Friday, September 21, 2012
These days when you hear Stanley Steamer, at least here in the States, you think of the carpet cleaning outfit that advertises their catchy jingle on television from time to time. Unbeknownst to me, at least until this past Monday, there are cars that had that name long before. I saw the add in the newspaper and needing a break from my painting I got cleaned up and drove down the river a ways, the same river in my header which I currently live on, to see what they were all about and to try out my new SLR camera that I received for my birthday. (Canon Rebel T3 for those interested.)
There were about a half dozen steamers in the parking lot and a few more that I saw later on in front of a house as I drove away. This red one really captivated my attention not only because of the beauty but because is sat off from the rest and didn't have nearly as many people up against it blocking my viewfinder. As you might expect from the name, these cars ran on steam and were built circa early 1910's. I think the one in this picture was a 1914 model.
Underneath the front, a burner hung that was run off kerosene and would heat the water in an array of small tubes creating the steam. This car held 28 gallons of water in a tank which would be good for about 25 miles. The kerosene could go almost 300 miles between fillings. This car didn't have one but another one had the factory siphon attached to the running board where the driver could periodically stop and pick up another 28 gallons of water from a stream, horse trough, etc. Top speed of this one was about 55 mph though it couldn't maintain the steam pressure to maintain that speed for long. One person claimed that a modified Stanley Steamer had gone 190 mph at a Daytona race track once. I know I wouldn't have been riding shotgun in that had I been there.
The excitement of the day was some poor chap driving a huge 35+ foot motor home and pulling a full sized SUV who chose to come visit these on a dead end street. It took lots of jockeying on his part, lots of moving of the steam cars and crowd to get that guy turned around and headed back the way he came.
For native Iowans such as myself, the location of the showing is rather obvious due to the house in the background but for those unfamiliar, I'll explain. That house in the background was also the background of a rather famous painting by Grant Wood entitled American Gothic which showed a dentist and Grand Wood's sister standing in front looking rather stern. The dentist in bib overalls and wearing a suit jacket was also holding a pitchfork. These days the original painting can be found in the Art Institute of Chicago. Here at the house, there is a museum out front where you can view thousands of parodies of the painting and even dress up in the same clothes and make your own picture.
I didn't know that there was a Steamin' Hot Tour this year to celebrate the Stanley Steamer but all these cars had this sign strapped to the back. The drivers were all going to make a few more stops and then end up at the Old Threshers Reunion which is a big deal that occurs annually in these parts of Iowa. It is your one stop shop for all things steam and belt driven.