1906 Stanley 30HP "Vanderbilt"

1906 Stanley 30HP "Vanderbilt"

At the turn of the 20th century, steam cars looked like the most promising technology for the new-fangled horseless carriage industry. Clean, virtually silent, and relatively easy to operate once they warmed up, all it took was a little patience, and access to a water supply. Until the evolution of the gasoline engine and electric starting made steam obsolete, even with the invention of the flash boiler - which almost eliminated slow startups - a broad range of steam car manufacturers vied for the public's dollars and attention. Certainly the best known, if not the most common steamers, came from the Massachusetts workshops of former photographic equipment makers F.E. and F.O. Stanley. The Stanley brothers – identical twins – produced a wide range of steam automobiles between 1896 and 1924. Only the Columbia Automobile Company's high-quality electrics outsold them from 1899 to 1905. The Stanley brothers built and sold several hundred of their first model in 1898 and 1899. After F.E. and his wife drove one to the top of Mount Washington in New Hampshire in 1899, other interested parties took notice; one was Locomobile, which purchased rights to the design. The Stanley brothers used the proceeds to found their own eponymous firm in 1902, and began producing more advanced models.

Stanleys were powered by a double-acting two-cylinder engine, and benefitted from the use of a fire-tube boiler that was reinforced with piano wire and fitted with a safety valve. Because Stanley's early motors did not incorporate any sort of recovery system, vented steam was lost to the atmosphere. After 1914, that issue was resolved with a fairly efficient condenser system, which greatly increased the distance travelled without stopping for a refill of water. The earliest cars were buggy-like, with their boiler and valve controls under the seat, but eventually came to look much like conventional automobiles, having the boiler and motor under a boxy, coffin-like nose and the drive taken to the rear wheels.

The famous "Vanderbilt" Stanley became a legend the day it was built. No steam car was more exciting or embodied the performance potential of this thoroughbred racer. Unfortunately, the originals are long lost to time, but thankfully a few exacting replicas have been made to demonstrate the amazing potential of these cars.

Originally designed to compete in the Vanderbilt cup race in Long Island, the Stanley's employed all their technical knowhow to create a machine to take on the world finest gasoline motor cars. The Stanley's had already proven the huge speed potential of their propulsion system by smashing the land speed with the streamlined racing car called the "Woggle-Bug". Driven by a company employee to a staggering 127 mph on the sand at Daytona Beach, Florida, that Stanley established a world record for the flying mile – 28.2 seconds – along with a new World Land Speed Record.

The Stanley Vanderbilts were ordered by 2 Philadelphia amateurs with aspirations of racing in the event built to the specification that they do one mile in 30 seconds. The Vanderbilt's were not ready in time for the road race but did achieve an unrivaled record of success in other competitions. Up and down the east coast, the Stanley Vanderbilts were nearly undefeated in hill climb contests. Both of these cars are long lost.

This particular Vanderbilt was built in 1994 by noted Stanley expert Robert J. "Bud" Boudeman to be the ultimate Stanley racer and nothing was held back by using both a massive 34" boiler (four inches larger than Stanley 30hp) and modified Bryan engine. Buck Boudeman pioneered using these engines in his Vanderbilt Cup Racer Replicas, replacing most of the moving parts with titanium parts and boring out the piston valves to their maximum to improve the breathing. Rough estimates are that this engine can produce 300 hp. When tested on a dynamometer under Bensons ownership a torque figure of 1000 ft/lbs was achieved along with brief horsepower figures nearing 300hp. This startling potential was way beyond any gas automobile of the period.

Descriptions & pictures by bonhams & flickr & other

Production Start 1906
Country of origin USA