|A 1908 WHITE MODEL "L" STEAM CAR
By Bob Dyke
In 1969 my
father was running the Foden Showman's engine "Prospector" and had
thought about finding a lighter vehicle. He went to a Veteran Car
Club auction arranged by Norman Cole and there saw the 1908 White
sold for £6,800. The White was on the front page. She was purchased
by another traction engine owner, the scrap dealer J. Hardwick of
Ewel in Surrey. Father purchased about then a Sentinel Super Steam
Waggon to go with his 1921 "D" type Foden steam lorry and sold the
In early 1988
I had decided that my next project would be the restoration of a
steam car. A boiler with the explosion risk in front of me did not
appeal but sitting on a flash steam generator seemed a greater attraction.
I did not consider at this time the fact that you take some petrol,
add diesel to make it burn hotter, mix it with air to make an explosive
mixture and then fire it a under your seat. Father had purchased
a 1906 White Model "F" so I decided to give Hardwick a telephone
call. It was just in time as he died two weeks later! He told me
that he had fire everywhere when he tried to get the car going and
had sold it to one Laurie Leader from Colchester Car Auctions in
the early 1980's.
Laurie Leader. He did not want to sell the car but a photograph
arrived next morning and an invitation to view her. It just so happened
that we were off to Colchester that weekend to take my lather's
old steam generator to Willingale Tubes Ltd to have a new one made.
His steam generator that was fitted was a tube that looked as if
it had been wrapped around a tree with no thought of White's original
water cascade structure. My White turned out to also have the same
cobbled-up steam generator.
We were taken
to see the White and I decided that this was what I was going to
restore. Negotiations took a couple of weeks and then the car was
delivered to me in Cornwall by a professional carrier in a lorry.
Unfortunately, during the journey, chains had been beating against
the back of the body and caused considerable damage.
I was thrilled
with the general condition of the car but soon found problems. The
thermostat fitted was off a 1902 White (yes, it is now fitted to
my 1902 White), designed to regulate petrol flow and not bypass
water as does the 1908 one. The steam generator was unusable. The
water tank had no bottom. The fuel tank was held in by bits of wood
but on the White is a rigid structure which keeps the rear end rigid.
As a result of the now weaker structure, a couple of extra bars
had been added to the back of the The only thing to do was to strip
the car to the chassis and start again. Harold Harry and I had her
in bits in three days and in six months she was back together with
new paint work, steam generator and fuel tank. Several essential
parts now needed sorting. The lack of wear on many parts such as
the steering box show the car had done little work.
The car had
no registration number and as far as I was concerned at the time,
no known history before the 1969 auction. First, I contacted the
Veteran Car Club. They have records probably produced by Frederick
Coleman's business of Whites in Carlow Street, Camden Town, London
N.W. The engine number L 391 agreed with the chassis number 6028
that we had found on the wooden chassis with its steel flitch plates.
The numbers from the rear axle with two-speed gearbox, the condenser
and the flowmotor were also correct. The owner had been a W. Garton.
About six months later I borrowed a copy of Montagu and Bird's book
Steam Cars 1770 to 1970 and before I got to it, my son Michael found
a picture of "The Garton family photographed in their two White
touring cars at Sarisbury Green, Southampton, 1906." One car looked
remarkably like my 1908 White and the registration number was clearly
visible so I got onto the Hampshire record office where it had been
registered and thence to their archives where Miss Philippa White
(who was unaware White cars existed) was happy to send me the details
of the car showing that this was indeed my car and that William
Garton ran it up to 1915. After many letters and some assistance
from writer and historian Michael Worthington-Williams, I managed
to obtain the original registration number. I was able to contact
Michael Norris-Hill who owned the glass-plate negative of that picture
and supplied me with prints from it. He was a relative of Mr. William
Garton and told me more about him.
Within a week
of purchasing my car, someone telephoned my father with the news
that he had a Model "L" parts list and a fan from a relative's White.
The former was essential for the restoration. He had heard about
the two Whites' return to Cornwall.
I had often
talked to a patient of mine called Saxon Littler who had restored
a White in the 1950's. I was disappointed that my car did not turn
out to be that one- but father's White was it. Saxon had died by
were missing, the steam gauge and the pyrometer. An appeal to several
White owners in America resulted in a response for which I will
always be grateful. Mel Howell supplied me with these gauges and,
over the next three years, Dick Hempel wrote to me several hundred
pages of information to help me out as I ran into difficulties.
I hope to print these out for other White restorers eventually but
I do supply the information when requested.
helped and in return I produced some parts such as thermostat castings
for the 1908 and 1910 cars and some pilot light tops. The 1910 castings
I produced by mistake, copying Jack Crabtree's 1910 White's thermostat
and only after casting them Dick Hempel told me that they were different.
We altered the casting box to make the 1908 ones. Machining the
threads proved interesting as we had to use a 32 inch swing lathe
in the Penzance dockyard. I was later to telephone Jack Crabtree
with the news that I had found him a 1910 Parts List. He requested
that I purchase his White as he was terminally ill. I did so and
am only now finding this car's history.
months after purchasing it the White was back together, another
year was taken before steaming in sorting the smaller bits, making
parts such as the thermostat and doing the plumbing. I always endeavoured
to use the original specification as Dick Hempel had impressed upon
me that it was the only way that a White would run properly. I had
lost the winter's work through having a bit of lung removed but
that allowed for the ongoing research. I discovered that Alec Hodsdon
had done a lot of work on the car in the 1960's but he had died.
I believe that it was Alun Griffiths who pointed out that a White
was pictured in 1943 in a scrap yard in "The Steam Car And Steam
Aviation" magazine. This was my car. It took me a couple more years
to find the rescuer Austin Farrar, and only in 1996 did he have
a ride in her; a 100 mile trip around Norfolk on our "day off' from
the Norfolk tour.
stroke of luck came to me in about 1993 when I purchased another
parts list for a White. In the back was a hand-written letter from
Alec Hodsdon stating that he had sold the White for £2750 and within
a year it had been resold at Norman Coles auction for £6,800. Again
this had to be my car.
From my first
steam up in 1990 to April 1993 I continued to struggle with the
plumbing and fire, producing spectacular flames and singeing my
beard and hair. My top hat became known as the "Cornish Fire Extinguisher".
The car would run around a rally field, but on the road she had
no power and would always blow back. ~ had never seen another White
working to get an idea of where the problem lay. Having rechecked
many times the operation of the flowmotor, the by-passes, the fuel
jets and the vapouriser, eventually I had come to the conclusion
that the main burner was the problem and that the slots were too
small. I found out that Alec Hodsdon had made the burner top but
he had milled the slots only about 0.012 inch instead of 0.025 inch.
Enlarging them was impossible as thecast iron would not take re-machining
without breaking after being used and heated many times.
Only when I
purchased Jack Crabtree's White and used that car's old and damaged
burner did things alter. Dramatically, on the first steaming with
the 1910 burner, the car was in steam in a minute instead of three
minutes from the main burner being turned on. I could drive her
on the road and the pressure (4SOpsi) and steam tempera- ture (750
deg F.) remained almost constant. All the work on the fuel control
had made that system function well. I started to enjoy the road
work in the car.
before the fall! Within days, I made a serious but simple driving
error. There are three levers for the White owner to juggle on the
right. I did not stop to change gear as recommended but slipped
her through the gear as usual, but on this occasion I pushed the
reversing lever instead of the gear lever as I chatted to a friend
in the passenger seat. There was a nasty noise as we jerked to a
stop. I drove home but within a week the damage started to become
evident. I had loosened a crank taper and it twisted, making me
limp home - an engine rebuild job. The flywheel soon came Page 14
The Steam Car loose as the bolts had been stretched. The metal rim
on the rear right wheel twisted on the wood partly due to corroded
pins inside. I had broken a tooth off the bottom gear and later
the propeller shaft end also came adrift on the Goss Moor on the
return trip from visiting my parents for lunch (72 miles each way).
Later Whites do not take reversing the valve-gear when going forwards
but it is an essential on going down hills in the 1902 White Stanhope
which is not compound and has D-valves.
With all working
well again except that I had to use the bottom end of a spare engine
(H4) as Lucy's was not ready, we set off for the Welsh Mountains
in Snowdonia. "Why bring a White, you will never get that around
the tour" was the greeting. We made the first day's trip of 80 miles
to the bottom of Snowdon and back, to most peoples' surprise. The
next day we stormed the Tal-y-llyn pass in top gear while several
Stanleys stopped to make more steam near the top. In fact, for the
last seven years, we have not missed a tour day although we still
have a few blow backs requiring use of the top hat. We hope the
new burner this year will finally sort out that problem.
The engine was
very noisy with the H4 bottom half on it. Paul Morgan had broken
the lower half of his 1903 engine and so had Arthur of his 1904
Model ~E". Their engines were also noisy. Mine improved a bit when
I had fitted the correct lower half but it was only when I was reading
again Edmonson's Manual of 1910 where he goes into the detail on
the performance of the White, that I noted that Whites insisted
on 25% lardy-oil (or tallow) in the oil. We had "tallow-substitute"
in our oil which turned out to be rape-seed oil. I made up some
Morris ST 1000 oil with 20% tallow melted into it. The difference
was dramatic. The car now ticks over almost silently and is smoother
and more powerful. The bores and the ball bearings in the all-ball-bearing
crankcase no longer rust. This winter I have almost finished putting
new bearings in the rear axle and making a new pinion shaft which
had fractured through an oilway. With a new burner we will be ready
for a new season. The Thursday gang of Harold Harry, Peter Reid
and Michael Christopher should be back on polishing duty.
for the twentieth century now is almost complete. Imported in 1908
as a chassis by Frederick Coleman, bodied by Cann & Co of London
and sold to William Garton who ran her until 1915. His house was
commandeered as a hospital and the body removed from the car but
stored in a woodshed so that the car could be used for war service.
She probably was found to be too complicated and was put aside,
as yet I know not where, being sent to the scrap yard most likely
in the scrap drive at the start of World War II. She was rescued
from there in 1944 by Austin Farrar and stored until 1958. She was
then purchased by Alec Hodsdon who did much work on her but did
not do enough research to make her work properly. He sold her in
1967 probably to Norman Cole and she was resold in an auction in
1969 to Hardwick of Ewell who in turn sold her to Laurie Leader.
She still was not in a fit state to steam. Finally Lucy was purchased
by me in 1988 and put into running order for the first time since
parts are surprising. If you look at the rear tyres when she came
out of the scrap yard, I still used those (pre-1915?) until 1996
when I put on two new Michelins. They lasted two years before I
had to replace them as they had bulged. I put the old ones back
on for another year but am now fitting new Dunlops on there! I did
use very thick inner-tubes but the tyres gave no trouble and still
have some tread.