F. B. Stearns and Company (later
F.B. Stearns Company) was a manufacturer of luxury cars in Cleveland, Ohiomarketed under the brand names Stearns and Stearns-Knight.
Frank Stearns was an early automotive pioneer, building his first car as a student, in 1896, and his first production model from his Cleveland factory in 1898; it was a gasoline-fuel buggy, with a one-cylinder engine (horizontal under the floor),
tillersteering, wire wheels, planetary transmission, and chain drive. By 1901, it had advanced to a 4083cc (101ci) one-cylinder. For 1902, Stearns offered a variety of models, including a touring carmodel. Equipped with a front-mounted, 24 hp (17.9 kW) water-cooled flat twin and tonneau, and 3-speed transmission was fitted. Notably, all vehicle controls were situated on the steering wheel. The armored wood-framed car weighed 2800 lb (1270 kg), seated six passengers, and sold for US$3000. [Wise, David Burgess Wise. "Stearns: A Quality Car from Cleveland", in Northey, Tom, ed. "World of Automoblies" (London: Orbis, 1974), Volume 19, p.2174.]
In 1904, Stearns had a very European four-cylinder of 36hp, with pressed steel chassis, wheelbase of 111 inches (282cm), and four-speed gearbox, but a distincly American ("i.e.", backward) coil and battery, rather than the
magnetotypical in Europe. This changed in 1905, when the 32/40 made magneto standard, as wheelbase grew to 118 in (300cm). [Wise, p.2174-5.]
Stearns introduced a 40/45 four in 1906, with
aluminumbody panels, tonneau, and windshield, with "no less than 17 coats of paint", at a cost of US$5200. [Wise, p.2175.]
Believed to be the fastest stock automobile of its period,
Barney Oldfieldwon the Mount Wilson hillclimbin a Stearns Six (which was a 45/90 of 12913cc/788ci). In 1910 at Brighton Beach, Al Pooleand Cyrus Patschkewon a 24-hour race, covering 1253mi (2016km) at an average 52.2mph (84.0kph). [Wise, p.2176.]
Soon, however, Stearns turned away from performance. In 1911, the firm began installing Knight
sleeve valveengines, marketed under the Stearns-Knightbrand name. By 1914, they had a 5.1 liter four and a 6.8 liter six, electric lighting, and electric starter. [Wise, p.2176.] This was followed by a V8, one of the first companies to offer one, in 1917. [Wise, p.2176.]
Stearns retired in 1919 [Wise, p.2176.] and sold his automotive company to J.N. Willys in 1925; Willys operated Stearns-Knight as a non-integrated affiliate of WillysOverland until 1929 when the F.B. Stearns Company was liquidated.
* Wise, David Burgess. "Stearns: A Quality Car from Cleveland", in Northey, Tom, ed. "World of Automoblies" (London: Orbis, 1974), Volume 19, p.2174-6.
* "Frank Leslie's Popular Monthly" (January, 1904)
List of defunct United States automobile manufacturers
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