Stoddard-Dayton predates the turn of the 20th century as a manufacturer of agricultural equipment and tools, though it wasn’t until 1904 when Charles Stoddard, who had become seriously interesting in motor cars since he first saw them on American roads that he announced his company would be making a motor car of their own. Going in with both feet, so to speak, the agricultural side of the business was sold off and the company reincorporated as Dayton Motor Car Company in December of 1904. Their first offering was designed by Englishman H.S. Edwards and powered by a 26 horsepower four-cylinder engine supplied by Rutenber. Over the course of the next several years, Stoddard-Dayton automobiles grew in size, price and production output. By 1908, four models were offered that ranged from an 18 horsepower four-cylinder to a big 50/60hp touring car that cost a rather significant $4,500. The firm continued with moderate sales success, sticking with an ethos of quality over quantity, holding fast to their values in the face of growing pressure from the likes of Ford and other mass-produced motorcars. 1912 was the most successful year for the company, with 26,000 examples built over a wide variety of models. But late 1912, Stoddard-Dayton faltered following an over-commitment to produce even more cars, sending the company into a financial tailspin. Stoddard-Dayton joined U.S. Motors in hopes of steadying itself, however the conglomerate failed shortly afterward and Stoddard-Dayton folded for good, its assets going to Maxwell and eventually General Motors. Thankfully, the Stoddard-Dayton legacy lives on thanks to the exceptional quality and care that was put in to building every one of their motor cars.
With cars like the Model K, Stoddard-Dayton had earned a reputation for quality and performance, and a Stoddard-Dayton was notable as the very first car to win a motor race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (a 300 mile race that preceded the first 500) as well as the first car to pace the 500 mile race at Indy. The Model K was their most sporting offering with its four-cylinder engine rated at upwards of 35 horsepower, gaining the advanced overhead valve engine by 1908. A Model K Runabout Speedster famously finished the 1907 Glidden Tour with a perfect score, and it is believed just two or three such examples were constructed.
This stunning 1907 Stoddard-Dayton Model K Runabout is the product of a multi-year, photo-documented restoration by noted expert Dave Noran, with additional input from Greg Cone and most recently a thorough mechanical sorting and engine rebuild by the renowned brass-era specialist Mike Grunewald. This magnificent car was discovered as a frame and multiple mechanical components purchased from a South Dakota farm in 2001. Once the buyers determined it to be a Model K, a truly remarkable restoration commenced which was completed in the mid-2000s to a very high standard.
Today, it presents in fantastic condition, a jewel of a brass-era machine looking rather resplendent in an all-black livery that is highlighted by white tires (including twin rear-mount spares) and subtle dark green coach stripes on the body, wings and wooden wheels. A brass radiator shell, wheel caps, fabulous Solar Parabolens headlights, dual cowl lights, steering column and Solar acetylene tank all present in beautiful, highly polished condition. The black paintwork is laid down to concours standards, with excellent, straight panels and exceptional detailing. It is quite simply a fine study in Brass Era elegance.
The cockpit is fully exposed as one could expect from a Speedster-type car of this era, and it features a unique three-seat arrangement with a single seat in the rear, complete with a toolbox on the left running board and a small trunk under the seats. The leather trim has been painstakingly crafted and finished, showing little to no use since the restoration was completed. A wood scuttle is highly polished and adorned with even more brass for the cockpit surround and other controls. There is no windscreen, weather equipment or instrumentation, leaving the driver and passengers to get the full “seat of the pants” experience.
Stoddard Dayton’s burly T-head four-cylinder was rated for 30 horsepower in standard trim, though thanks to the efforts of Mr. Grunewald, it likely makes quite a bit more today. In 2015, Grunewald completely disassembled the engine, re-machining it to accommodate new lightweight aluminum pistons, along with careful adjustment of bearing clearances, as well as timing and synchronization of the camshafts to ensure smooth, easy operation. Upon reassembly, he laboriously ensured every seal, gasket and mating surface was tight and free of leaks or drips. Today, the engine runs beautifully and remains exceptionally dry for a brass-era unit. In addition to his engine work, Grunewald also addressed the ignition system, rear axle, brakes, transmission and wiring to ensure it is thoroughly sorted and enjoyable from the word go.
Included in the sale is extensive documentation covering this car’s discovery through its restoration and final sorting. Comparisons with the other two surviving Stoddard-Dayton Model K Runabouts are also included in the comprehensive files. This example is a recent AACA award winner (2016) and also lapped the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2016 as part of the celebrations for that year’s race. Imposing, impressive and fabulously presented, this rare and highly desirable Stoddard-Dayton Model K Runabout is a celebration of the performance and beauty of the American brass era.