- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 2, 2010

Make no mistake about the size of the 1911 Stanley Model 85 steam car. The seven passenger car appears much longer than the 15 feet, 8 inches it is bumper to bumper - if it had bumpers. Perhaps the 7.5 foot height contributes to the illusion.

“I’ve had Stanleys since 1947,” Jim Keith says. Some have stayed longer than others but his parts bin for anything Stanley kept growing and a decade ago those parts proved to be invaluable.

Mr. Keith in 1995 purchased the 1911 Stanley in Chambersburg, Pa. He had seen photographs of how it should look but the car he bought was disassembled and packed in boxes. Part of the deal was that the seller would permit Mr. Keith to work in his shop to reassemble the brass era car.

All of the parts and pieces of the Stanley were supposedly in the boxes but some had vanished. Mr. Keith’s parts bin held many parts that were needed. “I had a lot of the old brass,” Mr. Keith says, “but we had to make some new brass parts.”

As the car began to take shape, Mr. Keith decided to paint it green with gold pin stripes. Yellow was picked for the 12-spoke wheels and the exposed running gear. Fortunately, there was an excellent painter at the shop who sprayed the Stanley. The interior of the Stanley is upholstered with black leather. The wheels are shod with 37x5-inch Goodrich Silvertown Cord blackwall tires.

The brass framing the flat safety glass windshield supports a brass framed rearview mirror.

As the mahogony body on the ash frame began to resemble an automobile, Mr. Keith and Joe Shukay, who he calls his number one helper, put the Stanley on a trailer and towed it to Mr. Keith’s McLean home for completion. That is when Mr. Shukay learned about all the plumbing involved in a Stanley.

Although Mr. Keith declared the Stanley complete in 2000, Mr. Shukay contends it continues to be a work in progress. Like most antique car restorations, the work is never finished to the owner’s satisfaction.

Valves to regulate the steam seem to be everywhere. Below the 11-inch brass, Prest-O-Lite headlamps are a half dozen valves at the front of the car. Two more valves rise up on the right side of the Stanley near the driver’s seat while three more valves are like flowers on stalks sprouting from the floor and rising to a point between the driver’s knees. Six more valves protrude from the wooden dashboard near a sight guage used to monitor the water level. On the steering column is the hand throttle, next to yet another valve. Mr. Keith says the Stanley can be driven with little difficulty.

On the floor of the 4,300-pound vehicle are a couple of pedals. Mr. Keith refers to the right one as the hookup pedal and the left one as the unhook pedal. He says both are used for reversing. The emergency brake rises from the floorboard.

Two water tanks can hold up to 90 gallons of water which, Mr. Keith says, is good for about 50 miles. The kerosene tank has a 39 gallon capacity and three gallons of hexane are carried for use to speed the startup process. In addition to all these fluids, Mr. Keith takes along a gallon of 1500 weight steam oil. When fully loaded the car weighs about three tons.

Mr. Keith says his Stanley cruises comfortably between 45 and 50 miles per hour and will easily accelerate up to 60 miles per hour - pretty fast for the front seat passengers who have no doors to help keep them in the front seat.

The black leather rear seat can accommodate three passengers. A pair of jump seats behind the front seat can hold two more when unfolded.

Mr. Keith has no side curtains for his Stanley and he keeps the lowered fabric top protected in a slip cover which preceded the modern boot. He says the top can be raised and stretched over the five bows in about 20 minutes.

At the rear of the car is a single kerosene lantern with three lenses, green to the left, red to the rear and a clear glass lens to the right to illuminate the license plate.

Mr. Keith says his car cost about $2,500 when new. It was an expensive vehicle.

Earlier this month Mr. Keith fired up the boiler and, with the long 154-inch wheelbase providing a comfortable ride, drove up through rural Pennsylvania with some other steam car aficionados on an annual jaunt. His Stanley steamer has never run better.

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