Tag Archives: Indianapolis’ automotive history

Bring Indianapolis automotive history to life

It is interesting that relationships which started over 120 years ago are responsible for so much of our life, jobs, community heritage, and car culture. I’ve found a way to bring Indianapolis’ automotive history to life.

A few years ago I developed Indianapolis Auto Tours to provide a look at the people and sites representing Indianapolis’ innovative role in our automotive heritage. Indianapolis was a commercial producer of automobiles and taxicabs from 1896 to 1937. The Circle City, with 91 different vehicles manufactured here, ranked second to Detroit as the chief rival for the title of the nation’s auto capital.

For example, let’s take a look at Harry C. Stutz’s involvement in developing many vehicles that crossed the American landscape.

1915 Stutz Bearcat
1915 Stutz Bearcat sports car

Copyright © 1915 Stutz Motor Car Co.

Photo courtesy of the Stutz Club

In 1910, He designed a transaxle that combined the transmission and the rear differential in one unit. This transaxle became standard equipment on many other automobiles besides Stutz cars.

Next, Stutz formulated his dream of a quality sports car built from assembled, high-quality components manufactured by outside suppliers at a price below $2,000 in early 1911. The first Stutz was built in just five weeks and was immediately taken to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the inaugural running of the 500 Mile Race. Gil Anderson drove the car to an eleventh place finish.

Later that summer, the Ideal Motor Car Company was organized for manufacture of the Stutz Model A, a duplicate of the Indy race car. New Stutz models were offered as a two-passenger roadster, four-passenger toy tonneau, and a five-passenger touring car. Each was priced at $2,000. Stutz emphasized its 1911 record of competing without any adjustments in two additional “great races” in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Santa Monica, California. A Stutz Model A torpedo roadster served as the pace car at the Indianapolis 500 in 1912.

The famous Stutz Bearcat sports car appeared in 1912 for a run of 10 years. It followed the usual Stutz recipe of a low-slung chassis, a large engine, and other bare necessities–hood, fenders, a right-hand raked steering column, two bucket seats, a fuel tank behind the seats, and wooden spoke wheels. The Stutz Bearcat was a popular car in the $2,000 price range. Its ap¬peal was boosted by Stutz’s success at the race track. Bearcats finished fourth and sixth at the Indianapolis 500 in 1912 and won numerous other races that same year. The next year a Bearcat finished third at the Indianapolis 500, and by late fall Stutz driver Earl Cooper was crowned the National Champion after winning six consecutive races.

In June 1913, the Ideal Motor Car Company was reorganized as the Stutz Motor Car Company, with Harry Stutz as president. The Stutz White Squadron racing team did extraordinarily well in 1915 (its last under factory sponsorship), with victories at several tracks. Also in 1915, Cannonball Baker drove a stock Bearcat cross country from San Diego, California, to New York City, New York, in a record-breaking time of 11 days, 7 hours, and 15 minutes.

In the years preceding World War I, Stutz’s sales increased nearly ten-fold—from 266 cars in 1912 to 1,873 five years later.

Harry sold his interest in the company that bore his name in June 1919, and founded two new automotive ventures—the Stutz Fire Engine Company and the H.C.S. Motor Car Company. The Stutz Motor Company went on to manufacturer many cars of distinction like the Safety Stutz, the Stutz Blackhawk, the Stutz DV-32 and the Stutz SV-16 through 1934.

I would like to offer you a personalized tour of our automotive heritage. An auto tour can bring some of these experiences to life. Why not experience some of this legacy today with an Indianapolis Auto Tour? Contact us today to schedule your tour!