Lot 205: 1900 Locomobile Steamer Type 2 5-½hp Spindle Seat Runabout
Entrepreneurs A L Barber and J B Walker formed The Locomobile Company in 1899, having purchased the rights from the Stanley Brothers to manufacture a steam car to their design. Other interests diverted Walker from the partnership, however Barber was to continue, producing his first car from his Newton, Massachusetts Works in 1899. This was a lightweight four-wheeler with wire wheels, coachwork borrowing much from the horse-drawn era, and the vehicle powered by a twin-cylinder simple engine with a 14 inch boiler beneath the driver’s seat. Power was progressively increased and by 1900 a 5 1/2hp model was the norm. Steering was by a right-hand mounted tiller and final drive by a single block chain with a contracting brake operating on the open drive differential. Full elliptic springs, (transverse at the front), provided a comfortable ride on the primitive roads in its country of manufacture.
This remarkably conserved car hails from Brooklyn where its history can be traced back to 1950 or so, having been stored in a loft in a scrap yard in that area. It remained in that ownership until 1988 when it was imported into the U.K. and during the following nine years underwent a most meticulous conservation/restoration process. The boiler and fire-pan were beyond repair so new ones were manufactured to modern standards, using the originals as patterns. The exceptionally original body was given a coat of preservative to stabilise the woodwork in areas where the original paint is missing. The exposed metalwork of the underframe was nitric acid-dipped to provide an inert protective ‘skin’. The original upholstery on the seat back was removed, cleaned and remounted on a protective backing before being re-buttoned. The remaining sections of the tooled leather front apron were applied to a canvas backing and then re-mounted. Safety modifications include a double-acting band brake, allowing some braking in reverse, and the fitting of a brace to the rear axle to prevent sagging. Both of these modifications, copies of period after-sales items, can be easily removed.
The resulting restoration saw this car achieve a complete London to Brighton Run in 2001. In 1999 it was invited to attend the Cartier Style et Luxe Concours d’Élégance at The Goodwood Festival of Speed where it enjoyed the notable distinction of completing the slowest run of the weekend on the hill.
Restorations with such attention to conservation detail are indeed rare today. Offered with this car are its original fire-pan and boiler, two of the original wheels and numerous small spares including all items removed and necessarily replaced during restoration. A useful file includes much technical information amassed during the last seven years of ownership together with paperwork and certification relating to the construction of the current boiler. Also included is an album of photographs detailing the restoration/conservation process. Steam cars are admirably catered for by both the Steam Car Club of Great Britain and the V.C.C. of GB who have officially dated this car 1900. It comes with a V.C.C. Dating Certificate (No.2214), Swansea registration document, current road fund licence and MoT certificate.
Estimate: £25,000 to 28,000