Electrical Restoration

In 1912 Cadillac introduced electric start which many believe was the improvement that provided internal combustion powered vehicles the edge over steam powered cars.  Electrical systems were common in automobiles by the time Stanley introduced a simple electrical system in their cars in 1913.  With no need to supply power for an ignition system, Stanley cars relied on acetylene fueled headlights and kerosene fueled running and tail lights.  With automotive electrical systems operating at 6 volts, the Stanley's acetylene headlights were far brighter than their electrical powered counterparts.

Stanley electrical systems were extremely simple.  The 1913 cars provided a small battery that powered combination kerosene-electrical running lights and the tail light.  A small lamp mounted on the firewall provided illumination for viewing the boiler water, steam pressure and fuel pressure gauges also mounted on the firewall.  With the introduction of condensing cars in 1915, electric headlights and a generator were added.

Stanley electrical systems were designed with the generator mounted to the rear axle so that the generator could be driven from the differential.  The generator only produced power when the car was in motion which for a Stanley his fine.  When at rest the battery would supply any power needed for lights.  The electrical system was a 6-volt system.

With the introduction of the 1918 Model 735 steam carriages Stanley attempted to provide "electric start".  Electric starting for a Stanley steam car involved the heating of the pilot vaporizer electrically.  A button, when pushed, applied the battery's available short-circuit current across the pilot vaporizer tube to heat it.  Unfortunately this arrangement also resulted in the overheating the wiring between the battery and the vaporizer and was not at all efficient.  A further complication was that the battery was discharged sufficiently after starting such that unless the car was driven at least 25 miles at a good speed, the battery could not be fully recharged.  Stanley eventually discontinued electric starting.

Several improvements from the original Stanley design were made during the restoration of the electrical system.  The system voltage was changed from 6 to 12 volts in order to have access to more commonly available electrical components such as lamps and generators.  Dedicated wiring was provided for all electrical components so that use of the car's frame as the common return conductor could be eliminated.  Modern reproduction wiring constructed of thermoplastic insulation covered with period color and pattern cotton braiding was used.  Circuit protection was changed from a single 20-ampere fuse to multiple fuses for each electrical circuit.  With the addition of hydraulic brakes to the car as part of the overall restoration a master cylinder brake light switch now operated the brake light circuit.  At some time in the past directional signals had been added to the car and these were retained.

Along the left side of the screen are a series of photographs.  Clicking on a photograph will replace this window with a window describing a particular aspect of the electrical system restoration effort.  As an alternate you can click the NEXT button at the bottom of each page to view each of the electrical restoration pages in sequence.

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