steam pressure and volume to the engine.

My question is regarding accessories for the Stanley Steamer such as a fuel or water can.  Did the Stanley Brothers manufacture a fuel or water can that went with the car?

I'm not aware that the Stanley factory ever supplied fuel or water cans with their cars.  In the case of water the cars typically had a steam syphon and short length of hose for filling the water tank.  The hose could be dropped in a horse trough or stream, the steam turned on, and in a minute or so the water tank was filled to overflowing.  So generally there wasn't need for a water can.

Stanleys originally ran on gasoline but later on kerosene.  The pumps of those days were the tower type with the glass reservoir at the top.  The glass was hand-pumped full of fuel then the fuel hose was put in the car's tank.  When the fuel hose valve was opened the fuel flowed from the glass reservoir into the car's tank by gravity.

I can tell you that five gallon cans holding steam oil were used with the cars.  These were often marked with the steam oil manufacturer's name as well as with a reference to the Stanley Motor Carriage Company.  The early cans were soldered tin enclosed in a wooden crate for strength.  Later the circular rolled seam cans (like we find today) found general use.  You'll find a photo of a typical Stanley Steam Cylinder Oil Can on the page describing the steam oil tank.

Mr. Wilhelm, Thank you for your time and consideration. I have been reading up on the Stanley Brothers and it has been quite interesting. It seems that they also invented the airbrush applications.

If you'd like to learn a lot about the Stanley Twins then you might consider the books that the Stanley Museum has in Kingfield, Maine.  Their web site is www.stanleymuseum.org You'll find that in addition to the air brush the twins invented the process for continuously coating glass plates to make photographic plates.  That is where they really made their money until they sold out to George Eastman.  The car business was came out of them tinkering with making a better steam car then they had seen at a bicycle park show in the late 1890s.  The museum has several good books on their lives including one dedicated to the cars that is not available.

Do you know in which village of Newton the Stanleys lived?  I'd appreciate any help you can give me with this question.

F.E. Stanley and his wife Augusta built their home at the corner of Hyde Avenue and Center Street in Newton.  F.O. Stanley and his wife Flora built their home at 165 Hunnewell Street in Newton.  Now I don't know Newton that well so I can't tell you what "village" that might have been in.  Perhaps if you research some old maps you might be able to find out.  It is my understanding that both homes still exist.

I have recently gotten into collecting diecast miniatures of antique cars.  Do you know of anyone who offers a diecast miniature of  a Stanley Steamer?

I don't know anyone currently making diecast Stanley miniatures.  I do know that ones have been made in the past by organizations like The Franklin Mint.  I see them frequently being auctioned off on Ebay.  You may want to check Ebay out and even set up a search that will let you know when a Stanley Model comes along.

I am doing a drawing of Stanley Steamer engine soon unless someone had already done one in scale.  Do you know if it had been done?  If not where can I get dimension data of any engine model?  I live in Detroit, Michigan area so if anyone in area has one disassembles to measure from?

Thank you for visiting my web site on the Stanley Steamer.  Have you checked out the Stanley Museum in Maine?  They offer a set of 20 HP Stanley Engine Drawings which was the most popular engine they made.  There are 10 full-scale measured drawings by Bruce Green and they sell for $65.  You can look at them at http://www.stanleymuseum.org  I also know that there are modern day castings of the engine made as replacements so that capability also exists.

Greetings from Australia.  Your website is most enjoyable and has filled in most of my questions about Stanleys.  However, I am curious about how the generator is driven from, I presume, the rear axle - is it geared or belt driven?

Stanley generators were driven from the rear differential gear.  The way a Stanley is set up, there is a gear at the center of the steam engine's crank shaft.  That gear meshes with teeth on the outer circumference of the differential gear.  If you look at some of the pictures on my site you'll get a feel for this arrangement.  On the top of the differential is another small gear meshing with the differential gear.  A shaft on this small gear extends outside the differential cover and the generator is direct-connected to this shaft.  Thus the Stanley generator is driven off the differential and only turns when the car is moving.  This was fine as the only electrics on a Stanley were the headlights, tail light, brake light, and dash light.  The 20 or 30 amperes the DC generator produced at 6 to 8 volts was more than enough to charge the battery when the car was in motion.

I see from at least one other site that some have changed the voltage from 6 to 12.  Can you provide additional details?

The original generators did produce 6 volts.  And yes, I too have changed my generator to a 12-volt one.  The main reason is that the bulbs are easier to get and 12-volt headlight bulbs now are a light brighter than the old 6-volt ones.  My restoration section describes the electrical restoration of my car in detail.

A question arises from your dashboard electrical drawing, what on earth is an "automatic electric switch"?

That is the 1918 equivalent to a voltage regulator.  There has to be some way that when the car is stopped or not moving fast enough for the generator to produce sufficient power that the battery doesn't discharge back through the generator and turn it into a DC motor.  Thus the "automatic electric switch" served to disconnect the generator and battery if the generator wasn't putting out sufficient power for the car's operation and to recharge the battery (which was located under the rear seat).

If the voltage was stepped up and a correspondingly larger capacity deep cycle battery were to be fitted, could the idea of electrically warming the kerosene to an appropriate temperature at the burner be achieved?  I have read that the Stanley factory looked at something like this at one stage to try to improve the starting process.

The original Stanley concept for "electric start" was to basically short the battery across the short length of pilot vaporizer tube thus heating it.  Problems with this were several.  The battery technology was not that good thus it really didn't take much for the battery to become completely discharged in a short amount of time.  The wiring wasn't that heavy and so it too became part of the electric heating circuit which caused fires with the wooden body  and floorboard cars.  The generators were not all that efficient so the recharging process was not all that efficient.  With dirt roads the speed of the car was typically 10 or 15 miles per hour and that is just about the minimum speed for the generator to start producing sufficient power to charge the battery.  Travel in that era was typically a short distance and I've heard were it took 25 to 30 miles of "at speed" driving to charge the battery so the opportunity to charge the battery was limited.  The electric start idea lasted for the 1918 model year I believe before Stanley abandoned it.  They were out of business before better technology came along.

Yes, I've thought about bringing back "electric start".  I need to get my car restored and back running again before I start thinking about such things again.  Trick is to heat JUST the pilot vaporizer and do it quickly with little power.  That all said, it's great to be able to say to folks that the ignition key for a Stanley is a blow-torch!  The reactions are priceless.  If I add electric start then I loose the ability to start my car with a blow-torch and lighting off a Stanley always draws a crowd.  While electric start might be nice and have advantages, the old-time feel of things, fun, and all that still remain when I use the torch.

Why kerosene by the way?  Why not the more readily (at least here) diesel or is kerosene still better for the purpose - again I have read of one case where a mixture of petrol and diesel was used as the main fuel.

Originally the Stanley cars were fueled with gasoline.  They changed in 1914 to gasoline for the pilot and kerosene for the burner.  Too many "pops" as gasoline vaporized at room temperature and the trapped gasses explode easily was the main reason.  So for safety Stanley changed to kerosene.  Also remember that there is more heat content in a gallon of kerosene than a gallon of gasoline.  And with the internal explosion engine (as the Stanley's called them) and the resulting gasoline demands meant that there was a lot of kerosene coming off the refining towers with little use.  Home oil burners hadn't been invented (the atomizing oil burner by the way was a Doble Steam Car invention), airplanes weren't around, so all those uses of kerosene today didn't exist back then.

Were any of the condensing vehicle manufactured in right hand drive? If so, do you have any idea how the linkages were managed?

There were right hand drive Stanleys as special order.  I may have a picture of one somewhere in my files.  They were shipped to the UK and your country (Australia).  Stanley changed from right hand to left hand drive with the introduction of the condensing cars in 1915.  As for linkage, I have to assume that Stanley simply used the same linkage that they used on their 1914 non-condensing cars which were right hand drive.

Can you please tell me who would supply boiler tube steel  ferrules for 1/2" OD copper tubes.

For the Stanley boilers they are custom made I believe.  If you contact Don Bourdon he can either supply them to you or tell you were he gets them made.  Don makes replacement boilers for Stanley steam cars and those boilers have the ferrules in the ends.  You can contact Don at the address below;
        Don Bourdon
        PO Box 55
        Woodstock, VT  05091

Have you ever heard of the Stearns Steam Carriage Company of Syracuse? Did they make steam cars around 1899 to 1908?

There was a Stearns Steam car.  Don't really know that much about them.  I think SACA may have some material on them if you wanted to check with them.  I believe they tried to make a steam car for a couple years that used a compound engine.  Compound engines were tried on locomotives as well.  No starting torque basically was the problem.  The steam went from one small cylinder into a larger one before exiting the engine.  When starting out the large cylinder was steam-less for the most part and thus didn't add to the torque when it was needed most.  Up and running compound engines were great and more efficient but for cars an locomotives they weren't any good.  Compound engines really found their niche with marine applications since there's little starting torque required for a propeller.

I am a Boeing engineer and will someday own a Stanley.  I am curious about the fuel efficiency of the Stanley engines.  How many miles could you go on a 25 gallon kerosene tank?  Were the models starting with the 735 (condenser versions) able to go without regard to constant water stops, or did they just go longer between water fill-ups?

Thanks for visiting my web site and for having an interest in the Stanley Steamer.  The fuel mileage varies with how the burner is set up and of course how hilly the terrain.  Set to the original Stanley specifications the mileage on the order of 15 MPG.  The thing to remember is the condition of the roads in the early 1900s and the fact that one couldn't zip along too fast ~ sometimes 20 or 25 was tops.  Today many owners have opened up the fuel nozzle port a couple of drill sizes to get the burners to fire a lot harder; generate steam faster; and thus be able to move along at 40 or 45 MPH.  They are probably getting 10 or 12 MPG.  Then there are the after market burners that were available such as the Cruban burner on my car.  I get somewhere around 14 to 16 MPG here in northern DE which is slightly hilly.

I'll also point out that the main burner fuel isn't the only one to be concerned about with thinking of fuel mileage.  The pilot used white gas and that too perhaps should be considered.  A fill-up of the pilot tank would generally get you 16-20 hours of pilot burn time before it too had to be fueled.  Of course the pilot is the first thing lit on a Stanley it continues to burn throughout the time the car is to be used.  When one is done with the car for the day then the pilot is extinguished.

Actually the condensing cars started in 1915 with the 720, and in 1916 the 725 among other models.  Again, similar to kerosene economy, how the water mileage went was determined in a large extent by how the car was driven.  When driven at slow speed the steam flow through the condenser is lower and thus more time exists for the steam to condense to water.  Of course the slower speed results in less air flow over the condenser and lowers its ability to condense.  Kind of a Catch-22.  And not to be forgotten is the ambient temperature.  You can condense a lot more steam back to water on a winter day than a hot summer day as you'd expect.  Stanley used to advertise 200 miles to the tank of water (25 gallons) but I have to say that my experience says half that is more reasonable.

With gasoline in the $2-plus range and kerosene a lot less here in northern Delaware, I may start driving the Stanley more!  Course a Stanley will also burn Jet Fuel, diesel fuel, heating oil, along with gasoline and other flammable liquids with only a nozzle change for the most part.

Steam locomotives had many notches on the quadrant that allowed them to select several degrees of cut off and drive by the reversing lever leaving the throttle wide open most of the time.  Stanley cars had only two cutoff notches to choose from.  I wonder why this is?  Steam locomotives were able to reverse the engine in the case of emergency to help stop the train.  The throttle would be closed, the reversing lever set to full reverse cut off, sand applied to the rails and the throttle opened fully.  The engine would then perform as an air compressor pumping products of combustion (including cinders) from the smoke box back into the boiler.  Admittedly, this was not a very graceful way to stop a train, but in the days before  Westinghouse brakes, it was occasionally employed.  Is this method practicable with a Stanley car?

The lever to which you refer on a steam locomotive is often referred to as the "Johnson bar".  With a steam locomotive you had steel wheels on steel rails ~ slippage was easy to have occur especially with a little dampness on the rail head.  By having a lot of notches it was possible to fine-tune the cut-off so that the engine didn't slip but speed could be maintained.  Rubber tires on dirt or roads has better traction and thus two hook-up positions are all that are really needed.  The hook-up  not only allows the expansive forces of the steam to be used but it also reduces the amount of steam to be exhausted from the cylinder.  So on the Stanley one doesn't have to worry about tire slippage thus all of the notches one finds on a locomotive are not necessary on a Stanley.  When you run a Stanley and open the throttle all the way with the hook-up not set you'll probably top out around 25 MPH due to the exhaust steam not able to get out of the cylinder fast enough and thus the pressure across the piston decreases to the point that a lot of the power from the engine is lost.  By hooking up the cylinder only has to exhaust 20% of it's volume during 100% of it stroke verses having to dump 80% of its volume in 100% of its stroke.

You can reverse a Stanley engine as well and have it act as a brake.  You simply push the hook-up pedal to the floor which changes the valve timing to run the engine in reverse.  Because the Stanley engines were built light weight, changing them from forward acting to reverse acting is an easy way to bend crank shafts and arms.  The best application of the Stanley engine performing braking is to bring the car to a stop at the top of an incline, push the hook-up pedal to the car's floorboard, open the drip valve, and then release the brakes so the car starts rolling down the incline.  The engine will be exhausting the cylinder's volume of air out the exhaust drip valve.  By closing the drip valve the rate of air exhausted from the cylinders is limited and cylinder pressure builds thus acting similar to the "Jake Brake" of a large truck.

The main problem with using the engine to brake the vehicle is that no oil is being fed to the cylinder and piston to lubricate the interface.  Steam cylinder oil is injected in the supply steam and carried into the valve chest to lubricate the cylinder valves and then into the cylinder to lubricate the cylinder-piston interface.  Without a steam supply the engine quickly expires the coating of steam cylinder oil and the resulting metal-to-metal contact ruins valves, valve seats, pistons, and cylinder walls.

I was wondering if kerosene you use is the same as home heating oil.  What do you pay for it in that part of the country (I live in Arizona).  Do have a big tank at home like I used to have as a kid that fed the home furnace?  Seems like a handy way to fill up for some of your local driving fun.

You would need to go to someone's web site to get the exact differences between fuels as I'm no expert.  It is my understanding that the differences between them can be slight (the number of Carbon or Hydrogen atom counts that make up the molecule).  Thus there is a difference between kerosene, home heating oil, diesel, and Jet Fuel for example.  That difference is in high highly refined the fuel is and I think the order is home heating, diesel, kerosene, Jet from "heaviest" to lightest.  The gasolines are after the Jet fuels. 

I actually burn kerosene in the burner and I try and get the home heating variety (clear or around here called white kerosene and not the higher impurity yellow color kerosene).  There is also a dyed (red) version that many of the gas stations sell.  That is part of the tax deal for road use.  There were so many truckers and such burning untaxed fuels that the government made them go to putting dye in the taxed stuff.  Now if a trucker is stopped they can check the color of the fuel in his tanks and it better be colored or he didn't pay the federal fuel tax and will be fined (evidently by the odometer reading of the truck times the government MPG of the vehicle times the tax per gallon).  Anyway, my brother has an automotive service center.  As such he has a row of 275 gallon, oval shaped, fuel oil tanks over a parts room.  In them are his 10W motor oils, his gear and transmission oils, and a tank of kerosene for the portable heaters, etc.  I've been snagging fuel from that kerosene tank as it's the real clear, high purity kerosene (screw the red dye for taxes).  There's a local guy that has 14 Stanley's nearby and he has a 500-gallon underground tank that he too keeps full of the clear kerosene for the cars.  I will also tell you that when we've had the cars on tour and had to pull up to a pump in a gas station the kerosene is red and we've seen no problems with that as well.

If you've looked at the How It Works section of the web site you'll have seen a description of the vaporizer and burner on a Stanley as well as an explanation of how it all works.  The problem arises in that screwing around with different fuels requires changes to the vaporizer.  If you vaporize the fuel too much then it carbonizes and the flakes of carbon choke the nozzle.  If you don't vaporize the fuel right then it blows wet from the nozzle and that brings along a different host of problems including backfiring.  I guess the bottom line is that the burner/vaporizer were set up to handle kerosene.  Some guys use a mix of gasoline and diesel instead of kerosene.  I have burned home heating oil (one tank by accident) in my car.  So you can use other fuels but kerosene is by far the best.

I would think that a home tank would be the best.  Getting kerosene at a station usually means the pumps have limited reach of the fill hose (because of the no tax deal).  Driving up with a Stanley and wanting it filled would I suspect pose all sorts of problems.  Getting kerosene on the road is a hassle because of this as most stations don't have the taxed kerosene.  May guys just carry four 5-gallon plastic tanks with them, go in their current vehicle to fill the tanks, then take those back to the car and fill the car.  Others make due with a 60/40 ratio of diesel/gas but boy does that stink more than the kerosene (the kerosene smells like a jet engine running).

I am a children's book author and have published five books. I am now writing a historical fiction picture book which will have a Stanley Steamer in it.  I have found your site very helpful, especially knowing that Stanley Steamers made a hissing sound.  I don't know if you would have the time to answer a few questions for me, but you seem to be a real expert and I would appreciate any information you could share with me.  If you could possibly tell me, I would like to know if Stanley Steamers left a trail of smoke or steam behind them as an exhaust?

The Stanley steamers built from 1897 through 1914 did leave quite a trail of steam exhaust behind them  The trails would be longer in the spring and fall than in the summer due to the ambient temperature vs that of the hot steam.  The Stanleys manufactured from 1915 until 1925 were of a design known as a condensing steam car where the exhaust from the steam engine was circulated to a condenser (or "radiator" as many call them) where the steam was condensed back to water and the water returned to the water supply tank to be used again.  Condensing Stanley Steamers generally left only a wisp of steam trailing behind them since the vast majority of the steam was condensed back to water.  So to answer your question, if the pictures you use of a Stanley don't have a "radiator" at the front, then a modest steam trail coming from behind would be appropriate.

Just as a side note, the 1897 through 1914 cars also made that familiar steam engine sound ~ choo-choo-choo-choo.  While the condensing cars still made the sound it was greatly muffled due to the exhaust not being vented to atmosphere where the sound could be heard.

Also, did Stanleys have horns and if so, what did the horns sound like?

Contrary to popular belief, no Stanley steam car shipped from the factory ever had a steam whistle.  In fact the steam whistle is a modern addition to a Stanley.  The early cars had reed-trumpet horns on them.  These were long, coiled, tapered, brass resonators not unlike a trombone or trumpet with a 4" rubber bulb at the small end.  Also inside the small end was a little brass reed kind of like a duck call reed (the same principal that is employed with a clarinet or oboe).  When the rubber bulb was squeezed quickly the rush of escaping air caused the reed to vibrate and the resonator amplified the reed's sound.  If you've seen any of the old black & white films or Three Stooges stuff from the '20s then you've seen and heard the onk-onk-onk sound of one of the bulb horns being sounded.

The next graduation from that was a Klaxon Horn.  These have a disk inside that is rotated when a plunger is pushed.  The disk has fingers on it that click against a metal plate.  The metal plate vibrates and a short resonator then amplifies the sound.  These horns were the precursor to the ah-oog-ah horns.

In 1915 when Stanley finally included batteries on a Stanley for the head lamps (they were acetylene) an electric ah-oog-ah horn was used.  I'm sure you heard the sound of those.  My car has the electric ah-oog-ah horn on it.

I am thinking of including a green 1902 Stanley Steamer in my story.  Is that color realistic?

Green is a very popular color for Stanleys.  It is a darker green that they generally employed.  Attached to this email is a photograph of a 1913 Model 76 Stanley that I frequently drive.  I think it really represents the "classic Stanley look".  You'll note the green color which is the same color as it came from the factory with.  The wheel fenders, running boards, and splash guard were always black on a Stanley and the accented yellow wheels, springs, and undercarriage were also traditional Stanley.  You'll note the horn just above the spare tire - this is of the second variety with the plunger on top that one pushes to give the ah-oog-ah sound.

A couple of other interesting things about this Stanley is that in 1913 it was still RIGHT hand drive!  Stanley didn't change to left hand drive until 1915.  Also note the big brass headlights with plate glass for lenses.  These lamps were fueled with acetylene (the tank is behind the spare tire).  You'll also note the "coffin nose" on the car.  The boiler is under this "coffin nose" hood.  This car represents the classic look of a Stanley.  The wheels are known as artillery wheels and the spokes are of wood.  This car will run along at about 35 MPH all day without any problem.  It gets about a mile to the gallon of water and leaves a really nice long steam trail behind in the early spring and late fall.

I checked the FAQ's and did not see my question.  Where did you get replacement tires for it?

To directly answer your question there are two tire companies making tires for old cars.  Coker and National Vintage.  The tires for my car are $265 each from National Vintage.  The tubes are another $45 and the flaps something like $25.  So there's over $300 per tire in rubber alone!

Does anyone make a modern steam car?  How about a reproduction steam car of an old design?

In answer to your first question, there isn't anyone doing it routinely that I know of.  There are several people that professionally restore Stanleys and as such if they have an engine, running gear, etc, will build the body.  The body of the early Stanleys was all wood and thus is easy to replicate.  There are about 600 Stanley steams cars in existence of which about 400 or so are original (or as original as can be ~ replacement boiler, new leather seats, new paint, etc.).  The remaining cars are reproductions of some level from nearly total (where the engine and rear is probably Stanley) to some mix of old and new.

To your second question you might want to look at http://www.modelworks-int.com/ .  They are supposed to be building a kit that one can purchase to make a 1901 Locomobile which is an early Stanley design.  There are also a couple of guys that have taken a modern car and converted it to run on steam.  If you are interested in that idea you might click on the SACA link on my web site's home page.

Hi there when was the earliest Stanley steamer truck built and how can I get more info on the net? Any articles?

The first Stanley Mountain Wagons which could be used as a truck or a "bus" was manufactured in 1908.  In 1907 there was a couple touring car models that I suspect one might have been able to purchase bodyless and convert into a truck.  Stanley sold their cars without bodies so that they could be converted to special use vehicles such as tow trucks, enclosed delivery vans, etc.  How early this practice started is unknown to me at the moment.  The first year Stanley offered the Mountain Wagon was 1908 and that is perhaps the "truck" folks are most familiar with.  There were some delivery van versions of Stanley's in the teens I believe.  Large versions of the Mountain Wagon were highly popular at the Stanley Motel in Estes Park, CO.  Production ended by 1918.

Do working drawing exist of Marriotts record breaking car , if they do, can one purchase copies for personal use (i.e. model making in large scale; too the foot scale etc.)?

Thanks for your email.  I'm not sure any working drawings actually exist of Marriott's car.  A book just published by the Stanley Museum called "The Stanley Steamer - America's Legendary Steam Car" has many pictures of the car.  The engine for the car is in the possession of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC.  I know folks have studied the engine.  From many of the photos in the book one can see the design.  We know where the body was made (a canoe manufacturer).  As this was a one-of-a-kind car I doubt any real drawings were ever done.  I suspect that the Stanley Twins simply took what they needed from their production areas and made the rest as needed in the making of the car.  The photos also definitely reveal that the car evolved and changed over the couple years it existed.  So any drawings would be limited to only a specific window of time.  The book has a lot of the car's specifications described (boiler size, pressures, etc).  I've also heard there are folks attempting to build the car for the 2006 centennial of the record and that they hope to run the replica cars at the steam tour scheduled in conjunction with the centennial. 

By chance do you know if the Stanley Steamer Car was patented, or any of the parts, boiler, or steam engine?  If  do you know the patent numbers?

The Stanley twins had quite a number of patents on their steam cars.  I have them listed on my web site under the General Technical Information section.  Here you'll find not only the patents that were directly awarded the Stanleys but those patents associated with the Stanley/Locomobile steam cars as well.

I've seen a Stanley with something called a Peterson Conversion. which sounds like a home furnace burner, complete with a 120 VAC blower fan under the back seat.  He runs this off two 12v batteries and there's no generator in the car, so after running it for a while he has to park it and recharge the batteries.  Have you ever heard of this conversion?

The conversion you speak of also may include a different boiler as well.  There were a number of "reinventions" of making steam in a Stanley since the cars were originally made.  The couple I know of did use a 12V Maytag oil burner as the combustion source.  Doble used this method quite successfully however they also used a water tube boiler instead of a fire tube boiler.  I don't know of anyone who used an oil burner to heat a fire tube boiler in a Stanley.  There are a couple of Durr conversions of Stanleys I've seen where a Durr water tube boiler and oil burner were combined.

The problem with the Stanley has always been boiler steaming capacity.  Back in the early 1900s the speed limits were 35MPH and the roads basically dirt ruts.  Going fast by today's standards was never an issue.  35MPH was faster than the horse and thus in terms of speed was really flying.  The problem of going faster was brought about by today's roads and being able to driving 55MPH and feel like you're sitting in your favorite easy chair is the root of the problem.  Once you start pushing a Stanley to 30 and 35MPH you're at the edge of the boiler being able to produce enough steam to keep the car moving at speed.  For some cars the existing Stanley burners had the grate holes drilled bigger and the nozzle orifice drilled bigger to dump more heat under the boiler.  The down side of this was shorter boiler life.  Thus the experiments by some to install water tube boilers and oil burner combustion systems to produce more steam.  It sounds like whoever had the yellow 1919 was into "hot-rodding" the car.  I've not specifically heard of the "Peterson conversion" but I suspect it to be very similar to what Durr and others have done.

Can you convert a Stanley from 6-volts to 12-volts easily?

If you go to the Restoration section of my web site you'll find a sub-section devoted to the electrical restoration of the car.  There is nothing in the main parts description of the site because the electrical system was considered by Stanley as an accessory.  While electric was in cars in the "0" years, Stanley never added electric lights on a dry cell until 1913 and full electrical systems with generators and such until 1915.  Their ads used to tout the fact that there was no need for electricity with a Stanley.

You can read more details about my electrical restoration on the site.  To summarize it, I've changed to 12-volts.  I have the original Apple generator that came with the car.  It was a 3-brush regulated system and not at all good.  The 6-volt systems are also a lot more difficult to get bulbs for, etc.  Thus I changed to a 12-volt system.  The 12-volt regulator is under the back seat in front of the battery compartment.  If it weren't for the regulator and battery one would never know it was now 12-volt (unless you looked up under the dash and found a hidden cigarette lighter that I installed for connecting a trouble light or the battery charger).  In fact the original Stanley wiring only had ONE fuse and that too has been changed.

It turns out the original 6-volt Apple generator and a modern 12-volt Delco generator are only different by the length of the unit (the Delco is 1-1/2" longer).  Thus the saddle strap that held the Apple will also hold the Delco.  I went to a local generator shop and had them build up a generator for me.  I gave them the direction of rotation of the shaft so they could set the brushes properly.  The shaft needed to be shorter so they cut the shaft down (I had to make a custom coupling anyway as the Stanley one was long gone) to suit my needs.  And I needed a generator with closed ends which they provided.  You'll see pictures on the web site.

I have heard it takes about an hour to get steam up which is about twice as long as what I've read.  I assume that's an indication of how badly deteriorated the original burner was, or how badly scaled the boiler is, or both?  What is the normal steam-up time for a Stanley?

I generally take an hour to steam up my car.  In fact that is the case for all of the Marshall collection as well.  The reason is we don't "push" the burners during firing up.  You light the pilot first.  You usually do that while draining off the bucket of water from the boiler to allow space for the steam to accumulate.  Then you light the burner using pilot fuel since it vaporizes easier than the kerosene.  Finally you transfer the burner over to kerosene.  I let the burner run a good long time on pilot fuel (we now use hexane).  That insures the burner vaporizer is well heated when the kerosene hits it.  When I transfer from hexane to kerosene on the burner I don't open the main fuel valve fully.  I keep the flame low.  The reasons are varied.  The flues are expanded into their flue sheet holes.  I want all this steel heating up uniformly.  The superheater coil is directly in the fire.  At full burner, without steam in the superheater, there's no cooling to the superheater and thus that length of pipe will get cherry red and easy to deform.  And I want to watch what's happening because the boiler will be starting to make steam slowly and if there's a leaking packing or something worse I have time to observe it.  Generally when we fire up we do so with a low burner firing rate until the boiler is making steam and that steam has made its way to the drip on the engine (we leave the throttle wide open during the initial firing up.  We then close down the throttle to only let a low volume of steam through the superheater and turn up the burner to full heat.  Now the superheater has steam flowing in it to keep it cool, the super hot steam goes to heating the cold engine cylinder castings, and the boiler is now well heated uniformly and ready for the higher level of heating.  As steam pressure now builds the throttle is tapped back to keep the flow rate low and to insure the car doesn't start moving!

So, taking an hour to steam up may be the owner(s) being careful.  I know I don't want my car steamed up quickly even with a totally rebuilt burner and new boiler.  Tom Marshall has a couple of boilers over 40 years old and they pass the 800PSI hydrostatic test every year.  If one takes care of the Stanley it will last.  What has happened over the years is that folks have tried to push the burner/boiler to get more steam generation capacity.  They increase the fuel flow to the burner and that of course makes more heat.  Problem is it causes more boiling of steam bubbles at the bottom flue sheet allowing the bottom flue sheet to get hotter.  The hotter flue sheet and tubes causes a leak to occur faster and drastically shortens the life of the boiler so that some folks end up getting new ones every 8-10 years or so if they drive the car at much.

A Stanley owner also said he replaced the Stanley burner in his car with an oil burner type design because there were so many holes rusted in the original that wind gusts would blow out the flame.  Does this seem reasonable?

Having the problem you describe can be caused from a number of problems.  Holes in the burner is one cause.  Another is the exhaust ducting not being tight.  There are actually a whole host of areas that would need to be investigated to see what might be causing this.  I suspect if it's like any other Stanley it is a combination of problems including improper vaporization, incorrect air/fuel ratios, etc.  I remember the first time I fired up my Stanley for the purpose of driving it.  I had fired it like 3 or 4 times to check things out building up steam slowly, finding leaks, fixing them when the car cooled, then going through the process again.  I then decided to move the car under its own power on like the 6th firing up.  Well no sooner than I started moving there was a loud bang and the burner went out.  It scared the shit out of my nieces (and me to not expecting it).  I didn't have the smokebox on the top of the boiler and the back draft blew the flame out the mixing tubes.  For the 7th try and drive I had the smokebox in place and tight to the top of the boiler.  I've never had a problem since.

One disadvantage of the oil burner conversion is that it uses a spark plug for ignition and doesn't have a pilot light, which means you can't use the pilot light to hold steam pressure when it's not running.  Any thoughts?

You are right about the spark plug not having the advantage of the pilot to maintain steam.  You'd actually find this to be quite a disadvantage.  The other problem I don't like with the oil burner fired designs is you can't throttle the fire.  In a parade where you are driving slowly you need to be able to cut back on the burner.  The burner coming on full builds up steam quickly and shuts off.  Well if there's any distance to go the vaporizer actually cools enough that you end up on one of the firing cycles blowing wet kerosene into the burner.  This causes a backfire real quickly.  By only cracking the burner fuel valve open enough for a low fire you keep the burner lit, the vaporizer hot, and make steam slowly to cover what you have been using driving in the parade.  We have a local parade on the 4th of July that is about a mile all downhill.  No steam needed.  Problem is at the end one has to drive away on a busy road.  Insuring you have the burner lit and making steam is a trick on that parade because the burner is always cold by the time you get there.

Woodbury wrote in his book "The Story of a Stanley Steamer" about cruising all day at 45 mph so I had assumed that was a normal running speed.  You mention 35 mph in your web site.  Why the difference?

Woodbury is known to have "embellished" some of his writings in the interest of keeping the reader interested.  It turns out that a number of the things he said in the text were hyped up either by him or his publisher to make it a better seller (which I think they accomplished considering the interest the book still generates).  I've had my steamer up to 52-53 MPH but it won't do that "all day".  I can go along at 30 MPH and hold 600 PSIG steam pressure but if I increase it to 35 MPH then my steam pressure is running 450 to 500 PSIG.  That is on the level.  Put hills in the mix and the average speed slows.  Consider it this way, the boiler generates 20 horsepower at 550 PSIG by the way it is designed by Stanley barring any "mods".  I put my Stanley on my brother's dyno and it requires about 15 HP just to overcome internal friction and such and hold 35 MPH on the dyno.  Now add wind resistance, the weight of passengers, tools, etc, and you see that the 20 HP boiler and 30-35 MPH are the limit on the power curve for the car on level pavement.  Someone I understand once dyno tested a Stanley engine.  125 HP is what I think the data showed provided you could feed it 600 PSIG steam continuously.  That's the beauty of the Stanley design ~ 125 HP for short periods but you'd better have a log downgrade where you can shut the throttle and allow the boiler to recover at the 20 HP rate or your going to end up parked.

I've never driven a car with two wheel brakes, but having put many miles on a Model A with 4-wheel mechanical brakes I wouldn't plan on driving a Stanley all that fast anyway.  Actually the mechanical brakes on the Model A aren't bad in themselves, but with those skinny tires even if you lock up all four wheels you don't stop very quickly.  What's is stopping like with a heavy Stanley and only having rear wheel mechanical brakes?

I've never experienced brake fade until I drove a Stanley.  I had the luxury of learning to drive a Stanley by Tom Marshall graciously teaching me to drive his 1913 Model 76 which is perhaps my favorite Stanley model of all time.  That car had hydraulic brakes on the rear.  But they still fade.  The original Stanley brakes would generally not permit the wheels to lock and skid.  With the addition of the hydraulic brakes it is possible to skid a wheel especially if the shoe settings are off or one of the shoes have become contaminated with oil from a leaking wheel axle seal.  Being able to lock up a wheel because the hydraulic brakes are more efficient brings on another problem.  You can skid the wheel(s) but this skidding also means you can spin the tire (and tube) on the rim easy.  If you manage to slide the tire on the rim even slightly you have the tube's valve stem protruding up through the metal rim and wooden artillery wheels.  That will sheer of the valve stem very cleanly from the tube and the next thing you might find is you're skidding on the metal rim of the wheel!  Not good. 

So, given all the discussions regarding making the boiler more efficient at generating steam to go faster, getting a Stanley stopped is wrought with opportunity for disaster if its not handled properly.  For me I keep in mind the way things were in the era of the Stanley.  It was arguably one of the most powerful modes of personal transportation of the early 20th century when the motor carriage was being developed.  Part of the thrill of driving a Stanley for me is driving it they way it was done in a bygone era.  Dealing with the car and it's inherent personality is what it is all about in my opinion.  Jay Leno wrote in an article for Popular Mechanics that his old cars all have a unique and individual personality.  The excitement is getting to know each car's personality and working with it.  Today it doesn't matter if you buy a Lexus, Cadalliac, Lincoln, Mercedes, or other car; they all drive and ride pretty much the same.  There's no personality; just features and creature comforts.  In my opinion Jay is absolutely right ~ the thrill of driving my 1918 Stanley is its personality.  It is as if it is almost a living machine.  My plastic bodied, comfortably equipped, Saturn L300 is simply personal transportation.

I seem to recall seeing a 30 hp boiler for sale a few years ago which drew a lot of interest, and I assumed it was because people weren't happy with the 20 hp system.

Stanley owners may have put a 30 HP boiler in a 20 HP car, I'm not sure.  What you end up with is a few more MPH sustained driving speed for all the effort.  There's generally still a 20 HP engine under the car.  The added problem with this conversion is going from a 23" diameter to a 30" diameter boiler ~ the 23" sits between the frame members and the 30" does not.  Perhaps the better solution is as I did and that is changing from a 14" height to a 16" height.  Stanley went to an 18" height in later years but folks who have had all 3 sizes indicate that the 16" height is perhaps the best.  What should have happened with the condensers is a 30 HP boiler and engine.

It is interesting to look at someone experienced in running a steam car such as Tom Marshall.  I've see Tom, in his 1910 Model 71 (20 HP) pull away from me in his 1913 Model 76 (20 HP) and another driver in the 1912 Model 87 (30 HP).  The trick to running a Stanley is knowing how to operate the throttle, driving optimally for the road conditions, and only using steam where steam is needed.

I'm curious about your use of the term "Apple" generator.  Was Apple a manufacturer?  I've read that the early Model A Fords had an Apple generator, but I never knew where the term came from.  In any event this proved troublesome and was replaced with a more conventional three-brush generator early in the production.  Can you shed some light on this?

If you look at the Restoration page, the article on Electrical System, Original Wiring shows a picture of the Apple Electric Company's voltage regulator.  Apple was a manufacturer.  If I'm not mistaken the initial generators were all 3-brush design.  It wasn't until later that the 2-brush design was introduced and with the 2-brush design the use of an external regulator.  3-brush generators as I understand it didn't need an external regulator as that was the purpose of the 3rd brush ~ to provide regulation.

I wonder if a standard Model A generator would fit on a Stanley?  Generators, bulbs, etc. for Model A's are very easy to get.

I just looked at my Bratton's catalog and the Model A generator shown in it would not work for a Stanley (at least for mine due to the mounting means).  If you look at the pictures of my generator you'll see it mounts with a large wrap-around clamp.  The Model A generators in Bratton's have end plates with mounting ears.

The other reason I went to 12-volt is that I could get brighter bulbs for the headlights and tail lights.  When I drive the Stanley I do so with the lights on for better visibility.  Thus I wanted the lights bright in the daytime as that's when I will drive the car mostly.  Also with 12-volts the current levels are 1/2 what they would be at 6-volts and thus there's less arcing and current through the old switches, connectors and that sort of thing.

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