The F.B. Stearns Company built automobiles in Cleveland for 30 years – from 1900 until 1929. The automobiles were originally sold as Stearns automobiles but adopted the Stearns-Knight name in 1912 when they switched to the innovative Knight sleeve-valve motor for all cars.
Mr. Frank B. Stearns was a very early auto pioneer who built his first car in 1896. The Stearns was the most powerful and fastest American stock car of its era. Ralph Stein, the famed motor car writer said it flatly, ‘…the most potent car of its time.’ They offered a series of light gasoline-powered automobiles, and later, larger prestige cars like this Limousine.
The Stearns 30/60, manufactured in Cleveland between 1907 and 1911, was fitted with the newfangled Charles Knight-designed sleeve valve engine, after which the company was renamed the Stearns-Knight. This Stearns Limousine, priced at $5,750 when new, has a 60 horsepower, 4-cylinder L-head engine. Lightweight Stearns were raced with much success, and 30/60 roadsters broke records throughout the United States.
In 1917 Frank Stearns retired from the company due to ill health. After spending some time away from his company he began experimenting again with engines and eventually produced a two-stroke overhead cam diesel engine. This was later sold to the United States Navy.
The company continued to prosper due to their styling and durability. Though their nitch in the market was in high-end cars, they shifted down-market in 1914 to compete on a wider scale. Sales continued to be strong for a number of years until they were bought by John North Willys, the owner of the Willys-Overland Company, in 1925. Under Willys direction, the company continued to produce high-end cars until they were forced to dissolve the company as the Great Depression depleted the market.