Rare 1910 Stanley Steam Car

Rare 1910 Stanley Steam Car

Kevin Anderson’s passion for steam engines started when he was a boy in grade school. While mowing yards for people, he would notice things that he wanted to trade for as payment for his services.
“Some of those little old ladies would make me mow their yard twice,” he said with a laugh. Today, that passion for collecting old things has led to Anderson’s acquisition of a 1910 Stanley Steam car.

The car just got back from Pennsylvania where it was restored and put into total working order. The car’s front axle had to be rebuilt and the engine was also overhauled. “There are not too many Stanley Steamer hospitals left out there,” Anderson remarked. He bought the car a few years ago from an elderly widow in California, whose husband he had spoken with two years earlier about purchasing the car.

“Just imagine, this thing was fast for 1910!” he exclaimed while driving along Hwy 12, just outside of his lifelong Andover home. Modern vehicles were zooming by at 70 miles an hour while Anderson and his steam car ambled along. “Forty miles an hour was a heck of a speed back then for the road conditions. There probably wasn’t a paved road in the whole state of South Dakota in 1910.”

It may be hard to believe, but a Stanley Steam car held the land speed record for steam cars from 1906 all the way up to about two years ago. That vehicle was clocked at over 127 miles per hour. “In an open cab like this, 40 miles an hour feels like 100!” Anderson remarked. He plans to get a speedometer installed in his car soon.

To put the vehicle’s age into perspective, Anderson pointed out that the Titanic was built in 1912, two years after his car. The body of the car is wooden. The engine is a boiler made of steel and wrapped in piano wire for strength. “Us steam car guys, to get our adrenalin going, we have to build a fire under our wooden bodied cars and go down the road as fast as we can,” Anderson said with a laugh. A key design element of the Stanley Steam car is that the engine is connected directly to the rear end, he says. “You can get equal speed in either direction!”

The car is a Model 70, of which only about 10 still exist, he says. Worldwide, only around 400 to 500 of all models of Stanley Steam cars are left.

It comfortably seats five people in the open air cab. The cloth roof can retract and the windshield is made of two panes of glass. “The only thing it doesn’t have is a place for a garage door opener. It has no cup holders either,” Anderson joked. The wheels are also made out of wood. They stand at 36 inches high and just four inches wide. Anderson says that in 1910, there were few good roads and sometimes the ruts in the road were a foot deep, so tall wheels were a necessity

The car runs on kerosene and water, and gets 12-15 miles per gallon. It has a range of about 70 miles and generates 650 pounds of steam pressure. It takes about 20-30 minutes for the engine to heat up enough to get it running.

Today, Anderson orders kerosene in bulk and runs clear because the dyed fuel has more of an odor. In 1910, kerosene was only about two cents a gallon and water was free. So it is a little more expensive to run now. (Exerpt from story by Amanda Fanger)