Of the many different types and makes of steam cars built at the dawn of motoring, without a doubt the car built by the Stanley Motor Carriage Company is the most well-known of all. The 1907 and 1908 Model K 30-hp Semi-Racer, of which only twenty-five were built, is the one model that has emerged as the most highly-coveted of all. It was built by the twin Stanley Brothers at their the Newton, Massachusetts factory.
The Semi-Racer has all the three key ingredients that are usually present with any car that is highly desirable: speed, looks, and power. The Model K was loosely based on the famous Stanley Rocket that Fred Marriott set a world land speed record of over 127 m.p.h. with in 1906. The styling and appearance of the car with its attractive coffin nose hood, beautifully-curved seats, gracefully-shaped fenders and large diameter wheels would be hard to improve on. A Model K Stanley in good form is a powerful and fast car, piloted by a skilled operator it is capable of close to 90 m.p.h.
- Fred H. Marriott and the Stanley Rocket, on an Oilzum Oil postcard courtesy of Fast is Fast.
This particular Semi-Racer is one of the only three surviving factory-built cars, and it includes a colorful and completely documented history. It was purchased when new in 1908 by Winfield Scott Libbey founder of the W.S. Libby Company of Lewiston, Maine. Upon his death in 1914 it was passed onto Paul R. Libbey, and it is believed to not have been run since that time. It is unrestored, with the exception of an older paint job. Collector Richard Paine, the third owner and founder of the Seal Cove Auto Museum acquired it for his collection and after his passing it has remained as part of the core collection at the Museum.
This past summer at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in a special exhibit for steam cars, the Model K had its day in the sun so to speak. While on display with a number of other important steam-powered cars, it was photographed by Richard Michael Owen who has shared his work with us here. Thanks also go out to both Tim Martin and Kelly Williams, keeper of the Stanley Register for their help with this article. You can learn about another Stanley Steam Car that set the all-time record at the Dead Horse Hill Climb and view many others here on The Old Motor.