This is a historic and fully documented early American steam car which was constructed circa 1897 by Frederick H M Hart in Poughkeepsie, NY. Frederick Hart was born in Dorset in 1849, and in 1884 emigrated with his family to the USA, arriving in New York aboard the RMS 'City of Chester' on 20th April that year. By 1887, the family had settled in Poughkeepsie. Hart worked for the Swedish firm DeLaval Separator Co, helping to set up a new factory in 1892 for his employers under the name Alpa Laval. A leading producer of dairy and farming machinery, DeLaval is still in existence today.
Hart constructed a laboratory in the grounds of his home on Prospect Street, overlooking the Hudson River, and began his experiments with steam-powered transport. His first such vehicle, a tricycle carriage, was completed in 1895; a photograph of it may be found in the Adriance Memorial Library in Poughkeepsie. By 1897 he had completed a second steam-powered car, that offered here, which like the first was put to use. The Hart steamer features a rear-mounted twin-cylinder vertical engine, full elliptic springing, tiller steering, original lamps, and planetary gear drive live rear axle.
In his private laboratory, Frederick Hart's primary concern was the production of precision tools and measuring equipment. Here he also designed the engine, burner and other parts for the Lane Motor Vehicle Company of Poughkeepsie, which manufactured steam cars from 1899-1910. In 1898 he had founded Frederick Hart & Company to carry out experimental work on tabulating machines. This company later became closely associated with the Computing Tabulating Recording Company (CTR), which in 1924 became IBM.
The Hart steamer remained in the family's motor house until 1946 when it was donated to 'The Automobile Old Timers Museum' in New York. There it stayed until 1990 when the Museum closed its doors and the collection was sold off. At that time it was reputed to have covered only 200 miles from new. The Hart subsequently found its way to the UK and was due to be sold at auction, only to be bought before the sale by a Dr Cam from Porton, near Swindon, Wiltshire. Dr Cam and his son then dismantled the Hart, but the son was then involved in a serious road accident and the project stalled. Over the next few years most of the Cams' collection was sold off, leaving only the dismantled Hart, which the current owner's late father and steam car expert, Jeff Theobald, was able to purchase it in 2002.
The Hart was then restored, and a detailed account of its painstaking reconstruction and many novel design features was published in the April 2004 edition of 'The Steam Car' (journal of the Steam Car Club of Great Britain, copy available). This account concludes with Hart being fired up for the first time and statically tested; however, a minor water leak was discovered and the fire shut down pending the fault being remedied. Sadly, Jeff's ill health prevented the project from progressing any further.
A large and impressive vehicle, the Hart has 42 diameter rear wheels and stands 6' tall to the top of its four seats, which are arranged dos- à-dos fashion, while the tiller can be swung around to enable driving from either front seat. The original leather upholstery had to be replaced (as close to the original pattern as possible) but it was able to retain the original horsehair stuffing. Protected by two new coats of varnish, the paint is original. As tyres of the original type were unavailable, solid carriage tyres have been fitted.
Not run since the restoration's completion in 2004 and the aforementioned test, the Hart will require re-commissioning before returning to the road (it should be noted that the boiler has not been professionally inspected). With the relevant passports the Hart will be eligible for events organised by the Veteran Car Club and Steam Car Club, this historically significant American steam car represents a unique opportunity for collectors of early automobiles.