This Cleveland-built 1928 Stearns-Knight H 8-90 deluxe cabriolet was engineered to be one of the fastest production cars in the United States in the late 1920s, reaching speeds of 110 mph. It is the only remaining 8-cylinder Stearns-Knight cabriolet known to exist on the 137-inch wheelbase chassis. The Stearns 385-cubic-inch sleeve-valve engine was the largest sleeve-valve engine in America at the time. Due to its high price just 327 examples were built, and today only eight remain in the world. This car was originally owned by a wealthy Idaho mining tycoon before it passed into the hands of Charles Lillengreen of Davenport, Washington, in the early 1960s. The Lillengreens sold it to Al Giddings of Montana in 2003, and he restored it with advice from Stearns-Knight historians before its current owner acquired it in 2015.
The 1929 Stearns-Knight Model H8-90 rode on a 137 inch wheelbase while the model J8-90 rested on a 145-inch platform. Both were powered by an eight-cylinder engine that offered 120 horsepower.
The FB Stearns Company was founded in 1898 by Frank B. Stearns, a high school dropout with a natural ability in building automobiles. He built his first car in 1896 and by 1899 the company had built fifty cars in Cleveland, Ohio. In 1911, the company established their legacy when they adopted the Knight sleeve valve engine, becoming the Stearns-Knight Company. The company, which focused primarily on expensive luxury cars, was acquired by John N. Willys in 1925. However, the stock market crash of 1929 brought the end of the Stearns Knight.
The Knight engine had two cast-iron sleeves per cylinder that slid inside one another with the piston inside the inner sleeve. The sleeves operated by small rods actuated by an eccentric shaft and had ports cut out at their upper ends. While it allowed for larger ports for better air flow and required less maintenance than poppet valves, it was more expensive to manufacture and tended to use more oil. The engine had very quiet, smooth operation.
The 1929 Model H, Deluxe 8-90 was powered by a straight 8-cylinder engine producing 120 horsepower. It was the largest sleeve valve engine built in the United States and powered the car to over 100 mph. The unique Knight sleeve-valve engine was advertised as 'The Engine You'll Never Wear Out' and 'The Engine That Improves with Use.' It rode on a 137 inch chassis and prices ran as high as $8,000.
The owner has just completed a restoration of this car in 2011. Only 23 roadsters were built in 1929 and this is the only survivor.