Founded in 1900 by Major D Porter of New York, inventor of the Porter 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”, patenting others inventions for a living hoping to live of the royalties. Inventions with patents in his name included an 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 house with another family in a modest house 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 fairly recently.However, it appears Major Dane Porter was 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 cost. 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 the 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 of that year. 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.
In the Next Part-The Restoration Begins.