HomePick of the DayPick of the Day: 1912 Stanley Special reborn

Pick of the Day: 1912 Stanley Special reborn

Son of one of the Stanley twins designed his own steam-powered cars, and one has been used to re-create the last one


The Stanley twins, identical brothers Francis Edgar and Freelan Oscar, invented a process for coating photographic dry plates that revolutionized photography and brought them a fortune when they sold the process to Eastman Kodak. The windfall allowed them to pursue their passion for self-propelled vehicles and they became famous for the speeds achieved by their steam-powered automobiles.

By 1917, the brothers would turn their auto company over to F.E.’s sons-in-law and their cousin, and to company production manager Carlton Stanley. F.E. died a year later when he crashed while attempted to avoid a collision with farm wagons traveling side-by-side across the roadway. F.O., who suffered from tuberculosis, moved to Colorado for his health and lived to be 91.

But our focus here is on F.E. Stanley’s son, Raymond, and to one of the three cars he created after receiving a degree in automotive design from Harvard University. One of those cars, or at least its re-creation using original parts, the 1912 Stanley Special, is the Pick of the Day and is being advertised for sale on ClassicCars.com by a dealer in St. Louis, Missouri.

Stanley, Pick of the Day: 1912 Stanley Special reborn, ClassicCars.com Journal
Stanley, Pick of the Day: 1912 Stanley Special reborn, ClassicCars.com Journal
The boiler

“Raymond’s first car was a non-production-looking version of the famous Model H Gentlemen’s Speedy Roadster, completed when he was just 14 years old,” according to the dealer’s research. “Built on a short wheelbase and powered by a 10-horsepower engine (the full-size H was 20 horsepower), it took Raymond to school and back, and he drove it to Maine in the first summer. 

“Raymond designed his next car specifically for himself, and the factory pulled out all the stops. Choosing a 30-horsepower engine, as used in the Model K Semi-Racer and the Model Z nine-passenger Mountain Wagon, he specified a 118-inch wheelbase chassis used by the Mountain Wagon and designed a sleek, low two-seat roadster body. 

“The car was completed in 1911, but Raymond did not keep it long, selling it to Thomas Plant, a wealthy businessman, on 25 April 1912. The car remains in existence today, restored. 

“The next special built to Raymond’s design was lower and longer still. It sat on a non-standard 130-inch wheelbase and, of course, the powerful 30-horsepower engine. There was no glass windscreen, only a Cambridge Windshield (also known as canvas cowl) to direct the airflow over the cockpit.”

Stanley, Pick of the Day: 1912 Stanley Special reborn, ClassicCars.com Journal

It is that third vehicle, or rather its re-creation using the earlier 1911 roadster, that is being offered for sale, for $169,500.

“By 1913, Raymond had changed the lighting to the newest style and raised the windshield, eventually fitting two ‘portholes’ for better visibility,” the dealer reports. “He also had a luggage platform added behind the cockpit, finished off with a round tank at the rear. 

“The car was fitted with novel combination kerosene and electric side lamps and electrically ignited E&J gas headlamps, which necessitated a battery box on the running board. Production Stanley automobiles would not get these features until a year later. 

“The wheels were of standard 28-inch artillery wood-spoke configuration but featured solid disc covers on both sides.

“Unfortunately,” the dealer continues the story, “Raymond’s roadster did not survive. Its steering gear proved to be a weak point, and on its second failure, it catapulted Raymond and his passengers through a barbed wire fence, with the front wheels stopping in a pond. Fortunately, there were no serious injuries, but Raymond’s father nonetheless ordered the car be dismantled. 

“That is where it might have ended, but for the efforts of a renowned Stanley collector and restorer, Brent Campbell. Campbell is the grandson of a Stanley factory employee who had later worked for factory service manager Fred Marriott (also the race driver who had set the 1906 land speed record for Stanley); Campbell had previously acquired and restored the remains of Raymond’s 1911 Stanley special. 

“Working from period photographs of the original car, he spent years collecting appropriate 30-horsepower Stanley parts from the 1912 era. Choosing to replicate the car’s initial configuration before Raymond updated the fenders and lighting, Campbell obtained a set of authentic 1912 fenders and early-type lights.

“Reproduction of the unique chassis and body framing was undertaken by Mark Herman, a cabinet-maker renowned for woodwork on early Stanleys. The skeleton was skinned in aluminum by Don Irvine in Michigan and finished to a high standard in two-tone gray with black accents and distinctive pale yellow wheel discs. The body features gorgeous nickel trimmed lamps, a nickel klaxon horn, dual carriage lamps, a full top, and twin rear-mounted spares, just as it appeared in early period images, copies of which are included in the file. 

“The Special Roadster was completed in 2016 and toured for a week that summer in Rhode Island. It celebrated Independence Day 2017 by passing the ultimate test: driving up New Hampshire’s Mount Washington Auto Road, the highest peak in New England, with an average gradient of 11.6 percent. 

“On that occasion, Jay Leno was at the wheel, and the event was captured on video by a 40-member production team wielding 12 cameras, one of them on a helicopter hovering overhead.”

The dealer notes that the car repeated the climb four times, “chewing up the challenging hill-climb with ease.”

Stanley, Pick of the Day: 1912 Stanley Special reborn, ClassicCars.com Journal
Period photo

To view the car’s listing on ClassicCars.com, see Pick of the Day.

Larry Edsall
Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.



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