Over a century ago, steam power was the common driving force behind trains, ships and manufacturing. Not surprisingly, the well tested and powerful steam engine was engineered for use in the fledgling automotive industry. Before the turn of the 20th Century, steam powered cars at one time were more common than cars powered by the internal combustion engine.
Twins Francis E. Stanley (1849–1918) and Freelan O. Stanley (1849–1940) were already successful businessmen having just sold their photographic dry plate business to the Eastman Kodak Company of Rochester when they became interested in steam cars. The twins produced their first car in 1897 for personal use, but their design captured interest the motoring public. During 1898 and 1899, they produced and sold over 200 cars, more than any other U.S. maker. They sold their early design to Locomobile, and in 1902 the brothers formed the Stanley Motor Carriage Company (1902-1924) headquartered in Newton, Massachusetts.
Stanley Steamers generate steam in drum shaped boilers. Similar to a battery the Stanley boiler stores steam energy for later use on demand. The circular boiler walls are strengthened with three layers of exceptionally strong piano wire to provide sidewall strength unequaled in boiler designs for similar ratings. Operated nominally at 600 PSIG, boilers were factory tested to twice operating pressure before being placed in a car.
While the car could travel at a dizzying speed of 75 miles per hour, it couldn't travel more than 50 miles or so on a filling of water. Starting one up took a little planning. One couldn’t just jump and start up for an impromptu drive as it would often take a Stanley Steamer up to 15 minutes to build up its steam level before it could be driven.
It has been said that in order to drive a Stanley one first need learn to drive without watching the road! Just looking at all the pressure gauges the on the dash the driver needs to keep an eye on, will confirm why this might be true. The car has been affectionately referred to “The Flying Teapot” by car owners worldwide.
America's Car Museum's Stanley Steamer is a Model 735. Between 1918 and 1921, Stanley built was just over 1700 Model 735s and offered in in 6 body styles; 7-passenger Touring, 4-5-passenger Touring, 4-passenger Coupe, 7-passenger Sedan, 2-passenger Roadster, and 4-passenger Brougham. Model 735 was the only model car built between 1919 and 1921.
Standard Catalog of American Cars, 1805-1942 Kimes Clark, Krause Publishing