Harry Stutz’s Last Hurrah

With the boom following World War I in full swing, Harry C. Stutz sold his interest in the Stutz Motor Company and left to form H.C.S. Motor Car Company in 1919. The H.C.S. was a moderate-sized, quality-assembled automobile similar to its predecessor, the Stutz. The H.C.S. factory was constructed at 1402 N. Capitol Avenue in Indianapolis, just across the street from another newcomer, the Stutz Fire Engine Company. The H.C.S. Indianapolis showroom was in the Charles E. Stutz Sales Company premises at 848 N. Meridian Street.

1920 H.C.S.
1920 H.C.S.

In late 1919, a H.C.S. prototype was built. The car had an upright nickel-silver radiator, drum-style headlights, cycle-type fenders, aluminum step plates in place of traditional running boards, and self-supporting side-mounted spare tires. A modified 50 h.p. Weidley four-cylinder engine was standard equipment. The prototype used a Delco generating, starting, and lighting system. The valve cover, side covers, bell housing, and finned oil pan were all of cast aluminum. The initial offering price of a roadster was $2,725 with a top price of $3,650 for the sedan.

H.C.S. was selected as the pace car for the 1921 Indianapolis 500. Then in the 1923 Memorial Day classic, the company-sponsored, straight-eight race car obtained the pole position and finished in first place.

1921 H.C.S.
1921 H.C.S.

Stutz’s timing on the H.C.S. was unfortunate because of the economic recession of 1921-1922. In 1921, prices on H.C.S. open cars were reduced to $2,400, and the sedan dropped to $3,150. About 800 cars were produced in 1920 and around 650 cars in 1921.

Then in 1923 Stutz introduced the new six-cylinder Model 6 on a 126-inch wheelbase. A roadster was priced at $2,250. Early Model 6’s also used Weidley engines, while later models used Midwest engines. Both were rated at 80 h.p. An interesting feature on the 1923 models was the use of 10-inch diameter drum headlights with six-inch tilting reflectors. A switch mounted on the steering column permitted deflection of the headlight beam. This was an early application of headlight dimming. In 1923, four-cylinder production amounted to about 500 cars, with another 500 of six-cylinder cars.

The H.C.S. was virtually an all-Indiana automobile, with the Weidley engine from Indianapolis, Ross steering gear from Lafayette, Delco ignition from Anderson, and standard production bodies from Connersville. It was also a fairly expensive with prices running from $2,725 for a roadster to $3,650 for a sedan, and that contributed to the company’s insolvency in early 1927 after a 1920-1926 production run of approximately 2,500 automobiles.

The H.C.S. was meant to be Harry C. Stutz’s triumphant return to the world of automobile manufacturing, a competitive arena in which he had been one of the kingpins as founder of the Stutz Motor Car Company. But, unlike the dawn of the industry, the 1920s were a different world. It was a decade which would see the demise of many auto makers in the U.S., and one of them would be the car that Harry built.

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