Seventy miles an hour cars were rare in 1907. Including Ford, below are the stock cars I've found that advertised seventy mile per hour. A couple are 1908 and 1909 models:
And our lowly Ford Roadster:
A select group,,considering over 250 automakers sold cars in the U.S. in 1907.
Were there any roads where you could go that fast back in those days?
I suppose traffic in the cities had restricted speeds by then, but were there many speed limits out on the open roads back then in the USA?
In 1907 Sweden got general speed restrictions in cities to just 10 mph during daytime, 6 mph at dark. Don't know if there were any restrictions outside city limits more than the bad road conditions and scores of livestock gates to open and close. (1923-30 limits were 22 mph in the city, 30 outside and 1930-67 there were no speed limits outside the cities in Sweden)
Then you had to consider the general public who wasn't very used to cars - they could stray out in the road without looking..
But it was better to have the power available (for the rare times it could be used) than not having enough for the hills.
I am thinking a Stanley should be on this list. Prior to this time, they held several speed records and I am certain their Gentlemen's Roadster was capable of bursts of 70mph. At that time the road would have been the limitation and not the boiler.
Roger, thank you. I've posted this before, a February 1906 listing of state (U.S.) traffic laws, including speed. Some statewide maximum speeds were lower, for example the maximum speed in South Carolina was listed as 15mph. Oregon shows a max of 24mph.
Tom, I'm surprised too. I would think Stanley, White and possibly other steamers would have advertised higher speeds as one of their strengths (maybe they did and I missed them). I did find this account that says Webb Jay (well known autoist and racer) drove a mile in 45 3/5 seconds (79 plus mph) with his Stanley touring car in a competition on Ormond beach, 1907:
Tom is 100% correct--1907 Stanley "Gentleman's Speedy Roadster" was advertised as "capable of 60mph on a good road". Can't find the ad, but for decades I was going to build myself one (I have a 20hp Stanley engine out in the barn), and did a complete build-up drawing of one on the mainframe computer in college computer drafting class (got an A for it too!) based on photographs and known dimensions of the Stanley chassis. Now I really suspect I will never build it, oh well. . . .
70 mph in 1907 was probably about as useful as a car that will do 180 today.
Lets assume that few people owned automobiles of any type and these fast automobiles listed above would have been scary to most folks who still rode horses.
Walking - about 4 MPH
Trot - about 8 MPH
Canter - about 25-30 MPH Average speed of the smaller Automobiles of the day
Gallop - about 25-30 MPH Top speed that most people were accustomed to in the day (excluding race horses who could reach speeds of 44-46 MPH
So my guess would be that when folks saw a car doing 70 MPH they were shocked. And now 70 MPH is the average highway speed.
I missed with the Canter it should be 16-27 MPH not 25-30 MPH
Denny, when I searched "seventy mile an hour," there were more hits than I expected. However, most were for locomotives. And many of the stories involved accidents due to speed.
" And now 70 MPH is the average highway speed."
Well, maybe in Ohio. In Califunny, you can get run over from behind at that speed.
Stanley generally didn't advertise. But their 1906-7 catalog said:
"Our Gentlemen's Speedy Roadster is a light car for two people, and is the fastest stock car in the world. - - - It is indeed a gentlemen's speeding car, and is intended for those who wish to hit up a speed of 75 or 80 miles an hour on a good safe road, without going to the expense of importing a $10,000 racing machine with its noisy cylinders and high expense for tires and maintenance."
I took this quote from "The Stanley Steamer", by Kit Foster, available from the Stanley Museum, and a superb read about both the cars and the Stanley family.
Personally, I suspect we tend to underestimate the quality of roads prior to our "modern" highways. Having grown up on a farm with dirt (unimproved) roads within one mile of home, I used to prefer the dirt unimproved roads to race our motorcycle and cars on as a kid.
When not wet (they then turn to mud, as we've seen in photos of early cars hub deep in mud), dirt roads become packed, smooth, and very good surfaces for going as fast as is (un)reasonable. Granted, in Nebraska we don't see as much rainfall as in the east, where most cars were in the early days of motoring, still, I suspect there were plenty of opportunities to find the top speed of cars.
During the 1900-1910 period I've seen numerous articles concerning "good roads" groups lobbying for, and receiving appropriations for road improvement and development. My suspicion regarding speed is, where there was a will, there was a way.........
1906 article, "The Motor Way"
Thanks Gilbert--and I have that book! I could've looked it up!!
Now consider the Stanley had a wooden frame, and the steering gear was a gear on the bottom of the column meshed with a Pittman arm & gear bolted to that wood frame. And you're doing 70mph with that assembly!! Hope the bolts are tight & the wood in good shape!!
You stated that most of the speed articles you found were for locomotives so maybe that is why so many of the old advertisements showed cars racing beside the railroad track with a locomotive in the back ground to show that their car was as fast as a "speeding locomotive" (just like superman)
Denny, I've seen a few ads with a car alongside a locomotive. One car was named something similar (I'll think of it later).
This is the only example of a race where a Ford (K) raced a steam car (That I've found). In this case, it appeared in the Ford Times, after the advent of the Model T:
I like to find corroboration of a claim like this. Here a local paper has the details along with the same time for the five mile race:
Are you thinking of Locomobile?
Thought of it, "American Locomotive Automobile Co.," or "Alco":
This drawing appeared in a 1907 N.Y. Paper depicting a Ford crossing in front of a locomotive::
Vanadium was popular as an alloy for steel in 1907 - both American Locomotive and Ford used it