Founded in 1900 by Major D Porter of New York, inventor of the Porter Electric Motor, the Porter Motor Co. of 950 Tremont Building, Boston Massachusetts, claimed to build “The Only Perfect Automobile”. In that case, perfection was too much for the average American of the time, as the company folded in 1901.
Many claims were made by Major D Porter (Major being his Christian name, not a rank). Automatic water control, a perfect burner, a fuel and water supply that will last 60 miles; all to be made in a 100 ft x 35ft factory “within a mile of the business section of the city” that is “well fitted for building motor carriages”.
All wishful thinking. Further research carried out by my friend Keith Burton during his visit to Boston revealed that Major D Porter’s occupation was a “Patentor”, writing patents for other people’s inventions for a living hoping to live off the royalties. His own inventions included the before mentioned electric motor and a Fibre Container, very similar to modern day Cardboard Milk Containers. However, at the time, it seems his income was slight; he and his family shared a modest house with another family in Boston; the company office of 950 Tremont building, was in fact a hotel-9th floor, 50th room. It seems that a factory, of the type previously described, was built, the building surviving until recently. However, it appears Major Dane Porter was ultimately arrested for Larceny of upward of $3000 . A Canadian by birth, he attempted to repatriate to Canada towards the end of his life, and indeed, died there in 1918, aged 59.
I believe my car to be the only Porter Stanhope ever produced. Featuring a much more complex chassis than most steam cars of the period, a swivel joint is incorporated into the centre of the front axle, with the chassis tubes “bottlenecking” in towards the front axle, allowing a foot of independent movement of each front wheel. Furthermore, truss rods that go from the front axle towards the back of the car, have hook joints on either end to allow further flexing of the chassis. Over complicated perhaps? Simpler, rectangular shaped chassis’ worked perfectly well on the rough roads of the time, and were almost definitely cheaper to build; over-engineering perhaps. All for a price of $750, similar to a contempory Locomobile of the period; the company’s chances of survival were slim.
I came to owning this car when, in 2013, at the age of 15, I decided I would like to build a tiller steered steam car, having experience with my family’s Stanley, Mobile and White Steam Cars. Help from a kind friend of mine, Basil Craske (who has helped me considerably throughout the subsequent restoration project), managed to get me a new boiler from America, and the tracing of a set of patterns and formers for making a Locomobile Chassis, along with brand new carriage springs. Just as I was about to start having the chassis castings made, a friend emailed. I had been trying to help him find a London to Brighton Veteran Car Run eligible steam car, and he had come across a partially restored original car in the states, which he asked my opinion on. It seemed a good buy to me, at the right price. Negotiations with the owner, proved to my friend that it was outside his budget, although at the time I had no idea of the price. A month or so went by, and with little progress on my chassis, my thoughts turned to this car in America. An email to the then owner then proved that the car was available for a very reasonable price-indeed, I could never have made a chassis for that money, and there were many more expensive parts included in the sale, including a body and gauges.
So a deal was done, with me purchasing the car with my savings. Indeed the whole project has been funded by myself, with some kind donations from Family and friends! A friend was also importing some Steam Car parts from America, due to arrive in August 2014, this now being February. But then there were some delays with some parts he was having refurbished. The Porter Stanhope eventually arrived in the U.K in August 2016, which neatly coincided with the start of my gap year before going to university, something I had always decided to do, so that I could restore the car.
Research and restoration began straight away, with the car turning out to be a Porter as thought, with each part being examined, restored or replaced where necessary, and then refitted. The boiler and it’s frame were installed in four days-won’t take that long as this rate I thought, but as time went on, the realisation came that it is the five minute jobs that often take a day or a day and a half to do! To date (July 2017), I estimate I have spent around 2000-2500 hours working on the car. I reckon around 3000 hours will be the final tally. The car is currently being painted, and should be reassembled to the state it was in before painting, within the next month. It will leave only the plumbing, engine installation, and chain tensioner fitment left to do, along with the dozen or so smaller jobs! One delay is the fact that the rear springs turned out to have cracks in them, and have been sent off for refurbishment at Brost Forge in London-red oxide had been painted on to them, but not the front spring. I should have realised something was up before I disassembled them for painting!
Around the time of the start of the project, I had met Peter Rugg, The Steam Car Section Leader at the WESES Rally. He wanted us to take our 1906 White Steam Car to the 60th Anniversary Rally, as it had been at the first rally in 1955, under the ownership of Saxon Littler, although as a static exhibit as the car is yet to be restored again, after a period of non-use. We then returned last year with our 1923 Stanley, which we use regularly on tours in the U.K and Germany. Peter, hearing of my project, then mentioned that he would like the Porter at the Rally this year, in whatever state it was in, it being an unusual car that the public would find interesting. “No Problem” I said, “I’ll have it running by then”. Well, maybe for 2018, but the plan is for the car to be a static exhibit at the rally in 2017, and then for it to be completed (during the times in between being at University) in readiness for next year’s tours and rallies, including, of course, the WESES Rally.
All in all, it has been a thoroughly rewarding, educational, and, at times, frustrating, experience, but one that I feel has been worthwhile. I look forward to the first road test!