Lot 266

Hershey 2017

1929 Stearns-Knight J-8-90 Seven-Passenger Touring


$132,000 USD | Sold

United States | Hershey, Pennsylvania



Chassis No.
  • Formerly owned and restored by Knight engine guru Al Giddings
  • One of 11 surviving examples of the ultimate Knight-engined American car
  • “The car that Stearns should have built,” on an original J-8-90 chassis
  • Featured in the January–February 2014 issue of Antique Automobile magazine
  • Among the rarest Classic Car Club of America (CCCA) Full Classics

Some of the greatest American Full Classics are the least-known today. Among them are the grand final products of the F.B. Stearns Company of Cleveland, Ohio, one of America’s finest automakers since 1903, and since 1912, its foremost proponent of the Knight engine design, with its mechanically actuated “sleeve valves.” The Knight engine was complex but remarkably smooth and silent. In its ultimate Stearns iteration, the J-8-90 of 1928-29, it produced 112 quiet hp from 385 cu. in., and was mounted on an incredibly overbuilt, partially boxed frame with superbly constructed coachwork. The result, in its quality and engineering, was every bit the equal of a Packard or Lincoln of the time.

In two years, just 388 of the J-8-90 were manufactured, and only 11 of them remain in existence, mostly in museums.

The car offered here, one of those fabulous rarities, resided for many years in Southern California, later passing through the hands of Knight enthusiasts Richard Hamilton, Ken Lane, and Peter Woyen and Mark Young. By the time that Woyen and Young acquired the J-8-90 it had deteriorated for many years, and its original sedan bodywork was beyond saving. Accordingly, it was decided to restore the Stearns as a seven-passenger touring, a factory body style of which no original examples have survived.

The project came to fruition under the ownership of renowned cinematographer, engineer, and passionate Knight enthusiast, Al Giddings, who saw the coachwork recreated to original factory designs and drawings, resulting in superior quality and accuracy. Because of the similarities between Stearns’ sedan and touring bodies, original sheet metal from the beltline down could be used, with a modified original cowl. Mr. Giddings rebuilt the engine and transmission himself, while the chassis and body were finished by Patrick Kelso and David DeJon, with paint by Kevin VanLaarhoven. The late Knight enthusiasts Patterson Barnes and Art Aseltine provided considerable help and support as well.

The result is an Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) National Award nominee, among many other prizes won all over the country, and has been exhibited at the AACA Museum here in Hershey. It is certainly one of the finest restored Stearns-Knights in the world, and would likely be the rarest Full Classic in whatever collection it enters. Pride of ownership is evident in every nut and bolt.