Opportunity to own Randy Riley's 1912 Stevens-Duryea Model AA.
43.8 ALAM hp, 404.3 cu. in. L-head inline six-cylinder engine with dual ignition, three-speed manual transmission, semi-elliptical front and three-quarter elliptical rear leaf-spring suspension, and rear-wheel mechanical drum brakes. Wheelbase: 128 in.
Produced in Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts, between 1901 and 1927, the Stevens-Duryea was developed by American automotive pioneer J. Frank Duryea, who, with his brother, Charles, designed the first American car produced with an intent to sell in 1893. It enjoyed a reputation for excellent engineering and fine build quality, deserving of its high price, and was a posh and costly machine. The Model ‘AA’ of 1911-12 offered dual ignition on its inline six-cylinder engine, for 43.8 ALAM horsepower, on a large 128-inch-wheelbase platform.
The example offered here has a very well-known history, largely thanks to the efforts of Elmer C. Lee, who documented his acquisition and restoration of it in the March-April 1969 issue of the Veteran Motor Car Club of America’s Bulb Horn. Mr. Lee noted that the Stevens had been found with the family of Henry “Harry” G. Wesson of Ware, Massachusetts, not far from Chicopee Falls. Mr. Wesson had kept the car alongside a second Stevens-Duryea, a 1911 model which he had purchased new and drove regularly for many years, as noted in a 1937 newspaper article marveling that the 1911 was still on the road!
While the 1912 Stevens had apparently been acquired to support continued operation of Mr. Wesson’s 1911 model, it had remained largely complete and intact, as shown in an “as-found” photo in the Bulb Horn. The engine had been partially disassembled, but Mr. Lee was able to gather many of the missing parts from various locations in the Wesson barn, including the original side lamps! After bringing the car home he began a meticulous restoration, sourcing additional correct parts with the help of newspaper and magazine advertisements – something unimaginable today, but in the late 1950s, it still worked!
Morris Kunkle, noted Stevens-Duryea owner, eventually supplied a correct original top water manifold, connecting rods, and carburetor. One of the three engine blocks was missing and Rudy Watts, a skilled Millsbury, Massachusetts, pattern-maker, reproduced the missing block to exact original specifications, while the other two original blocks were reused. The axles were rebuilt and the original body preserved through careful restoration. In sum, exhaustive attention was given to using as many original parts as possible, and to ensuring authenticity in every regard.
Work was finally completed in August 1968 and the car won its class in a meet at Mount Wachusett, Massachusetts, then was driven on the Glidden Tour in September 1968 and won the Frederick C. Crawford Auto-Aviation Award for the Best Brass Age Car. The following January it attended the VMCCA Annual Meeting at Indianapolis and received the Alec Ulmann Trophy, as the Best Owner Restoration of the Year.
In the early 1970s the car was sold by Mr. Lee to the current, late owner. It was expertly further sorted in its new caretaker’s hands, and lightly updated for touring with a 12-volt electrical system and 12-volt alternator, as well as a supplementary oil pump system. Unlike many Brass cars of this era that were outfitted with things like hydraulic brakes and electric lights, its new owner kept his Stevens largely “pure” and proceeded to demonstrate that it was still drivable and usable exactly as it had been built. It went on to complete many of the Transcontinental Tours hosted by Millard Newman, as well as numerous Red Rock Tours in the Western United States, during the owner’s four decades of ownership – and it was driven to most of these tours under its own power, without a trailer. Many of the banners for these events accompany, along with a copy of carburetor instructions.
While the car obviously wears the satisfying patina of such use, it remains in very attractive overall condition, and would require little cosmetic fettling to continue to be toured with pride. Most importantly, it remains mechanically strong and quite powerful, and undoubtedly has many more miles to enjoy with a new caretaker in any number of events they should wish to undertake. Its history is as rich and evocative as the experience of being behind the wheel.