<i>The Ex-William F. Harrah, James A. Conant Collections</i><BR /><B>1907 Stearns 60hp Seven Passenger Touring</B><BR />Chassis no. 350<BR />Engine no. 150
Lot 265
The Ex-William F. Harrah, Ex-James A. Conant Collections
1907 Stearns 60hp Seven Passenger Touring
Chassis no. 350
Engine no. 150
US$ 650,000 - 850,000
£ 490,000 - 650,000

Amended
Lot Details
<i>The Ex-William F. Harrah, James A. Conant Collections</i><BR /><B>1907 Stearns 60hp Seven Passenger Touring</B><BR />Chassis no. 350<BR />Engine no. 150 <i>The Ex-William F. Harrah, James A. Conant Collections</i><BR /><B>1907 Stearns 60hp Seven Passenger Touring</B><BR />Chassis no. 350<BR />Engine no. 150 <i>The Ex-William F. Harrah, James A. Conant Collections</i><BR /><B>1907 Stearns 60hp Seven Passenger Touring</B><BR />Chassis no. 350<BR />Engine no. 150 <i>The Ex-William F. Harrah, James A. Conant Collections</i><BR /><B>1907 Stearns 60hp Seven Passenger Touring</B><BR />Chassis no. 350<BR />Engine no. 150 <i>The Ex-William F. Harrah, James A. Conant Collections</i><BR /><B>1907 Stearns 60hp Seven Passenger Touring</B><BR />Chassis no. 350<BR />Engine no. 150 <i>The Ex-William F. Harrah, James A. Conant Collections</i><BR /><B>1907 Stearns 60hp Seven Passenger Touring</B><BR />Chassis no. 350<BR />Engine no. 150 <i>The Ex-William F. Harrah, James A. Conant Collections</i><BR /><B>1907 Stearns 60hp Seven Passenger Touring</B><BR />Chassis no. 350<BR />Engine no. 150 <i>The Ex-William F. Harrah, James A. Conant Collections</i><BR /><B>1907 Stearns 60hp Seven Passenger Touring</B><BR />Chassis no. 350<BR />Engine no. 150 <i>The Ex-William F. Harrah, James A. Conant Collections</i><BR /><B>1907 Stearns 60hp Seven Passenger Touring</B><BR />Chassis no. 350<BR />Engine no. 150 <i>The Ex-William F. Harrah, James A. Conant Collections</i><BR /><B>1907 Stearns 60hp Seven Passenger Touring</B><BR />Chassis no. 350<BR />Engine no. 150 <i>The Ex-William F. Harrah, James A. Conant Collections</i><BR /><B>1907 Stearns 60hp Seven Passenger Touring</B><BR />Chassis no. 350<BR />Engine no. 150 <i>The Ex-William F. Harrah, James A. Conant Collections</i><BR /><B>1907 Stearns 60hp Seven Passenger Touring</B><BR />Chassis no. 350<BR />Engine no. 150 <i>The Ex-William F. Harrah, James A. Conant Collections</i><BR /><B>1907 Stearns 60hp Seven Passenger Touring</B><BR />Chassis no. 350<BR />Engine no. 150 <i>The Ex-William F. Harrah, James A. Conant Collections</i><BR /><B>1907 Stearns 60hp Seven Passenger Touring</B><BR />Chassis no. 350<BR />Engine no. 150 <i>The Ex-William F. Harrah, James A. Conant Collections</i><BR /><B>1907 Stearns 60hp Seven Passenger Touring</B><BR />Chassis no. 350<BR />Engine no. 150 <i>The Ex-William F. Harrah, James A. Conant Collections</i><BR /><B>1907 Stearns 60hp Seven Passenger Touring</B><BR />Chassis no. 350<BR />Engine no. 150 <i>The Ex-William F. Harrah, James A. Conant Collections</i><BR /><B>1907 Stearns 60hp Seven Passenger Touring</B><BR />Chassis no. 350<BR />Engine no. 150 <i>The Ex-William F. Harrah, James A. Conant Collections</i><BR /><B>1907 Stearns 60hp Seven Passenger Touring</B><BR />Chassis no. 350<BR />Engine no. 150 <i>The Ex-William F. Harrah, James A. Conant Collections</i><BR /><B>1907 Stearns 60hp Seven Passenger Touring</B><BR />Chassis no. 350<BR />Engine no. 150
The Ex-William F. Harrah, Ex-James A. Conant Collections
1907 Stearns 60hp Seven Passenger Touring
Chassis no. 350
Engine no. 150
533.3 ci, Side-Valve Inline 6-Cylinder Engine
Single Carburetor, 60hp
4-Speed Manual Transmission, with Chain Drive
Leaf Spring Suspension
2-Wheel Drum Brakes

*Exceptionally high quality big horsepower brass touring car
*Famed model with numerous period competition successes
*Chain drive
*Original touring coachwork
*Rare opportunity


STEARNS

'The Best of the World' - this is how Frank Stearns proudly marketed his automobiles in the era in which the 60hp example we proudly present was sold. This was not an optimistic claim, it was his sincere goal, one that he strived towards from the earliest days of manufacturing automobiles and to him it meant the finest product in every respect from the materials it was made of, its design, performance and looks. Today, if one stands next to one of these monuments of his achievement one is both humbled by it and can but be in total agreement that he delivered 100% of his aim.

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. 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 car on which the marque's reputation was built was undeniably the 4-cylinder 60hp of 1907. Stearns' own nomenclature would deem this a 30-60 model, owing to its special Stearns designed double throat carburetor which could effectively govern power output from 30 to 60hp. Stearns prided himself on this innovation which he said allowed the car to run as smoothly at 1600 as at 150 revolutions. The 60hp 4-cylinder of approximately 9 liters was campaigned extensively by the company in numerous speed and endurance tests in 1907, recording three world records: Frank Leland covering a mile in 41.4 seconds, representing 87 mph at Ventnor Beach in Atlantic City; a stock touring car travelling 25 miles in 29½ minutes and another 5 miles in 5 minutes, 19 seconds. Some 19 major race victories were also recorded, and they became renowned for their hillclimbing capabilities. On one occasion at the Giant's Despair Hillclimb in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, two fully equipped cars arrived 23 and 20.4 seconds ahead of the third place finisher, and to top it all a Stearns 60hp car was the first gasoline car to ascend the perilous 14,000 foot ascent at Pikes Peak in Colorado, fully laden with seven persons on board!

Improvements for the 1908 season included a strengthened steering set up, a dropped chassis frame, refined carburetor, one piece cast crankcase, and the list went on... as did the winning. In the Long Island Automobile Club road race, Stearns cars swept the first four places of the 4-cylinder class. Guy Vaughan won the Fort George Hill Climb as did Mrs. Kenneth R. Otis of Cleveland at the Cincinnati Hill Climb.

Predating the inclinations by manufacturers to make road going versions of their race cars, for Stearns they simply raced their production cars and frequently won.

In the lead up to one event in the press they stated: "We have NOT found it necessary to build special racers for this event. Stearns cars are admittedly fast goers. To win the Briarcliff Trophy with a specially built racer would not demonstrate that our stock cars are swift. The cars we enter will be taken from the stock of those we regularly sell, and any car bought of us this year will develop the same speed as those driven in the race."

As it turned out their competition was not of stock cars and they lost out to an Isotta and a Fiat, for 3rd. Barney Oldfield was less successful, but no less notable for his attack on the Briarcliff Trophy in Westchester County, New York, where he narrowly avoided a train at 50mph, causing his car to tip up at 45 degrees before righting itself and suffering three flat tires as well as an obstructed fuel line – and yet he still completed the distance for 10th place!

In part, their success was not only the outright power and performance of their engines, but the fact that true to his desire to be the best, bodywork on many of the Stearns cars were made of cast aluminum, assisting their power to weight, particularly when stripped for competition.

In this snapshot of history from 1907-1908, the Stearns reigned supreme and the advertising claims that 'The Ultimate Car Is the Stearns' seems well-founded.

Later, Stearns' desire for innovation lead him to acquire 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 company would produce over 33,000 cars before succumbing to the economy of the Great Depression. One feature which remained consistent to their last days was their 'white line' molding on their radiators.

THE MOTORCAR OFFERED

By any measure the early Stearns were remarkable cars and, testament to the quality of them today, the few survivors reside in prominent private collections rarely appearing for sale, sometimes only by generation. Among the handful of this early era, this car may well be the best known as it can count ownership within the hallowed collections of William F. Harrah of casino fame and James A. Conant on its roster.

In its file, a simple handwritten note states that the original owner of the car is thought to have been Bud Catlin of Boulder, Colorado, who had bought it in Denver. Beyond this, early transactions of other owners are not known.

By the middle of the Sixties, the Stearns had migrated north to Billings, Montana where it resided with Don C. Foote. Don Foote and wife Stella were noted collectors of all manner of artifacts, their interests stretching way beyond automobiles, although on her death in 2005 her obituary recalled how she had assisted Don's collecting by typing letters to all of the postmasters in the small towns across Montana, being sure that they would know who had old automobiles lurking in their outside barns! It is not recorded as such, but perhaps this Stearns was discovered in this manner. For a number of years the Foote family ran an amusement park 'Wonderland' in Billings, which ultimately lead to a strong passion for collecting memorabilia from the old Western days and an exhibit entitled 'Treasures of the West' which in part would be toured to both New York for the 1964 World's Fair and later France and Germany. As a couple, the Footes will be known in perpetuity for saving the signature of Captain William Clark at Pompeys Pillar, being the only physical evidence of the Corps of Discovery Mission by Captain Meriwether Lewis and William Clark's expedition in 1804-1806.

Don Foote died in 1968 and at this point the Stearns must have passed to his son John, by which time a restoration that had been started in Don's ownership was nearing completion. Among his many talents, clearly he also had a passion for carrying out the work himself as it is understood that the refurbishment of the upholstery had been done by him while the mechanical work had been entrusted to noted experts Bob Masetti and Allan Seims. Perhaps sensing that he was unlikely to finish the car himself, John Foote negotiated its sale to 'Bill' Harrah in 1977. Photos sourced by the current owners depict how complete and authentic it was, providing a straightforward basis for the experts in the Harrah's shops to finish.

Preceding the great Harrah Collection dispersal auctions of the mid-1980s, there were earlier occasional auctions of cars as the collection developed, one such sale taking place in 1981. The Stearns was offered for sale at this point by Harrahs, with the winning bidder securing it on behalf of noted Ohio collector Jim Conant, who paid $52,000 - a considerable sum by any standard.

To arrive in Conant's collection was a perfect fit for the car: 'Jim' Conant being not only based in the city of their origins, Cleveland, but also being a passionate enthusiast for brass era motorcars. As President of the Vogt and Conant Company, one of the largest steel erectors in the nation, he had the means to indulge an interest which he had harbored from his youth in all things wheeled, and the days when he built and raced soap box racers. It said that on one occasion in 1940, he had won at the Greater Cleveland Soap Box Derby in a contest of nearly 400 soap box racers!

Once in Conant's appropriate custody the car was comprehensively restored by noted brass car expert Stu Laidlaw, at which point its rich and handsome red livery was assumed, matching many of the period advertisements for these cars. Testifying to the quality of this work, it won Best in Show at the Cleveland Concours and, when shown at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance some 10 years or so later in 1997, it won First in Class. In fact even today in the three ensuing decades since that restoration it still remains extremely well-presented, with only a couple of minor blemishes to the paint at the rear of the body.

From Conant the car passed into its current prominent collection where it has continued to be cherished. Viewed today, the Stearns is one of few cars of its era which command such presence and to which the gargantuan 9-liter power unit seems appropriate. It is truly a magnificent early automobile, tastefully and finely restored and absolutely ready to be toured or shown.

Saleroom notices

  • This vehicle is titled under its engine number.
Activities
Auction information

This auction is now finished. If you are interested in consigning in future auctions, please contact the email us at motors.us@bonhams.com or click here for an online appraisal form

If you have queries about lots purchased in this auction, please contact customer services.

Buyers' Obligations

ALL BIDDERS MUST AGREE THAT THEY HAVE READ AND UNDERSTOOD BONHAMS' CONDITIONS OF SALE AND AGREE TO BE BOUND BY THEM, AND AGREE TO PAY THE BUYER'S PREMIUM AND ANY OTHER CHARGES MENTIONED IN THE NOTICE TO BIDDERS. THIS AFFECTS THE BIDDERS LEGAL RIGHTS.

If you have any complaints or questions about the Conditions of Sale, please contact your nearest customer services team.

Buyers' Premium and Charges

Please Note:

The final bid (hammer) price of each lot will be subject to a buyer's premium. For MOTOR VEHICLE property the premium is 10% of the hammer price.

Payment Notices

Payment for purchases may be made in or by (a) cash, (b) cashier's check or money order, (c) personal check with approved credit drawn on a U.S. bank, (d) wire transfer or other immediate bank transfer, or (e) Visa, MasterCard, American Express or Discover credit, charge or debit card. Please note that the amount of cash notes and cash equivalents that can be accepted from a given purchaser may be limited.

Shipping Notices

For information and estimates on domestic and international shipping as well as export licences please contact Bonhams Shipping Department.

Contacts
  1. Rupert Banner
    Specialist - Motor Cars
    Bonhams
    Work
    580 Madison Avenue
    New York, United States 10022
    Work +1 212 461 6515
    FaxFax: +1 212 644 9007
  2. Eric Minoff
    Specialist - Motor Cars
    Bonhams
    Work
    580 Madison Avenue
    New York, United States 10022
    Work +1 917 206 1630
    FaxFax: +1 212 644 9007
  3. Evan Ide
    Specialist - Motor Cars
    Bonhams
    Work Boston, United States
    Work +1 917 340 4657
    Mobile +1 917 340 4657
Similar Items