16 January 2009
“The Dr. Barbara Mae Atwood Collection”
1922 Stanley Roadster
Sold for $74,250
Although F.E. and F.O. Stanley were not the world’s largest manufacturers of steam cars, it is their name that has become synonymous with the breed. This fame began with light steam runabouts and was made permanent when their streamlined steam racer broke two miles a minute, setting a land speed record at Ormond Beach in 1906.
The iconic Stanley is the “coffin nose” non-condensing steamer, introduced in 1904 and successively improved over the next decade. By the early ‘teens, however, it had become anachronistic, its thirst for water limiting range to 30-50 miles between fill-ups. Experimentation showed that a condenser, used for many years by rival steam manufacturers, could vastly extend the range by recycling spent steam into water.
A new condensing car, Model 720, was introduced in 1915. The condenser was, in effect, a radiator operating over a different temperature range. Placed in the conventional location, it made the Stanley look very much like an internal combustion car. Further changes accompanied the condenser, including left-hand drive and replacement of the wooden chassis frame by pressed steel. Semi-elliptic front springs were fitted, though full-elliptics were retained in the rear.
Driving range improved dramatically – upwards of 100 miles if the outside temperature was not too warm. The redesigned car was heavier, though, and its powerplant no larger, so the lightning performance of the coffin-nose cars suffered somewhat. The Model 740, introduced in May 1922, addressed this shortcoming with a larger boiler, which increased the heating surface by a third and water capacity by 50 percent. Additional features of the 740 included a sturdier rear axle and larger brakes.
Despite being restored more than 25 years ago, this Stanley roadster still presents a very nice appearance. Painted in the correct Stanley color of Brewster Green with Apple Green striping, it has black fenders and a black canvas top, the latter in very good condition. The body is straight and the paint high quality with a good shine. The only significant flaws are a kink in the right front fender, a chip on the left side of the hood and a small ding in the right door.
The black leather seat is in fine condition, and under a black carpet are correct gray linoleum Stanley floorboards trimmed with aluminum. The wood dashboard holds the requisite steam instruments, and the odometer currently reads 21,436 miles.
The undercarriage is generally clean and painted black, though without extensive preparation. The car shows evidence of considerable use, but it has been maintained to a high standard. However, it appears not to have been fired up for quite some time – although there are no visible indications that it will not do so. Nonetheless, a recommissioning by a steam engineer will be required before it can be steamed up for the road. RM Auctions can recommend qualified individuals if needed.
Purchased by Dr. Atwood in 1985 at an Owls Head Transportation Museum auction in Maine, it was formerly owned by Richard Riley of Hookset, New Hampshire. Other previous owners are J.H. Babcock and James Weidenhammer of Poughkeepsie, New York, the latter a long-time steam car collector.
The steam car hobby has flourished in recent years, though entry to the community has been inhibited by availability of cars. This is an excellent opportunity to acquire a well-restored example that should be ready for touring after a general servicing.
Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.