How your Stanley works…

BackTracks ~ Irregular Gems (1981)

Underneath this handsome hood is the boiler room, as the faucets underneath indicate. (Irregular file photo)

(Editor’s note: This article and photos appeared in the July 29, 1981, Vol. 14, No. 18 issue of the Irregular and is reproduced here in its entirety. At this point, Shirley Larmore is publisher. ©The Original Irregular)

From the boiler, the steam is shipped to the actual engine, a small piston that’s enclosed in a sheet metal compartment and slung underneath the car just in front of the rear wheels. The compartment is in the shape of a slightly-flattened cylinder, and measures about one foot across by four feet long. It looks almost like a giant muffler hanging there, except the tube coming out its back end is a drive shaft, not an exhaust pipe.

The cars have a range of about thirty miles before they need to take on water. That limited range is probably another reason we don’t all drive steam cars today. Several of the cars in Kingfield on the Steam Car Tour had lengths of rubber hose coiled on the running boards, to drop into roadside streams when the tanks get low.

Not a muffler hanging back here, but the engine, enclosed in sheet metal. (Irregular file photo)

Ever wonder how a Stanley Steamer turns steam into forward motion? Be assured, it’s not like any other automobile you might be familiar with.

First, underneath that unique “coffin-front” hood we have …an engine? Nope, a boiler; a small Kerosene flame, metal coils, steam and asbestos. It’s a tub-shaped affair you might expect to see heating a small home. The controls are faucets and valves that look more like plumbing hardware than auto parts. So in front we have a boiler room rather than an engine compartment. You fire it up in the morning (takes 20 minutes–can you imagine spending 20 minutes every morning to start your car?) but once it’s hot, you just leave it on. The kerosene pilot keeps it warm while you stop for dinner or a movie.

“BackTracks ~ Irregular Gems” is an occasional –shall we say, ‘Irregular’?– feature highlighting classic, interesting and/or humorous stories from the Original Irregular’s archives. For additional BackTracks selections click on the “BackTracks” button above and for those articles older than 90 days, type “backtracks” into the search bar on our webpages. ©The Original Irregular

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