Stanley Model SV 252G

 Serial No. 25030 History & Analysis


We learned about this car from Tom Marshall, following a visit to Auburn Heights in December 2004.  At Tom's suggestion, we contacted Don Davidson who knew the Vander Bush family.  Just prior to our calling Don, the car was consigned to auction.  Don kindly arranged access to the car prior to the auction, and CJ and Don visited the car on March 23, 2005.

By prior arrangement with the auctioneer, we bid successfully bid on the car and on April 23, 2006, we entered the fraternity of Stanley owners.

We arrived in Annandale, New Jersey on Friday, May 13, 2006 to pick up the car.  It was the last car left in the barn.  Unhappily, three items were stolen off the car:  the condenser cap, the oil can, and a nameplate with the body serial number on it.  Reward for Missing Parts!

Thanks to Don Davidson, moving the car out of the barn and onto the waiting truck was a breeze.  It was great to have an experienced steam car man providing advice.  Prior to the auction, Don had been in the garage and had located the fuel tank and decking from the back of the car.  These he labeled and put with the car, so we acquired them with the car.  This saved us an enormous amount of time and money.

The car's title shows that Charles Vander Bush obtained the title in 1964.  According to various oral sources including Lucy Vander Bush and Don Davidson, the car was originally owned by the well known Alex Miller.  Where Alex got the car is a mystery.

I chatted with Lucy Vander Bush, Charlie's wife, on December 31, 2005.  She recalled the car coming from Alex Miller.  She stated that Charlie got the wrong burner and had to go back to get the right one.  No burner came with my car, but I did buy an old burner and a new, undrilled burner from a dealer who bought many things from Lucy Vander Bush after the April 23, 2005 auction.

Lucy also told a story about the Stanley being too heavy for the trailer and lifting the back wheels of Charlie's pick up truck up off the road.  Charlie stopped and got some large rocks from a stone fence that he put into the bed of the pick up truck.  This held the pick up truck rear end down on the road

On December 31, 2005 I met with Don Davidson, who knew Charlie Vander Bush very well.  Don stated that when the Alex Miller auction came up in the mid 1990s, Charlie told him (Don Davidson)  “That’s where my Stanley came from.”  Alex Miller was a hermit and the recluse with a huge Stutz collection in Orange, Vermont.  Sold at auction in 1996?  Gold bullion.  Charlie reportedly told Don Davidson that it took years to get into Alex’s good graces and convince Alex to sell him the car.  This is apparently where the car sat with the right front fender in the rain for 20 years.  Any way to find out when or how Alex got it?

Charlie Vander Bush bought the car from Alex Miller and moved it to Patterson, New Jersey.  Someone thought that Alex had owned it for about 20 years, but no one was really certain. 

If you know anything about the history of this car, please Email US!

For more on the Miller Auction, see the following sites.

Someone, almost certainly Charlie, started a restoration.  The car came with a few extra parts, including some extra rims and a new, aluminum hood as well as a windshield frame.  There was an extra pair of SOLAR headlights in the back seat and a set of Model 740 steering wheel column supports.  The fuel tank had been redone and primed.  The removed burner and the unfinished burner plate that came from the estate suggests that Charlie was working on the burner.  The boiler was loose in the frame, having fallen to the right (see photos).  This was due to someone disconnecting the three bolts that held it to the frame.

The major sheet metal damage occurred on the right side of the car between the hood and the right front fender.  Someone said that it was parked in a shed with the right front fender sticking out for 20 years (at Alex Miller's?).  Perhaps there was a pile of hay with a rats nest and the rat's urine did most of the damage.  The frame is cracked and pitted at this point and the original hood is badly damaged, but the front fender is in relatively good shape.


If one looks long enough and carefully at a historic object, it will talk to you.  The BettyAnne has been talking to me.[1]

Her tires are very worn and her boiler has been plugged seven times on the top and fourteen times on the bottom.  The burner that I bought from the dealer (see above) has several major cracks that have been repaired.  I am assuming that this burner was on the car at one time.  The steam line coming through the firewall to the steam pressure gauge has burst.  It burst in a place that would not accumulate water, suggesting frozen water did not cause the burst.

One might speculate that the car was driven during World War II when kerosene was available.  The owner could not get new tires, so he or she drove the car on tires worn to the cords.  The broken burner and oft-plugged boiler also suggest a long and hard life.

The wiring under the dash was a rat's nest, with several cut wire and lots of tire tape holding things together.  Some of the wiring was clearly not original and much of the original wiring had been cut off.  The fuze block was damaged and only one fuze was in place.

The original starting valve had been replaced with an Empire Valve that did not and could not to function as a starting valve.  The copper tubing to the Empire Valve was crudely done.  This was clearly not original, although thankfully, whoever did it did not drill any more holes in the fire wall.  All the wheel valve handles are identical with the exception of one in the pump pit.  This is apparently the earlier style handle.  It may have been put in at the factory when some workman could not find the right handle or it may have been replaced later.

Gauges - one SV and one SMCC.

The water filter was attached to the fire wall with only two nuts and bolts instead of four.  One had the nut on the inside of the fire wall and the other had the nut on the outside of the firewall.

Somewhere along the line, The BettyAnne had a little fire.  One of the floorboards was clearly charred, but the floorboard next to it was not charred.  New wood, but done a very long time ago.  There is minor evidence of the fire on the right edge of the interior of the body, but not much damage.  When the fire occurred and under what circumstances, we'll never know, but the car tells us that it was moderately severe.

The angle iron supporting the right side of the boiler has a crudely cut out section, suggesting a two venturi burner may have been there, however given the location of the boiler, the burner should have been somewhat lower.  It is almost certain that the boiler and its burner were not the original.  It is a 23" boiler and the Model SV 252s came with 20" boilers which everyone agrees were too small and failed to provide enough power.

Exactly when this 23" boiler was installed is not clear.  It was apparently parked with water in it, as the lower part of the boiler is expanded.  This boiler came with a galvanized sheet metal cover surrounding the asbestos.  It is a piano wire wound boiler.  It featured six vertical posts welded the outside edge of the top.  These protruded through the smoke bonnet and held the bonnet in place with nuts.  The smoke bonnet was with the car in 1995 when Walter Winship photographed it.  It was not with the car when we bought it.

The workmanship on the car is far from craftsmanship.  A number of nuts and bolts that one would expect to match do not.  The sheet metal work in the brake pit is rather crude, as are the holes cut in the  copper engine casing.  At least two holes were drilled off center and had to be expanded to fit a moving part.

The BettyAnne is quite rusty, although the body is in remarkably solid condition.  This despite the roof collapse on Charlie's storage building.  Unhappily, a roof joist hit the car in the center of the windshield, breaking the top of the body above the windshield and the windshield frame.  Otherwise, the body survived.

Reading the car:

 Very rusty  Kroil made things come apart that never expected to come apart.

 A check of the Vermont Motor Vehicle Department revealed no information.  The VMVD does not keep records over seven years old and only started microfilming four years ago.

 ... {And more! Last updated sometime 2008, but we've made tremendous strides. Check back for more information on the Bettyanne!}


[1]   I am a Historian of Technology, read my book on reading objects to learn.


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