To be offered at Bonhams "COLLECTORS MOTORCARS AND AUTOMOBILIA
Philadelphia Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum2 Oct 2017, 14:00 EDT"
From the Estate of Bob Mead SOLD $55000.
1903 Stanley Type C 6.5 HP Two/Four Seater Runabout
Coachwork by Carl Amsley
Body no. 392
Engine no. 492
2-Cylinder Double-Acting Steam Engine
Direct Gear Drive Rear Axle
4-Wheel Fully Elliptic Leaf Spring Suspension
Rear Band-Type Brakes
*Well known example of the model
*Comprehensively restored by Bob Mead
*Shown at the Greenwich Concours d'Elegance
*Regularly used and toured
Estimate-US$ 55,000 - 70,000
£41,000 - 52,000
When all was well, the little Stanley runabouts probably provided more pleasurable motoring than anything else on the market at the turn of the century - that is if they were handled properly - they ran very quietly and with that effortless smoothness which no petrol car of the time could rival. They were also quite lively...' - Anthony Bird, 1967.
Francis E and Freeland O Stanley were identical twins, whose Stanley Dry Plate Company produced photographic equipment. The brothers also designed steam cars, experimenting with a solitary prototype in 1887 before reviving the project in 1897. By the following year they had completed three more, one of which completed a spectacular demonstration in Charles River Park, Boston where it successfully scaled an 80ft incline that had defeated its rivals. Orders for 200 cars resulted and the Stanleys were in business.
The story of F.E. and F.O. Stanley, the ingenious identical twins from Kingfield, Maine, is fairly well known. Having made a small fortune in photographic plates, they turned their talents to automobiles in 1896. But before they had built more than a few cars they sold the business to outside investors. Within a few years they bought the company back at a fraction of the sales price and began production of a completely new model. For decades, however, the design of the first new model has remained a mystery. This car, the missing link in Stanley history, fills in the gaps.
By the autumn of 1897 the Stanleys had built their first steam car. Over the next year they built several more, in their dry plate factory at Newton, Massachusetts. In November 1898, they were invited to enter one of their new cars in a "motor carriage contest" at Charles River Park, a bicycle racing track, in nearby Cambridge. Competing against twelve other vehicles, steam, gasoline and electric, the Stanleys' car won the hill-climbing competition, and circling the oval track it covered a mile in two minutes, 11 seconds, by the Stanleys' account setting a world record. The response of the crowd was so enthusiastic that within two weeks they had reportedly received orders for 200 cars and decided to begin manufacturing them.
They had hardly begun, however, when a visitor arrived at the Stanleys' plant. "I am John Brisben Walker," he said, "and I have come to buy a half interest in your automobile business." They Stanleys did not wish to sell, so they quoted him what they thought was an astronomical price: $250,000 for the whole business. To their surprise, Walker, publisher of The Cosmopolitan magazine, accepted the deal, although he had yet to raise the money. With the backing of Amzi Lorenzo Barber, "The Asphalt King" who had made millions paving the nation's cities, Walker took over the Stanleys' business, engaging the twins to act as "general managers." The Stanley car became the Locomobile, immediately popular and for a time the best-selling car in America. But Walker and Barber soon took to quarreling, and the Stanleys found they didn't like working for others. By September 1899 they were "rusticating in the Maine woods," according to one account, and waiting out the one-year period during which they had agreed to refrain from the manufacture of steam cars.
"During the interval between 1899 and 1901 we were not idle," wrote F.O. Stanley many years later. "We had designed a car far superior to any before made." However, the development of the Stanley car from the time the twins left Locomobile until they marked their formal return to the industry is not well recorded.
There was great fanfare in the automotive press in January 1902, when new models were announced, and it is this type of car that is frequently seen today. Abandoning the Locomobile pattern of a transverse front spring, the new car used full-elliptic springs, oriented longitudinally, on all four corners. The wheelbase had grown to 70 inches, and there was a front seat, which allowed carrying two more passengers, their feet resting on a toe-board that doubled as a toolbox cover when closed. The front of the car had a stylish double curve, a feature that was further streamlined in 1903.
History may say that the steam industry was already in decline by the early days of the turn of the 20th Century, but regardless of that the big names persisted for many more years, in the case of Stanley for decades, their products are quite naturally fascinating to anyone with an engineering bent.
THE MOTORCAR OFFERED
According to the Stanley Register, this car was acquired by Mr. Mead from David R. Ault in 1976, who is understood to have bought it in Annapolis, Maryland in the 1950s. In Mead's consummate style a comprehensive restoration ensued, during which a considerable amount of work was required to put it into the condition that it remains today. The condition of the car as purchased required renewal of the bodywork and some frame tubing, but it retains key original components including engine, axles, springs, wheels, boiler controls.
Mr. Mead's thorough attention for detail has ensured that the car was exquisitely finished, and despite having been used regularly since its completion in the mid-2000s it remains in extremely well presented order. On occasion, it was been shown, including at the 2004 Greenwich Concours d'Elegance.
By its format and numbers, this car is characterized as a Model B which Stanley sold in 1903. In addition, while it has never been submitted for dating, that attribution, if accepted by the Veteran Car Club of Great Britain, would enable it to campaign the world famous Bonhams sponsored, London to Brighton Run.
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