Dick Hempel restored many steam cars over his lifetime, including several post 1906 White Steam Cars, with the "New Regulation" system Whites introduced from 1907. In 1988, Dr Robert Dyke from Cornwall acquired his first steam car, a 1908 White model L, as a project. He subsequently wrote to Dick Hempel, asking for help. This letter is the first of many letters Robert received from Dick. We will, in due course, publish all of Dick Hempel's letters, mainly focusing on the post 1906 White Steam Cars, and their technicalities, along with much other useful information for White Steam Car Owners that he provided to Robert and many others.
The 1907 White model K which Dick Hempel owned and restored, now owned by Jay Leno. Photos courtesy of- https://thedayintech.wordpress.com/2013/08/22/speak-softly-and-carry-a-big-stick/
One of Dick Hempel's 1909 White 0's that he owned and restored-photo courtesy of https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/258464466091904732/.
The 1909 Model M White which Dick Hempel owned and restored, now also owned by Jay Leno. Image courtesy of- https://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2695957/Jay-Leno-enjoys-wind-hair-shows-one-steam-powered-cars.html
January 28th 1989
Covered in this Issue- Flitch plates/Sill boards, Model L Flue/Chimney, Model L thermostat, Pyrometers.
I must confess that I am utterly delighted to receive your December 29th message with plea for help. In reading your words it is obvious you and your family are, indeed, dedicated to the steam hobby. I take my hat off to you, for you have taken on some mighty tough projects. For, of all the various makes of antique autos, The White Steam Car is by far the most difficult to comprehend, restore, tune up, and then operate as only it can in the hands of a capable owner. Which is why there are so few Whites being driven in the fullest sense of the word, driven. Your background in the field of diagnostics and interpretation of symptoms will serve you well, but I daresay will be challenged by your model “L”. In all the world there are perhaps eight men who truly have a handle on what makes a White tick.
Let me say right off that I do not consider myself to be a steam car expert. But I have been tinkering with them for well over forty years. Whatever level of knowledge I may possess comes from making every mistake in the books plus a few not in any books and have the burn scars to prove it. I will do my level best to try to help you from afar, not always an easy task. In an effort to make a start I have taken the pages of your letter and numbered each question you ask. My replies will have corresponding numbers.
The two sills butt up against the wooden dash on my “K” and will butt against the dashboard on your “L”. They run back to the rear edge of the frame rails and overhang there too. Then a crosswise sill runs between them, also rounded on its back edge. The sills serve a secondary usage. If you install the leather aprons, the little metal snap or twist type fasteners are screwed into the rounded edge. Without the sill one has no place to screw in these fasteners.
If the body you have is made right its rear end should just exactly sit over the frame rear cross member. What I do not understand is why you are not able to set the body on the chassis frame rails and have it line up with the body hold down carriage bolt holes. Of course if you replaced bad wood with new wood then the holes are no longer there for a reference. But I say again the body rails should butt against the dashboard at front, and then the rear edge of the body should be even with the rear frame cross member. If the body you have won’t sit on the frame in this fashion then it is either too long or too short for the frame as the case may be. At this distance I can’t help you if that is the problem.
Item #1 I do not happen to have the 0-1200PSI, angle mount type White Steam Gauge. Here again I am sending copies of your letter to those I think may have one. A lot of those who junked out a White years ago seemed to have saved the gauges, perhaps for sentimental or other reasons. They show up every now and then at the big auto swap meet (flea market) in Hershey, Pennsylvania, first weekend in October. Just be patient and we shall see whether the copies of your letter produce any results.
Item #2 The thermostat for your “L” functions in the same manner as the one used on later models but has different dimensions. And the threaded fittings come off at dissimilar elevations. It would be better if you can get the correct type. And there are many small parts and pieces that go with the thermostat casting, all of which you will need. And even if you do find one chances are it will be unsafe. These ancient cast iron castings are often brittle or cracked from freezing. What some of us have done is cut the control box off and mate it to steel tubing of the proper size, the pieces of which are carefully welded together to the same dimensions as the original casting. Some machining of the threaded fittings is required, of course. When done one has a much stronger and safer thermostat. All the White threads are non-standard in the U.S.A today, a fact which you have perhaps already discovered. But any competent machinist can set up to duplicate them.
I have here a complete model “L” thermostat with all fittings. It is cracked and not usable. If you had it on your bench you could see what you will need to duplicate. But I am reluctant to part with it since it is the same as used on my model “K” and I want to keep it for its spare parts value.
I surely want to help you all I can. Supposing I were to send it to you and it got lost? Or maybe some damn fool customs Inspector thought it was a home-made bomb! Fact is, I would hate to lose the thing for whatever reason. I’ll have to do some further thinking on this matter because, without a complete thermostat you are no place…….I also have a broken spare thermostat but with a good control box that I am willing to give you. You will at least have that much when you start welding up one out of steel tubing.
Item #3 The pyrometer gauges are very hard to find. One White owner over here has been to Hershey for years and years, as well as other auto swap meets. Never did find one. He is now setting up to have one made. Perhaps you could go in with him and thereby offset some of his expenses by having two made instead of one. His name is Allen Blazick.
Item #4 I do not have a fuel filter spare. Here again we will need to rely upon the copies of your letter I am sending out. There is a man (Joe Ersland) who has owned and still owns many Whites. If anyone has some of these parts it will be he. In May, 1989, Joe is sponsoring a White Steam Car Meet. I plan to take the “K” down to his place for this event. If you are coming to the U.S. it would be nice if you could attend this event. If not this, then plan to be over here during the Hershey Swap Meet. Needless to say you and yours would be most welcome out here too. We have a fine old Victorian farm house and plenty of spare bedrooms.
Item #5 Here again I ran into the language barrier. What we call here as a “hood” is what you refer to as a “bonnet”. For a time I was confused. Then it dawned on me that you were referring to is what we call a “top”! Your chances of locating one to fit the Roi des Belge body run from nil to zero. Those bodies were custom built, which applies to the “top” as well. You will have to do as I did with the “K” and have the assembly made up. There is a chap down in California who is the last man on earth to fabricate top fittings, sockets and he has a friend who makes the wooden bows. His name is Ron Brown. He will not start on a job unless you send him the precise specifications. To get those you will need to consult with Jim Weidenhammer. I believe his “L” has a top. If we can talk him into taking the measurements, then you will be in good shape to tell Mr. Brown what to make.
Item #6 I’ve been in the antique car hobby a long time but have never heard of a Stepney rim. I have read that some of the Whites sent to England were equipped with various items of English manufacture. I suspect this is the case here. That is something you will need to find on your own, or so I think. There was a chap in Springfield, Ohio who made steel rims. I think he is out of business.
Item #7 Speedometers are a real headache. You can use a modern cable and cable housing by simply machining the fittings to fit the threads on the speedometer and geardrive…But the geardrive itself, the bracket it mounts on, and its little fibre gear, are the real challenge. Some geardrives are 1 to 1; some are 1 ½ to 1; some are 2 to 1, etc., etc., depending upon what ratio your Jones calls for. Not only that but the fibre gear must have the right number of teeth and be of the right pitch for the metal wheel gear. Otherwise the speedo will not read correctly. It is all tied in with the number of revolutions per mile the car’s wheel makes.
It also has to do with the O.D of the tyre. I’ve been all through this several times and with several antique cars. Believe me when I tell you that getting a speedo rigged and reading correctly is one of the most difficult of all antique auto restoration chores. Do you subscribe to Hemming’s Motor News? It has ads by various specialty craftsmen. In past years I know I’ve seen speedometer repairs offered. But you need to be sure you are getting in touch with a shop that does the very old types (pre 1916) and not one that works on the more modern types.
Item #8 I am enclosing a list of names of all those who own a car like yours whom I think might be willing to assist you. There is no point in my sending along addresses of cars sitting in museums because they wouldn’t know how to help you in the first place.
Your late model fan bracket has some trade value--- especially with Joe Ersland who accumulates any and all White parts he can. And he loves to trade. And if it is the big size bracket that fits the 1909-10, 40 horse power cars, I know he’ll want it.
It’s just too darn bad I am retired. For many years I was an international airline Captain for Trans World Airlines (TWA). I made many, many trips into London and enjoyed each and every layover there. Well, those days are gone forever. I do still have a lifetime pass and my sweet wife Lynda has been bugging me to take a trip someplace. Maybe we shall make it over there but who knows when?
Here are some names for you:
James A. Weidenhammer, New York- Owns a 1908 Model “L”, has had it all apart, and has driven it many a mile. He can help you with top (“hood”) dimensions, chimney length, and sill board info.
Andrew A. Ott, Virginia- Is restoring a 1910, 20HP, model “0-0” White. Publishes White Steamer Roster just for the fun of it. Send him data on your and you’re father’s Whites.
Allen R. Blazick, California- Is trying to acquire one each for every year Stanley. Also owns an “L” like yours and a 1907 model “G” runabout. Has about 20 steamers in all! He is the man who is considering making a Pyrometer.
Glenn Weatherford, Texas- Is an expert woodworker by hobby. Has built an exact duplicate body for an “L”. Also for an “F” and, I think for other models too. He is a good friend of Ersland. Weatherford also owns a model “L” like yours.
R.J. Gurney, California- I include his name because he owns a 1906 Model “F” like your dad’s. It is one of the few good running "Early Regulation" Whites. He drives it like a juvenile delinquent!
Joe Ersland, Oklahoma- I don’t know how many Whites Joe has. Must be a dozen. At one time he had lots of spare parts but they are thinning out. May have 0-1200psi angle mount gauge. Ask him, Tell him about your fan bracket. Ask him about a thermostat for an “H”, “L”, “G”, or “K” as they are all the same type. Also ask him about the fuel filter, pyrometer, etc.
Mr Hayes, Ohio- This is the man who used to manufacture steel rims for antique cars. He is old now and I don’t know if he is still in business.
Ron Brown, California- This is the man who fabricates “top” hardware, sockets, and wooden bows. Tell him you need a five-bow top and send him all the dimensions you can come up with. He will need to know the radius of the curve on the wooden bows. Send him a photocopy of the hardware & sockets out of your parts book.
Paul Carter, Vancouver, Canada- Owns a model “L” but seldom drives it on tours. Nice man though. I’ve not seen his car but am told it is an excellent original.
Bruce Green, Tennessee- Just acquired a 1907 model “H” which is very similar to your car. Is a good machinist and has played with Stanleys for many years.
Melvin Howell, California- This man has several 1909-10 Whites and some spare parts. He may have some of the items you need. Also owns the only other “K” in existence (besides mine). A big Town car.
Dennis Brook-West Yorkshire- Do you know this man? I haven’t heard from him in quite a while. He has owned a White and perhaps other steamers too.
It’s now very late. I’ll get this in the mail tomorrow. Later on I’ll send you some technical data on White that I’m sure you will find better than a sleeping pill. I wrote it myself and if you can read it without falling asleep you have great stamina.
In proof reading this I see I should have suggested you also mention to Ersland that you have an early regulation type of thermostat. It has some trade value and you might not need it although your Dad may want to keep it as a spare. Your choice…
Here is an important address I almost forgot:
Ole Vikre, Massachusetts- This man bought out the remains of the Crosby-Ashton gauge works and does a fine job of rebuilding White and Stanley gauges. He may be building a Pyrometer for Allen Blazick- I don’t know. He is a fine machinist and fully capable of making a Pyrometer. May be able to locate an angle mount pressure gauge for you. Can also install bevel edge glass in gauge bezels…
Since typing this I’ve learned you have already contact Jim Crank, the Howells, and others. That’s good!
Keep Your pressure up!
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