1913 Stearns-Knight Six

7-Passenger Touring
RM Auctions Online Only Open Roads Fall
Wednesday, 11 November - Friday, 20 November 2020
Sale Price
$125,000 - 150,000
Est. Range
20 November 2020
Sold Date
Lot Number
Older restoration
RM Sotheby's
Auction House
Chassis no. 8225; Engine no. 8178. Blue with black hood and fenders over black leather. RHD. 489/40 ALAM hp T-head inline six, 4-speed, jump seats, electric starter, dual rear mounted spares, wood spoke wheels, whitewall tires, electric Klaxon horn, Warner drum speedometer, 1913 California registration plate # 5420, Harrah's history file documented.

Evaluation: Reckoned to be the sole surviving 1913 Stearns Six. Stored from 1917 until 1948, later owned by Harrah’s. Long term restoration by Art Aseltine completed in about 2003 and holding up well, although it is showing the age expected of an old restoration with many touring miles since completion. The paint is sound but cracking on wood panels and chipped at edges. The upholstery is good, although the jump seats, which are original, are stiff and cracking. Tight-fitting top. Orderly and clean engine compartment, and a chassis that shows use and age but also consistent maintenance.

Bottom Line: Bid to $95,000 during the live auction, closed later with this result. Stearns-Knight is an obscure but respected marque that employed the Knight sleeve-valve system using reciprocating sleeves around the cylinders in place of poppet valves. It was an advanced concept that promised exceptional efficiency and silence but was limited by the manufacturing and lubrication technology of the time. It was explored by several premier manufacturers including Daimler (for whom the Knight engine won the 1909 RAC Dewar Trophy) but eventually proved to be impractical. In 1913, however, Stearns-Knight was a respected prestige marque. Wealthy Stearns buyers didn’t care if the engine, when running cold, left behind clouds of atomized engine lubricant. This is an elegant and luxurious example that deserved more than the reported high bid, and eventually got it in an off-the-block sale.

by Rick Carey
8 December 2020
1913 Stearns-Knight Six Seven-Passenger Touring
1913 Stearns-Knight Six Seven-Passenger Touring
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Condition definitions
Condition #1: Concours
Condition #1 vehicles are the best in the world. The visual image is of the best vehicle, in the right colors, driving onto the lawn at the finest concours. Perfectly clean, the vehicle has been groomed down to the tire treads. Painted and chromed surfaces are mirror-like. Dust and dirt are banned, and materials used are correct and superbly fitted. The one word description for #1 vehicles is “concours.“
Condition #2: Excellent
#2 vehicles could win a local or regional show. They can be former #1 vehicles that have been driven or have aged. Seasoned observers will have to look closely for flaws, but will be able to find some not seen by the general public. The paint, chrome, glass and finishes will all appear as excellent. No excessive smoke will be seen on startup, no unusual noises will emanate from the engine. The vehicle will drive as a new vehicle of its era would. The one word description for #2 vehicles is “excellent.“
Condition #3: Good
#3 vehicles could possess some, but not all of the issues of a #4 vehicle, but they will be balanced by other factors such as a fresh paint job or a new, correct interior where applicable. #3 vehicles drive and run well, but might have some incorrect parts. These vehicles are not used for daily transportation but are ready for a long tour without excuses, and the casual passerby will not find any visual flaws. “Good” is the one word description of a #3 vehicle.
Condition #4: Fair
#4 vehicles are daily drivers, with flaws visible to the naked eye. The chrome might have pitting or scratches, the windshield might be chipped. Paintwork is imperfect, and perhaps the body has a minor dent. Split seams or a cracked dash, where applicable, might be present. No major parts are missing, but the wheels could differ from the originals, or other non- stock additions might be present. A #4 vehicle can also be a deteriorated restoration. “Fair” is the one word that describes a #4 vehicle.
Condition #5: Poor
Running, but battered, incomplete, and perhaps rusty.
Condition #6: Parts car
Parts car.
Hagerty only assigns condition ratings to vehicles we can inspect in person or, for online listings, via high-quality photography.