Salvesen Steam
1893 Salvesen Steam Car

To symbolise the occasion of public freedom this Summer, we will be welcoming Duncan Pittaway's astonishing 1893 Salvesen Steam Car to this year’s show. Featuring a blazing coal-burning furnace, a high-pressure hot water boiler, solid iron tyres, a tall smoking chimney and ear-piercing tooting steam whistle, the utterly unique and rarely seen Salvesen is basically an early steam railway locomotive adapted for driving on the open road.

“It’s the only car I know that can simultaneously toast waffles and brew tea,” joked Pittaway, who is promising to fire up his mind-blowing Victorian artefact to the certain delight and astonishment of all those attending the eagerly anticipated three-day event in its new, open air Thames-side venue.

“We’ll be letting off lots of steam,” promised the whole-hearted Pittaway. “Like so many others, I’m bursting with pent up enthusiasm and am really excited to be coming to The London Classic Car Show. Even more so as I’ll be displaying the wondrous Salvesen – it never fails to amuse and amaze onlookers of all ages.”

The steam car will be one of many automotive icons featured under our 'Evolution of Design' theme. The theme will take you on a magical journey through 135 years of automotive innovation from early pioneers, such as the fiery Salvesen right up to the latest supercars, the classics of tomorrow.

Dating back to the dawn of motoring, the steam car was the very first car ever built in Scotland. It was designed and constructed by Henry Salvesen, son of shipping and transport tycoon Christian Salvesen. Taking a lead from his family's ships, Henry chose coal fired steam as the well-proven source of propulsion for his new-fangled vehicle. Coal after all was in plentiful supply while fuel sources were limited for the petrol engines being developed overseas.

At first, Henry only drove his novel wagonette bodied creation in the safety of the family estate but, after improving his original design by fitting a Daimler front axle complete with solid rubber tyres in 1896, he started to venture onto the road for short journeys with friends and family. Nevertheless, the very rapid development of petrol engines proved that coal fired steam certainly wasn't the automotive future, thus rendering Henry’s design obsolete after the construction of only the one example. Now, nearly 130 years later, Pittaway is just the fourth owner... or rather ‘custodian’ in his words.

When fully stoked-up the remarkable Salvesen can muster a heady top speed of 16mph with the twin-cylinder engine developing around 10 horsepower by boiling off five gallons of water every mile. Fitted with a 40-gallon tank, that provides a range of eight miles between fill ups.

As well as seating for the driver plus four passengers on two self-facing benches, there’s room for a couple of bags of coal plus a standing fireman on a rear platform. The rudimentary transmission offers two gears ­– described by Pittaway as ‘slow and very slow’ – but with tiller steering, wooden block brakes and candlelit headlights, faster speeds are hardly advisable.

The Salvesen Steamer will be joining hundreds of other equally alluring classic cars in the summer sunshine at the picturesque Syon Park.