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Coburn Benson

Posted by Rick.H 
Coburn Benson
August 02, 2019 11:47AM
I just read that Coburn Benson (Ben) passed away. This is as reported in the Stanley Museum Letter.

From the words of Debbie Smith
He had been in failing health, but it still came as quite a shock to many of us. Coburn had an unbelievable knowledge of Stanley cars, individual car history, photography, and just about anything else! He was like a walking encyclopedia to many. One of my fondest memories was hearing Coburn say he SO enjoyed touring around Kingfield and then sitting on the running board of the car and talking Stanley. So, to honor his memory, the Stanley Museum is pleased to arrange a Celebration of his Life on Saturday, August 24 at 1 PM on the Museum grounds in Kingfield. Please come share your memories with all of Coburn’s friends. There will be refreshments available and the Museum cars will be out in back. A tent will be set up, so we can gather and remember a wonderful, gentle soul.
If you are planning on attending, please let
the Museum know so that we can plan
food accordingly.

My connection to Ben is that he let me visit him in Maine and measure his 1908 Stanley H, Gentleman Speedy Roadster to provide input to my project car...my H replica. He doesn't allow stuff like this for free. It cost me a foot long at Subway spinning smiley sticking its tongue out He ate half and took the other home for dinner. He is a shrewd man to say the least. When I visited, he had a Vanderbuilt and a K racer along with a model 60...all Stanley's of course. I understand he traded the original Roper Steam Bike for the Vanderbuilt straight up. Very interesting past he has with Steam.

I did email Tom Laferriere (Laferriere Classic Cars, 6 Lark Industrial Parkway, Smithfield, RI 02828) about Ben's H for he had just sold this beautiful H that was red in color. I described how there was a crack on the left rear fender and the boiler was scorched. The car was all fixed up nice and boiler replaced, asking price was $250K. Nice to see the old girl fixed up and with a new owner for this was the baby I climbed all over to measure everything.

May Ben rest in piece and provide many puffy clouds indicating he is Steaming around up there!

Note that I just visited the Stanley Museum a few weeks ago, Week-of-4th-of-July and just started receiving the news letter.

Kind regards,

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/07/2019 04:17AM by Rick.H.
Re: Coburn Benson
August 02, 2019 03:21PM
Sad to hear that. I had many communications with Ben when I had my Model H. Always knowledgeable and helpful. I never met him but he was one of the greats among steamers and clearly a character.

Re: Coburn Benson
August 15, 2019 01:13AM
Many, many years ago Coburn "Ben" Benson related a fascinating story. A few years back I repeated it, and he was pleased that someone had actually remembered it. Well, how could one not? At least any true steam car guy.

Ben and a friend had a dispute as to how SLOW a Stanley could go. Anyone who doesn't get that, well, quit steam cars now. You just don't "get it". And you probably never will. Sorry, but on the bright side there's lots of other cars for you to genuinely appreciate. Hey, how bout that Shelby Cobra with a giant cloud of rubber smoke off the tires when you drop the clutch... too bad almost nobody knows how to drive a foot-clutch any more... and why should anybody bother to learn... outdated/epic-fail tech even in Stanley days... 100-plus years ago...

Anywho, to solve the dispute, Ben and his buddy fired up a good Stanley and ran it on the large well-groomed lawn of some New England estate. Ben rode "shotgun" and sighted one point on the edge of one fender against the grassy turf as the mystery miracle car crept incrementally forward with the throttle barely cracked open to some infinitesimally small degree. I do not remember Ben's exact results, but it was something on the order of the width of one blade of grass per minute.. IE, 1/8 inch to 1/4 inch. Many people won't "get it", but this was the kind of guy that Ben was. A true, bad-ass, hard-core, real steam car guy. I will miss him. He also kicked down some crucial data on the Stanley Steam Automatic spring, and on the role of "exhaust release pressure" in ejecting initial condensate from cold direct-drive steam engine cylinders, and crucial data on many other points,,,

Vaya con dios, Ben. To paraphrase the movie "Ghostbusters" [1984], see ya on the other side, man...

Re: Coburn Benson
August 15, 2019 01:27PM
Goodbye Ben,

I wish I could have gotten to know you.

Like others who have passed in the club, I somehow feel they are watching us to see what we come up with. I believe they are forming their own little steam club up "up there" as like minded people may.
Comfortable chairs to lean back in, coffee and other refreshments and lots of paper and pencils and such as good conversations concerning steam things require.

Maybe that idea that "POPS" into our head might have such origins. That would be neat, wouldn't it?

God be with you Ben, and say hello from us.


Bill G.
Re: Coburn Benson
August 16, 2019 08:16PM
Coburn was a true gentleman. I miss my weekly telephone calls with Coburn. Coburn and I were both early day motorcycle racers and steam car owners living on opposite sides of the country. We both were interested in speed, so we both were definitely into 30 hp Stanleys too. Coburn was always a great help in handling my steam needs that came from the New England area. I purchased many of Coburn's 30 hp parts from him before his passing. God speed, Coburn, and tell all of our steam friends that are up there, "Hi" for us.
Re: Coburn Benson
August 23, 2019 09:13AM
Did you buy any of the narrow frame 30 HP engine castings and patterns and parts.
He had a complete narrow frame engine less a good block, but he had two block casting, one better than the other.
Re: Coburn Benson
August 23, 2019 08:23PM
Rolly, I bought three type 8 Stanley piston cylinders (Wide frame) and they were machined for the 1 inch frame rods. I bought pistons, slide valves, steam chest covers etc. etc. all in 30 hp. Because of Coburn's poor health, it took over a year for him to finally get them shipped out to our Northwest. When Coburn would call me each week, we discussed each other's health. I sure do miss Coburn. His talks gave me more motivation for me to fight my cancer. Now my cancer is stable and I am up and steaming again. Tomorrow I am steaming our 1911 model 85 to a steam threshing bee. It will be fun.
Re: Coburn Benson
August 24, 2019 01:45PM
Pat I wish you well on your remission. At our age we miss many old friends each year.
I did a complete set of cad drawings for him so as he could machine one of his narrow frame castings and build up the narrow frame engine.
Maybe someday I’ll find out what happened to that engine.
Thanks for responding.
Some of my photos of Colburn from when I did the SACA-NE newsletter.

Re: Coburn Benson
September 03, 2019 07:13AM
Hey Pat,

Keep us posted on your continuing steam car adventures, and any and all steam car musings "appended thereunto", so to speak; I strongly suspect that Bill & I are far from the only ones here following your posts with great interest...


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/04/2019 12:37AM by Peter Brow.
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