ENJOYING A BROOKS TODAY
"The driving is exciting fun," explains owner Jeff Theobald, who lives in Surrey, England. "Every mile is an adventure, you never quite know what is going to happen next," he stresses, pointing out the need to constantly keep an eye on things like boiler pressure.
Jeff found his first Brooks in the mid-1980s when a London, dealer contacted him for help with its steam powerplant. The introduction led to restoring and acquiring the car. It is now driven regularly.
The Brooks takes about half an hour to start up - perhaps the most graphic reason so few people bought steam cars. The process is a bit complex, with the burner and the pilot light requiring different fuels. Starting does not require the key (which only locks the lighting switch). The first step is to push (and hold in) a button on a panel located above the running board. This heats the pilot light to get it going. after a few minute’s the main burner can be started. The noise from releasing kerosene fuel into the boiler fire (which Jeff describes as a "howl") is followed by patiently waiting for the steam pressure to build - which takes about ten minutes. "When full steam pressure is up, the main fire is shut down by automatic control and the car is ready to move off," adds Jeff. The Brooks continues incrementally: "It takes about five miles for the car to settle down and all the parts to get their proper working temperatures," he adds. It is important not to go to fast until the cylinders have warmed up; as any water in the steam feed or engine, can do damage if not allowed to escape. Once underway, the engine/boiler combination is fully automatic.
The Brooks offers a maximum driving speed of 30 to 40mph. It had this practical limit when new; the 20-inch boiler creates modest power. Jeff's car needs to stop for water every 50 miles or so if the outside temperature is warm, less often, when it is cooler.
Maintaining the fabric body is quite simple. This car has been restored using an oil cloth similar to the original Meritas, which is no longer available. Warm soapy water cleans it, and a fabric treatment enhances the finish.
In the late 1960s, Canadian interest in the Brooks revived. The catalyst may have been that a former employee, Dutch Meier, was now the mayor of Stratford. He had worked at the factory after graduating from school. For those like him, being a Brooks employee was doubly attractive; testing the cars as well as working on the assembly line also counted for apprenticeship time at the Grand Trunk Line railroad shops in Stratford. As other former employees recalled their days at Brooks, a number of detailed newspaper accounts of the business were reported.
Six complete Brooks cars, and possibly three chassis, are known to survive. A forth chassis is rumoured to be stored in a garage in Toronto. A fifth chassis may also be waiting to be revealed. Once on display in Stratford, it is thought to have been converted to electricity by an owner in Quebec.
Four Brooks are owned privately, three of these are in the United Kingdom #26060, 26102 and 26141. Four reside in Canadian museums. Their histories are sparse; it is not clear if their serial numbers were distorted to disguise actual production figures. The Reynolds/Alberta Museum in Wetaskiwin, Alberta, owns the car with the serial number, #26137. The Western Development Museum in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, owns car #26080. Its first owner was Bob Hawkins, a dealer in Calgary, Alberta. A Mr. L.E. Bruns of Carstairs, Alberta purchased the car in 1928. The Canadian Museum of Science and Technology in Ottawa owns car #26133. The original owner is unknown but it appears that he kept the car until 1951. The collection of the Canadian Automotive Museum in Oshawa, Ontario, includes a complete with factory original diamond-tread Goodyear tires, plus two Brooks engines that were later converted to marine use.
Back from our trip to Canada searching for Brooks Steam Cars.
The 1924 serial number of the restored Brooks in the National Automotive Museum in Reno, Nevada, #24032,?? indicates it is the oldest known survivor. Could there be other Brooks waiting to be discovered?
Brooks Brierley's writings about prewar automobiles include both books and magazine stories. His most recent book, Magic Motors 1930, is a discussion of the great American classic-era cars with period photographs showing them in North America and Europe.
Brooks number 26056 now owned and back in the town of Stratford where it was built in 1925.
On this trip we loaded a container with the demonstration chassis of 1924
and many other Brooks spares which had been in storage for over 30 years, now all on their way to the UK.
Click here for video of 1924 Brooks blowing down (1.7mb)
Same video better quality (8.8mb)