1928 Stearns-Knight F-6-85 6-Passenger Roadster
Chassis no. F-1368
Engine no. F-1368
288.6ci, 85hp double-sleeve valve inline six
Three-speed manual transmission
Known ownership history from new
Subject of a nearly $300,000 Art Aseltine restoration
One of two surviving F-6-85 Roadsters
Formerly the property of F.B. Stearns' granddaughter
Born into a wealthy family, Frank Ballou Stearns built his first car in his father's Cleveland mansion's basement machine shop in 1897. It was the first car the young Stearns had ever built, or driven for that matter. F.B continued to produce vehicles and created a more formal company, F.B Stearns Co, just prior to 1900. The company would produce over 33,000 cars before succumbing to the economy of the Great Depression.
Catering to wealthy motorists like himself, Stearns produced advanced and powerful vehicles. By 1902, he had a 20hp model with a steering wheel and sliding gears, and by the early teens his big fours and sixes were rocketing cars to well over a mile a minute. The major advancement, mechanically, came in 1911 when Stearns acquired the first American license to produce Charles Yale Knight's innovative sleeve-valve motor. From then on, every car produced featured the unique, quiet, and valve-less motors. Over time, a range of fours, sixes and eights were developed, all featuring the silent running-gear whose basic design also found its way under the hoods of Daimlers, Minervas, Voisins, and Mercedes.
The example offered here, from the penultimate year of Stearns-Knight production, is one of two known roadsters and one of the few survivors of the 519 six-cylinder Stearns produced between 1927 and 1929. The Roadster body style was the most sporting option of the ten different styles offered. Originally priced at $3250, it is built on a 137" wheelbase. This nicely proportioned car offers a comfortable driving position and ample room for those lucky enough to ride and drive in it.
Purchased new by a Dr. Frost of Edgewood, RI from the Stearns Rhode Island Co. in Providence, the car was enjoyed by the good doctor until his passing in 1965 at which point it was willed to his stepson Chester Worden. Chester, also of Edgewood, registered the car on April 7th of 1965 and showed an early enthusiasm for the collecting hobby when he registered the car with the Willys-Overland-Knight Register in 1973. After nearly score years of ownership, Worden sold the car to Delbert Pantel of Chico, CA in 1984. Delbert, an active member of the motoring hobby and for whom a class award is named at the Chico Concours d'Elegance, kept the car for four years before passing the torch to Norman Buckhart of San Francisco. Buckhart, one of the founding members of the Locomobile Society, kept the rare roadster for two years before selling it to Pat and Anne Barnes of Willoughby, OH on October 2nd, 1990.
Mrs. Barnes' connection to the car was more than passing, however. Besides bringing the car back to its ancestral birth place, she also brought it back into its namesake's family as she is none other than the granddaughter of Frank B. Stearns. After half a decade of ownership, and with only 23,931 believed-to-be original miles on the odometer, the decision was made to have the car completely restored. The job was given to legendary Stearns restorer Art Aseltine of Forbestown, CA. The frame-up restoration that was done from 1995-2000 resulted in a magnificent product. No expense was spared in bringing the roadster back to its former glory with the completed vehicle having a total investment of $330,000 spent on it. Finished in two-tone beige with red coachlines, a change from its original jet black, and seated on wire wheels as opposed to the original artillery-style wheels, there was little on which the car could be faulted.
Upon completion, the concours-quality restoration earned its stripes by enjoying a series of wins in 2000its 2nd in class at the Pebble Beach Concours was followed by a 1st Junior at the AACA National Meet. Its success continued with a 100 point award at the CCCA Grand National in 2001 and a 1st Senior at the AACA National Meet in 2003.
The current vendor acquired the car from Mrs. Barnes in late 2010. A Stearns enthusiast, he purchased the car in part to help Mrs. Barnes make room for another rare Stearns and he has carefully maintained the car since his purchase. In his care, the car was shown at the Marin Sonoma Concours and Glenmoor Gathering, both in 2011, winning Best in Class and Most Elegant Classic, respectively; a testament to how well the restoration has held up over the last decade. The odometer indicates only about 60 miles have been traveled since the restoration was completed.
A recent outing proved the car to be a very good, solid runner and an enjoyable driver. The survival rates of Stearns are exceptionally lowless than half a percent of all Stearns built still exist todayand ownership provides entrance into an exclusive club of owners. A CCCA Full Classic®, this 'Silent Knight' is not to be passed up.
- Please note that the title for this vehicle is in transit, and it will be titled as 1927.