Welcome! Log In Create A New Profile Recent Messages


Plymouth steam car

Posted by Scott Osborne 
Plymouth steam car
August 17, 2010 05:14AM
I am a first timer, and hope you can help me. I came across a late 20s,early 30s plymouth coupe with a steam engine. I did my research and I am pretty sure. that it was never a production car. Was there still companys at that time that were retrofitting engines in Vehicles? It is a professional job , with valves, guages and everything looking good. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks, Scott
Re: Plymouth steam car
August 17, 2010 06:27AM
Any way of getting a couple of pictures of it?
Re: Plymouth steam car
August 17, 2010 07:15AM
Sounds like a Keen steam car.

Re: Plymouth steam car
August 17, 2010 08:59AM
Can you tell me more about the Keen Steam story?
Re: Plymouth steam car
August 17, 2010 09:36AM

Log into the Steam Car Club of Great Britain website.

Full details here

Re: Plymouth steam car
August 17, 2010 11:50AM
Thanks alot, that is a great story, especally that I am from Wisconsin. The only thing is, that Keens cars were a lot newer then the Plymouth I am looking at. Maybe Its one nobody knows about. thanks for the info
Re: Plymouth steam car
August 17, 2010 12:06PM

Some more information about the Keen


Re: Plymouth steam car
August 17, 2010 12:33PM
Go to this link [www.steamautomobile.com] to the Steam Automobile Quarterly and search on Keen.
Re: Plymouth steam car
August 17, 2010 01:41PM
Maybeee wrong tree,,or generation,,,Look for Tommy Derr,,and American Steam Automobile,,,he made conversions in the 1926--1940 era,,One was at the MtWashington meet in 1999,,I have a condenser for one,,,,,if anyone needs it ,,,,taller,,and narrower than 735 hoho,,,I think there is a pic in one of Floyd Clymers books,,,Ben
Re: Plymouth steam car
August 17, 2010 11:11PM
Perhaps it is the Leslie car, a 4 door sedan. I have one picture of it in side view with three men standing by it, one of them Mr. Leslie. Looks about 1935. It was written up in SCD&SA I believe.

Karl Petersen
Re: Plymouth steam car
August 18, 2010 05:35AM
The assembly period (early 1940s) of the bunch of production parts from several vehicles that became the Keen Steamliner #1 was before stricter vehicle identification rules were introduced. Progressively from after about 1950 the Vehicle Identification Numbering system (VIN) was developed and a unique number identifies all the significant components used to build each vehicle. It is now possible to trace the origin of parts in more modern vehicles to verify which ones are original, replaced spares or perhaps stolen.

It is possible to create, rebuild or modify vehicles legally but you need to be able to verify where all the parts come from and that you legally own them. A copy of a typical current application form to establish a new vehicle identity is attached to assist those sitting on a mixed bag of parts for use in a future project.

I have registered highly modified cars for use in UK and Australia and the vehicle name and year ID used the original chassis details and serial number. The word "special" was frequently added to the chassis name if the vehicle had a different body. Other vehicle identity information would include body type, number of doors or seating capacity, body color, engine type, size and serial number.

If the Keen #1 car was built on a Willys chassis made in 1942 for instance, I would identify it as a "1942 Willys Special Coupe Steamer". The VIN would be the original chassis number.

The current Keen #1 owner may be able to advise how the vehicle is now identified for registration in UK or perhaps what the USA description was originally.

Re: Plymouth steam car
August 18, 2010 11:46AM
I'm with Ben, may be a Derr conversion. What kind of boiler does it have.
Re: Plymouth steam car
August 18, 2010 12:15PM
Thanks everybody, your amazing. I am going to get pics and look close at the engine. I will let you know what I find out
Re: Plymouth steam car
August 18, 2010 12:17PM
Dear Scott, When you said you came across this car, did you really come across an existing real car, or did you come across some information on this car? To know that would greatly assist us in answering your question. If you came across some information on the car, and not a real existing car, then that is Keen Steamliner #1. There is a good reference to and photos of both Keen Steamliner #1 and #2 in the book by Stanley W. Ellis, "Smogless Days, Adventures in Ten Stanley Steamers". Ellis owned #1 at one time and it currently is being restored by Jeff Theobald over in England and well documented on the British Steam Car Club website. Kean Steamliner #2 is in my collection here in Southwestern Michigan and available for studying at any time. Both cars have a Doble designed "F" boiler. The Plymouth one has a regular Stanley 20 hp in it and #2 has a Keen designed 100 c.i.d. V-4 single acting uniflow using the middle of a small block Ford 272 crankshaft. There are only a few people left in Madison, Wisconsin who remember Charlie Keen and his work on steam cars. When he died in 1969 his widow threw out all of his patterns and papers and all. Tom Kimmel
Re: Plymouth steam car
August 18, 2010 01:59PM
Oh no, I was standing next to it the other day. It is a 2 door coupe, with plymouth on the radiator.Now I realize that any car or shell could have been used. I cant wait to go see it again.It surely wasnt a backyard mechanic deal, It was a good job. I will keep in touch. I love all the stories
Re: Plymouth steam car
August 18, 2010 04:14PM
August 18 Dear Scott, That is quite a shop with several Stanley engines standing in front of it and the jpeg says Keen on it so I am assuming that you were at Jeff Theobald's shop in England. There is mention of Keen hiring Abner Doble in 1948 or 49 to design the boiler. That mention is in the Doble notebooks that came from Doble's hand written notes from the Bancroft Library at Berkeley, which is in California. It is a straight forward "F" boiler. I have the other two that Keen made, one of which was put into the late Ron Ziesmer's Stanley. In answer to your question, there was never any commercial manufacture of steam cars or even conversions. A great many people started them or thought about starting them. I have attempted to accumulate as many of these things as possible. There is something to learn from everyone. Tom Kimmel
Re: Plymouth steam car
August 19, 2010 05:11AM
Hi All,
I have read with interest the post on this subject, it is to my shame that after a number of year’s ownership the Keen Steamliner Number One is still not finished, my excuse is.......... I just find it impossible to find enough time to keep The Steam Car Club of Great Britain’s magazine coming out on time, the website up to date, answer the many emails each day and keep the steam car in use ready to go at any time, on top of this there are the general household chores to do and a wife to look after, not to mention advancing years which slow one down as each year flies by, anyway back to the Keen.

During the total strip down and rebuild this is what we found…….. Chassis is from a 1940 Willys De-Lux using the same wheels and Bumpers (Fenders). During the second ownership by Mr. Keen, the brakes were modified to four wheel hydraulic, I’m not sure what make of car the system came from. The only identification found on the chassis, is a small i.d. plate with ‘Keen #1’ stamped on it.

The body is made up of many parts, the grill sections and front wings are from a 1940’s Plymouth and are highly modified by Mr. Keen to suit the modified 1939 Chevrolet bulkhead and doors, the rear body section is a sheet metal fabrication with wings from an unknown car, the trunk lid is also Plymouth, to overcome the difficulty of making a roof panel, a fully lined soft top which does not fold down has been made, the Bonnet (Hood) is made up from Plymouth and Chevrolet sections welded together so that everything matches. Again there is a plate riveted to the bulkhead which reads ‘Keen Prototype #1 Keen Mfg Co Madison Wis.’

The power plant installed in 1943 when the car was still a chassis, was a 10hp Stanley engine and fire tube boiler, later a modified 20hp Stanley engine was fitted and Mr. Doble was employed by Mr. Keen to help design a new boiler, the boiler is a Doble ‘F’ type, with blown top fire and all the normal Doble controls. A jack shaft drives the auxiliary unit which is a four ram water pump, oil pump, small dynamo and Speedo drive, a second large dynamo is driven from the original Stanley axle drive, this charges the first of two batteries, while the small dynamo charges the battery not in use, if the battery in use shows signs of fatigue a large switch changes the charging system and batteries over, a brilliant system and why Rev Ellis said that he no longer had problems with the batteries.

We have had great pleasure driving the almost finished car around the yard here, I had arranged to take the car to an old airfield where it would be possible to get up to speed and set all the automatics. A small amount of work is needed to finish the bodywork, the final painting could then be done and it would then be ready to use, and I would consider it finished, I look forward to that day. all the best, Jeff.
Re: Plymouth steam car
August 19, 2010 06:57AM
Hi Jeff,

A fine web site you have created, maintain, and share with the world. thumbs up thumbs up

Thanks for adding the information on the "as built", very interesting.

Please elaborate on...

>> and Speedo drive <<

Is this a trade name, or a British naming difference, or my ignorance?
Speed increaser?

Re: Plymouth steam car
August 19, 2010 07:00AM
Hi Jeff,

Having read about the Keen Steamliner #1 in several issues of The Steam Automobile, and in Stanley Ellis's book, it was a real treat for me to examine the car in person at your place in 2005. Sorry if I spent a bit too much time crawling around under the hood and under the car. Truly a fascinating automobile!

Now if I can just find a source for customized "maker stamps", like Keen used, for my own project! Those were _trick_.

Keen's approach of modifying the chassis and body as needed to fit practical roadworthy steam equipment, was a sound one in my estimation.

My copy of Ellis's book seems to have disappeared into the endless void of "informal steam car mail-order lending library" [perhaps having changed hands a few times via Amazon.com by now], but I well recall his account of using it as a hop-in/take-off daily driver for several years, and his comment that this car convinced him that a practical modern steam car was a real possibility.

I wish you every success in restoring this car to original condition.

Personally, I think of this car, and selected others [including DA Warriner's and Ford Walters'], as sort of a mid-20th-Century "bridge" between the production steam automobiles of the past and the steam automobiles of the future.

Re: Plymouth steam car
August 19, 2010 07:06AM
Hi Scott,
The Speedo drive is a small gearbox driven from the auxiliary unit which is connected to a flexible cable running up to drive the dash board Speedometer, the gearbox gives the correct rotating speed for accurate Speedo readings, all the best, Jeff.
Re: Plymouth steam car
August 20, 2010 02:24PM
August 20, 2010 Karl P. mentioned this possibly being the Leslie car. That is not correct and the only time in his life when Karl has not been right. If one looks at Vol. XV April-September 1948 No. 199-204 of the Bolsover's "Steam Car Developments and Steam Marine Motors" you will see the Leslie car which is a late 1930's Oldsmobile with a condenser on the roof. On page 594 of this magazine is a photos of the chassis. The car purportedly made a trip coast to coast. The story of this car is only told in the various Bolsover's publications, to their eternal credit. In the late 1930's there were three steam car development shops within a few miles of each other and this is one of them. The engine is in my possession if anyone wants to study it. It has a cast aluminum crankcase which shows Tommy Derr's influence, as he liked cast aluminum. It is about 130 c.i.d., a six cylinder in-line with poppet valves and we think by looking at the heart shaped ends of the crankcase sliding cam shafts to vary the cutoff. It is a single acting uniflow with very long pistons and a very clever sleeve inside the cylinders that makes the pistons effectively hour-glass shaped so that blow-by steam from the top set of rings is exhausted into the exhaust manifold so there is no pressure on the lower set of rings. It has to be seen to be appreciated. Fortunately someone saved this engine after all these years. I wish only that the story about the work of Leslie and the Alma engine people and Knox and all were written up and preserved. We only have hints as to what was going on then. Thanks to Jeff for giving us an update on the Keen #1, as apparentely that is what was in the picture. Tom Kimmel
Re: Plymouth steam car
August 20, 2010 02:37PM
Hi, I have pictures of the Plymouth. I understand that it is 1903 White steam engine, in the car

Re: Plymouth steam car
August 20, 2010 04:05PM
Scott where is the boiler.
Re: Plymouth steam car
August 20, 2010 05:19PM
there is a big tank under the car, that has to be the boiler.You have me thinking now. That would all have to be heated,and under the car would not be the best place. Now I have to get back in there and figure it out
Re: Plymouth steam car
August 20, 2010 05:56PM
The engine is a White compound. I don’t know what year.
Re: Plymouth steam car
August 20, 2010 06:03PM
Tommy Derr put the boiler in the trunk OR in a box out back,,Ben
Re: Plymouth steam car
August 20, 2010 06:08PM
Didn't White have cylender cocks,,,The oilers look like '04,,,Ben
Re: Plymouth steam car
August 20, 2010 06:14PM
I thought about that to Ben, but I don’t remember ever reading of him using a White engine. Didn’t Derr have a V four engine? Scott look for some hardware on the frame
In the back that might have supported a boiler, maybe you could trace the steam line back from the engine.
Re: Plymouth steam car
August 20, 2010 07:13PM
I agree Rolly,,but he did have an UNUSUAL fasination w/alluminum to the extent that his nickname around the shop was "old aluminum" and one year they cast a special "Trophy" in ally for him,,,Lets see if anyone can come up with what the tophy was,,,its a hoot,,,, On the White,,,no ,I have never heard of a Derr-White,,,,however the White does have a pile of ally so it could have been a logical possibility,,,but the rear end ratio would problems I think,,,,,Ben
Re: Plymouth steam car
August 21, 2010 05:09AM
Photos of a 1904 White engine.
A good running White engine can bring 8-K, I notices the one in Scott’s photos does not have the fan shaft across the top.

Sorry, only registered users may post in this forum.

Click here to login

All files from this thread

File Name File Size   Posted by Date  
007.JPG 63.4 KB open | download Scott Osborne 08/20/2010 Read message
005.JPG 65.6 KB open | download Scott Osborne 08/20/2010 Read message
004.JPG 66.9 KB open | download Scott Osborne 08/20/2010 Read message
009.JPG 95.8 KB open | download Scott Osborne 08/20/2010 Read message