CARMEL >> The loudest and warmest applause from the massive crowd lining both sides of Ocean Avenue for Thursday's Tour d'Elegance vintage car showcase was reserved for the oldest vehicles in the parade — indeed, some of the oldest vehicles in the world — a couple of which were propelled by steam.
A 1902 Toledo Model A Stanhope Runabout owned by Nick Howell of Cornwall, United Kingdom, and a 1902 White Model B Stanhope Steamer owned by Tom Goyne of Denver were magnets for attention among a spectacular lineup of some of the world's rarest and most-beautiful automobiles, including Packards, Duesenbergs, Rolls-Royces and Bentleys, Ferraris, Jaguars, Aston Martins and Alfa Romeos.
"My great uncle had one like that when I was a boy in Pittsburgh," said 93-year-old Charles Short as a 1928 Bentley 4½ Litre Vanden Plas Tourer rolled by. "He owned a speakeasy during prohibition and was the only wealthy person I knew. He'd pay me a nickle sometimes to sit in his car and make sure nobody messed with it."
Nostalgia titillated the spectators, most of whom were baby boomers or older, but it's likely that nobody on Ocean Avenue was around when the two steam-powered horseless carriages rolled out of the factory for the first time.
"This one was made by the White Sewing Machine Company in Cleveland," said Goyne, who found his steamer eight years ago with almost all of its original parts intact. "It burns gasoline to heat water, which makes steam to run the engine, which then propels the car through a chain drive in the back."
The tiny engine is tucked under the passenger-side seat. A good-sized boiler is housed right behind.
Goyne said he took the car completely apart when he first got it, got all of its parts working, then put it back together.
"I ran it like that for about two years and I drove it in a couple of events. In fact, on one tour I drove it about 125 miles in one day, which was quite a thing," he said. "After that, I took it all apart again, made it look nice with paint, and upholstery and body work, and that's what you see here today."
Goyne said he pulled out of Thursday's 25-mile Tour d'Elegance parade early because the thermostat wasn't operating properly. Howell, who brought his steamer all the way from England, admitted to a similar fate.
"We've noticed that U.S. fuel is full of all the wrong stuff," he said with a laugh. "We need some pure, proper fuel for this car to work well, so someone's gone off to get us Coleman's lamp oil, which is what it ran on originally."
Howell said American gasoline doesn't produce enough heat, thereby producing only saturated steam.
"When we go off, we'll leave a big vapor trail behind us, and the car shouldn't be doing that," he said. "Saturated steam is the kind that comes out of your tea kettle, and it should be much hotter than that."
Howell said his Toledo Model A was the first automobile to forge a trail from Flagstaff, Ariz., to the Grand Canyon on Jan. 2, 1902, a trip that took three days, rather than the expected eight hours. He and his co-pilot brother, Chris, plan to try to duplicate the historic drive, hopefully in about three hours.
"We were planning to do it this year until we got invited instead to show the car at Pebble Beach," he said. "Chris and I have spent the last four days with Jay Leno, who is a complete steam-car nut, and everybody here has been so hospitable. It's really been a terrific experience."
Dennis Taylor can be reached at 646-4344.
Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion
Friday 8:30 a.m.–4:50 p.m.: Practice/Qualifying
Saturday 8:30 a.m.–11:45 p.m.: Racing
11:55 a.m.–12:10 p.m.: Maserati Corral Parade Laps
1:30 p.m.–4:50 p.m.: Rolex Racing
Sunday: 8:10 a.m.–4:50 p.m.: Racing
5:30 p.m.: Awards ceremony at Paddocks Showcase stage
Tickets/more information: MazdaRaceway.com or 800-327-7322.