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Land Speed Record

F.E. Stanley with Fred Marriott and Racer

F.E. Stanley with Fred Marriott and his racer, Ormond Beach, Fla., 1906. (Stanley Museum Archives)

The Land Speed Record

Racing at Ormond Beach, Florida, began as early as 1903. The smooth, hard-packed sand as well as an abundance of regular winter visitors made it an ideal location for early speed trials and attracted racers from across the United States and Europe. 

During the 1906 trials, several Stanley automobiles participated: a standard Model H Roadster, a Model F Touring Car, and a car now referred to as the Stanley Rocket (although less favorable names included “cigar-shape freak” and “upside-down canoe”). On January 26, 1906, Fred Marriott, a mechanic employed by the Stanleys, raced the Rocket into the record books by completing a mile in 28 1/5 seconds, or 127.6 miles per hour. 


1908 Stanley Model K by the Marshall Steam, 2008

1908 Stanley Semi-Racer Model K by Marshall Steam Museum, 2008.

1908 Stanley Semi-Racer Model K
Giants Despair Hillclimb

Unlike other car manufacturers, the Stanley Motor Carriage Company relied on employees and dealers to race their cars, with drivers participating in competitions near their bases of operation. A race not far from Auburn Heights was the Giants Despair Hillclimb, held outside of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, starting in 1906. The mile-long course, with six turns and grades up to 20 percent, remains in use today. 

In 1908, two Stanley Model Ks participated in the event, one with Fred Marriott, famous for his 1906 land speed record in a Stanley at Ormond Beach, Florida, behind the wheel. The second was driven by Philadelphia dealer D. Walter Harper. Clarence Marshall (who collected many of the cars displayed here) persuaded Harper to part with the vehicle in July 1910, and Mrs. Harper drove it from Philadelphia to Yorklyn for delivery. Three years later, Clarence sold it to the Foote brothers in Avondale, who disassembled the vehicle. Hyde Ballard acquired the parts in 1945 and restored the car over a 32-year period. Tom Marshall purchased the restored car from Ballard in 1986, so the car displayed here is the rebuilt Model K that raced at Giants Despair more than a century ago.


Stanley Model K at Giant’s Despair Hillclimb, Wilkes-Barra, Pa., May 30, 1908

Photo of Stanley Model K at Giant’s Despair Hillclimb, Wilkes-Barra, Pa., May 30, 1908. (Allen Blazick)