1905 White Steam Racer 'Whistling Billy'

  • Brand: White
  • Car Code: 131083

Arguably the most famous steam car ever produced, ‘Whistling Billy’ was one of the fastest cars of the American dirt track races in the early 20th century, before being all but destroyed in a crash in 1912 and left to rust on an American farm.

Built by the White Sewing Machine Company in 1905, Whistling Billy was engineered specifically for racing. It originally featured a compound 18hp White steam car engine with Stephenson’s link motion, but it was soon modified to include a piston valve instead of a slide valve on the high pressure side. This highly successful modification influenced the design of further White cars and from 1907, all their engines had this feature. The steam pressure was 800psi – twice that of the touring cars of the time – with a temperature of 750 degrees Fahrenheit, making the steam pipes red hot.

Originally known as the ‘White Rocket’, the car was lovingly renamed ‘Whistling Billy’ by the crowds who watched it race due to the howling noise that came from its burners as it went down the straights. It won numerous races in its early years and in 1905, it shaved nearly 4 seconds off the world track record for the mile on a dirt round track with a time of 48.45 seconds.

The driver at the time, Webb Jay, believed he was driving the fastest car in the world, but his racing career would soon come to an end when six weeks later, he crashed Whistling Billy into a pond and was seriously injured.

Against the odds Jay survived, but the White Sewing Machine Company deemed racing to be too dangerous and withdrew its interests from motorsport, reducing the car to nothing more than an exhibit and putting Whistling Billy on display in their Chicago branch.

Descriptions & pictures by bonhams & conceptcarz & en.wheelsage & american-automobiles

Production Start 1905
Country of origin USA