5-6 October 2017

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Lot 266

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

  • Chassis no. J11926

Sold for $132,000

  • 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.

Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.

Alexander Weaver


+1 864 313 6844
California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat


+44 (0) 74 1511 4179
United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht


+1 203 912 7168
Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

David Swig


+1 415 302 2247
California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

Don Rose


+1 617 513 0388
United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould


+1 954 566 2209
Florida, United States

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff


+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Jake Auerbach


+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Kurt Forry


+1 717 623 1638
California, United States

Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut


+1 805 231 6410
California, United States

A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire


+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn


+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin


+44 (0) 75 0110 7447
United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill


+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher


+1 519 784 9300
Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

Shelby Myers


+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden


+31 653 84 19 60
United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more