1906: Stanley driven by Frank Marriott

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Stanley "Steamer"

Double acting steam
125 kg
50 bhp
2 spd. Cardan shaft
Top Speed:

127.66 mph


Frank Marriott has several special claims to fame, particularly when it came to World Land Speed Records, although like many of his rivals he appears in the list only once.

One of his claims, and this one cannot be challenged, is that he was the last man to establish a new world record with a car driven by motive power other than the internal combustion engine.

His choice was a Stanley Steamer, one of the most successful of steam designs, still made in the United States until very much later in motoring history.

The venue for Marriott's steam swan song was the annual Daytona speed trials in January 1906, where he covered the kilometre in 18.4 seconds and the mile in 28.2 seconds.

The kilometre speed works out at 121.57, but the mile speed was 127.66, or approaching 20 miles an hour better than the standing record.

This was such a big jump that it stood unbeaten for four whole years. Another of Marriott's claims is that he was the first man to exceed two miles a minute, and when you take into consideration this was achieved by “steam” power, you cannot help but admire his courage.

Marriott's Stanley was impressive because it was so silent in comparison with the thundering multi-literd contemporary petrol-engined cars. It was also much lower to the ground, yet surprisingly less of the driver projected from the cockpit.

In fact all that could be seen from the front was Marriott's head, wearing a close-fitting Belgian-type beret.

The body enveloped all the machinery in the modern manner and had a knife-edge front. Later he tried to improve on his own very fast speed but lost control and crashed, but was not seriously injured, even though travelling at an estimated 120 mph.

This car deserves a special place as the last steam car to hold the world record and the last non-petrol driven vehicle to hold the record until we come to the paraffin-operated turbines of modern times. Its other claim is that it was the first car to hold the record at over two miles a minute, although the 200 hp. Darracq had achieved this speed but not on a record run.

The Stanley Brothers, probably the best known and most successful of the steam-car makers, started up in 1897, sold their flourishing business to the rival Locomobile Company in 1899 for 250,000 dollars, and later bought it back, apparently for a bargain price.

The Stanleys, F. 0. and F. L., were making in 1906 a standard 10 horse-power chassis, and this Marriott used for his record run. But he used a 20 horse-power boiler specially made and tested to withstand much more than the normal pressure. He also used a stream lined body.

The following year, in a machine called the Rocket with an even higher boiler pressure, Marriott reached 190 m.p.h., but crashed. That would be his last attempt.

Also See:

Land Speed Record Drivers
Herbert Austin LSR Attempt
History Of The Land Speed Record
Unique Cars and Parts USA - The Ultimate Classic Car Resource