1908 Stanley Steamer Model F

The Stanley twins, Francis E. and Freelan O. were born in rural Maine. Frank was a talented artist who made a living by painting portraits with an airbrush. He purchased a camera to take pictures of his portrait clients and soon discovered the clients appreciated the photos at least as much as they did the portraits. Frank, however, was not satisfied with the quality of the dry photo plate gelatin emulsions so he set out to create his own superior dry plates. With the help of his brother, a business soon formed around making and selling dry plates, successfully competing with individuals like George Eastman.

The company later moved from Maine to the Boston suburb of Watertown and sales were taken directly to their customers, improving their margins and competitiveness. A second factory was added in Canada, again improving the margins, and making the Stanley brothers wealthy.

The brothers had proven their talents as businessmen and their ability to capitalize on new opportunities. With the growing popularity of the internal combustion engine, a concept demonstrated by Charles and J. Frank Duryea in 1893 in Springfield, Massachusetts, the Stanley brother's curiosity was peaked. They soon entered the new-fangled horseless carriage industry but opted for steam to power their motorcars.

The steam cars, once they warmed up, were clean, nearly silent, and relatively easy to operate. The invention of the flash boiler nearly eliminated slow startups, and until the evolution of the gasoline engine and electric starters made steam obsolete, many manufacturers used steam as their power source.

The most common and best-known steamers came from the Massachusetts workshops of F.E. and F.O. Stanley. They produced a wide range of steam automobiles between 1896 and 1924. Only the Columbia Automobile Company's high-quality electrics outsold them from 1899 to 1905. The Stanley brothers built and sold several hundred of their first model in 1898 and 1899. Locomobile acquired the rights to the design in 1899, and the Stanley brothers used the proceeds to found their own firm in 1902, and began producing more advanced models.

The Stanley automobiles were powered by a double-acting two-cylinder engine with a fire-tube boiler that was reinforced with piano wire and fitted with a safety valve. The early Stanely models did not use any sort of recovery system, so vented steam was lost to the atmosphere. After 1914, that issue was resolved with a fairly efficient condenser system, which allowed the vehicles to travel greater distances without stopping for a refill of water.

The early Stanely models were similar to buggies of the era, with the boiler and valve controls located under the seat. The Stanleys eventually assumed the appearance of other conventional automobiles, having the boiler and motor under a boxy, coffin-like nose and the drive taken to the rear wheels.

The Model F was introduced in 1905 and offered 20 horsepower, doubling the power from the prior 10 hp model. From 1906 their wheelbase grew slightly to 100 inches allowing the boiler to grow to 23 inches. Production of the Model F continued through to 1908, had a base price of around $1,500, employed two-wheel mechanical brakes, and had a leaf spring suspension in both the front and rear.

by Daniel Vaughan | May 2020

1908 Vehicle Profiles

1908 Stanley Steamer Model F vehicle information


Model F Stanley's were built from 1905 through 1908. The 1908 model had cosmetic improvements as well as major mechanical improvements, such as the water pumping system. This car is one of three 1908s known to exist. It was purchased in New Hampsh....[continue reading]

1908 Stanley Steamer Model F vehicle information


Chassis Num: 3899
Engine Num: F-862

This Stanley Model F 20HP Touring Car has resided in its last ownership for around a decade in the now disbanded Wells Auto Museum in Maine. The known ownership dates back to the 1950s when it was owned by Webster Knight in 1951, who found it in Rhod....[continue reading]

Chassis #: 3899 

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Performance and Specification Comparison

Price Comparison

1908 Steamer Model F
1908 Stanley Steamer Model F Base Price : $1,500

Model Year Production

1913Ford (168,220)Overland (37,422)Studebaker (31,994)475
1912Ford (78,440)Overland (28,572)Buick (19,812)566
1911Ford (69,762)Overland (18,745)Maxwell (16,000)535
1910Ford (32,053)Buick (30,525)Overland (15,598)670
1909Ford (17,771)Buick (14,606)Maxwell (9,460)613
1908Ford (10,202)Buick (8,820)Studebaker (8,132)734
1907Ford (14,887)Buick (4,641)Maxwell (3,785)775
1906Ford (8,729)Cadillac (3,650)Rambler (2,765)640
1905Oldsmobile (6,500)Cadillac (4,029)Rambler (3,807)610
1904Oldsmobile (5,508)Rambler (2,342)Cadillac (2,319)550
1903Oldsmobile (3,924)Cadillac (2,497)Locomobile (1,897)300

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