Reprinted from Light Steam Power including Steam Power Vol.XXVII No.I.
This was not a publicised endurance run organised for publicity at a time when these American steam cars were being made. It was completed in one day in September, 1977 in England, from the Midlands over notorious Shap Fell into the mountainous North West.
Though the weather forecast was "unsettled" and rain had not helped the pre-run steam up the night before, Friday, September 2nd proved mainly fine but chilly- just as well for P.D. Stevenson's Stanley 740 is as yet without windscreen, hood, or even side doors. The sparse plywood side sheets gave little protection to driver and passenger, A. Ritchie, who also owns a Stanley. The fitting of a windscreen has now been given top priority.
With the steam car's pick-up style rear compartment well stocked with containers of paraffin, a fuel very scarce on British motorways, the party steamed away from Coventry at 4am all set for Penrith, Cumbria. Showery weather improved to fine later. Unfortunately burner trouble was to plague the crew, causing about ten stops in the first 200 miles. The original Cruban burner was suffering from low fire caused by carboning up in the vapouriser. The consequent shortage of steam was eventually cured by removing one of the eight strands in the burner vapouriser cable, thus allowing freer vapour flow. Thereafter the old car maintained steam pressure at 400 to 425PSI at 40 to 45 MPH with 500PSI available for startling acceleration in towns, at which pressure the main burner cuts out automatically. Below 40 MPH the flame dies down and restarts under automatic control. Condensing in the large fanless Stanley "radiator" is usually complete, though at about 25 MPH up the long windswept hill over Shap caused an occasional wisp of steam.
About an hour was used for completion of some fortuitous business en route, before arrival at the market town of Penrith, which is not very far from the Scottish border. Here four or five hours included a run around the town and its environs with a friend, who had owned a late model Stanley many, many years before. The return journey started at 1.a.m. the next day, when a squall was soon left behind. Burner troubles having been cured, the Stanley proceeded in fine style at 40 to 45 MPH on its return to Coventry with steam pressure carefully kept above 400 psi, which at cruising speed drops to 125PSI at the engine steam chest. This time more than 120 miles were completed without a stop, allowing full enjoyment of the exhilarating silent travel by the spartan crew.
The new parallel flow superheater, which maintains steam temperature at 716 deg. F. (380 deg. C.) at a steady 40MPH gives considerably improved running with economies in fuel and water consumption. Only 5 or 6 gallons of make-up water were needed on this return trip. The old zig-zag superheater would only maintain 572-617 deg. F. (300-325 deg. C.) in the same driving conditions, which caused a relatively sluggish engine. "Cylesso" cylinder oil is metred into the steam line at the rate of about 1 gallon per 1000 miles. If steam pressure drops below 400PSI fuel consumption increases noticeably and performance goes down.
Throughout the whole journey there was no mechanical bother. Automatic control of water level and steam pressure behaved faultlessly and the troublesome burner settled down to reliable performance after the minor modification. However, this Cruban design does suffer from a red deposit on the slotted burner plate, the reason for which is difficult to find- does anyone have any ideas? Otherwise the car is stated to be almost trouble free.
P.D. Stevenson intends to make many more long distance journeys in his Stanley, the first having been a long test run of 300 miles to Harewood House, Yorkshire, and return, which was accomplished successfully in September 1974. He knows his steam car is much more pleasant to drive than I.C vehicles, its quiet smooth power and high torque being especially appreciated. The speed is good for the roads of 1923 and later but more would be preferred on modern motorways. A maximum of 60MPH has been achieved for about 1 1/2 miles, but steam pressure was dropping. The specially allotted Edinburgh Registration Number SSC 740 is most appropriate.
Not long before the Penrith run, I needed no second bidding in speedily accepting an invitation for an evening run on country by-roads. With the steam gauge needle hovering around 500PSI, the acceleration from rest was akin to aircraft take off- and all without apparent effort. There was no difficulty in maintaining more than 400 PSI with superheat along the narrow twisting roads again with no apparent effort in almost complete silence-a faint chuff chuff chuff being heard only when accelerating away from a stop. Therein lies the charm of these and similar steam cars.
SSC 740 is claimed to be the only Stanley 740 in Britain. It is thought to have been acquired from France and possibly at one time owned by Ettore Bugatti of I.C fame, A saloon body was perhaps originally fitted. Since purchase by P.D. Stevenson in a very dilapidated state, the car has been stripped down to its chassis. The engine has been completely overhauled with cylinder bores honed 30 thou. oversize, new pistons made and piston rods hard chromed. A new solid shell firetube boiler has 636, 9/16 inch outside diameter (O.D) 16 gauge steel firetubes and steel tubeplates. The burner, steam stop valve and throttle valve are of Cruban design.
The unusual brake compensating gear is also believed to be of Cruban make. The steam pressure automatic is a Stanley. The exhaust steam circuit to the condenser includes a cylinder oil separator and a feedwater heater which uses 12ft. of 1/2 inch bore copper tube coiled inside a 6 inch diameter, 9 inch long cylinder. A flat spiral economiser coil of 30ft of 1/2 inch O.D copper tube is fitted inside the smokebox. The scanty temporary body will eventually be replaced by one of four to five seater open touring type.
Nearly all the work of this continued restoration is done by P.D. Stevenson himself, whose skill is more frequently applied to making specialised radiators for vintage cars.