Steaming to victory

Earlier this week, a team of British engineers broke the world steam-car land speed record. The ‘Inspiration’ car used a turbine driven by steam from twelve boilers fitted inside the car – check out the video here.

The previous record was set in 1906, by American racing car driver Fred Marriott. Marriott drove a Stanley steam car at Daytona Beach for his 1906 record-setting run, averaging an impressive 128mph. The record stood for more than a hundred years, until the Inspiration team drove their turbine car at Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave Desert at an average speed of 140mph.

If you want to see a Stanley steam car that’s even earlier than Marriott’s, come to Wroughton on 12 and 13 September to see our 1899 machine. It’s a bit different to the sleek Inspiration car that raced this week! 

Stanley Locomobile steam car, 1899 (credit: Science Museum / Science & Society)

Stanley Locomobile steam car, 1899 (credit: Science Museum / Science & Society)

At the turn of the twentieth century, as the car started to gain popularity, it was steam and electric vehicles that far outsold internal combustion engine (ICE) ones.

Then with advances in ICE cars such as starter motors  (rather than hand-cranks that could break your arm if you weren’t careful), things switched around. Today, steam cars seem quaint and electric cars seem brand new. But things could have been very different.

More on our electric car collection another time, but here’s a couple of pictures of some of our other steam cars (not on show at the Wroughton festival, sadly):

Foster steam car, 1901 (credit: Science Museum / Science & Society)

Foster steam car, 1901 (credit: Science Museum / Science & Society)

White steam car, 1903-5 (credit: Science Museum / Science & Society)

White steam car, 1903-5 (credit: Science Museum / Science & Society)

2 thoughts on “Steaming to victory

  1. Peter Turvey

    Another great thing about steam cars for the early motorist was no crash gearbox. They offered an ease and smoothness of driving not equalled until the development of automatic gearboxes.

    However by 1910 at least the writing was on the wall for steam cars, despite the fact that they could use cheaper fuels – kerosene (paraffin) instead of the more expensive gasoline (petrol).

    My own 1914 Stanley tourer has about the same performance as a contemporary Model T ford – at three times the price. The difference – Stanleys hand built just over 500 cars in 1914, Ford mass produced 308,000 on the new Highland Park assembly line.

    For a glimpse of what might have been – the fantastic expensive and complicated Doble steam cars of the 1920s – and some of the drawbacks of steam cars – lighting up a 1909 Stanley – see some of the excellent videos on Jay Leno’s Garage site

    http://www.jaylenosgarage.com/at-the-garage/steam-cars/1925-doble-series-e-steam-car/

    http://www.jaylenosgarage.com/at-the-garage/steam-cars/1909-model-r-stanley-steamer/

    Reply
  2. Pingback: Stories from the stores » Steam success!

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