Harry C. Stutz the quintessential automotive pioneer had a hand in developing five motorcars. The Stutz automobiles are his most well-known are in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum Indiana Automobiles: Precision over Production exhibit. Visit the Indiana Automobiles: Precision over Production exhibit today.
Five weeks before the Inaugural 500-mile race on Memorial Day 1911, Harry C. Stutz built his first car. Capitalizing on the publicity generated by its eleventh place showing in the first outing, Stutz formed the Ideal Motor Company to build a production version of the racer later in 1911. Its slogan was “The Car that Made Good in a Day.” The sporty roadster made the company profitable.
In 1912, the Ideal Motor Company and the Stutz Auto Parts Company merged to form the Stutz Motor Car Company. Harry C. Stutz’s most famous passenger car was the Stutz Bearcat speedster. It followed the usual Stutz recipe of a low-slung chassis, a large four-cylinder engine, producing 60 hp at 1,500 rpm, and other bare necessities like, hood, fenders, raked steering column, two bucket seats, with a fuel tank behind them, and wire spoke wheels. A Stutz made three speed transmis¬sion was integral with the differential; an uncommon feature at the time.
The Stutz Bearcat was the most popular car despite its $2,000 price tag. 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 25 of the 30 races in which they were entered that year. The next year a Bearcat finished second at the Indianapolis 500. In the years, preceding World War I, Stutz’s sales increased nearly tenfold-from 266 cars in 1912 to 2,207 five years later.
In 1922 Charles M. Schwab, the flamboyant chairman of Bethlehem Steel, became chairman of Stutz.
Late in 1924 Schwab installed Frederic E. Moskovics, formerly with Marmon and Franklin, as president. Moskovics’ team quickly prepared a new design. The result was the 1926 Vertical Eight, or Safety Stutz. The base of the car was a 92-horsepower straight-eight engine with chain-driven single-overhead cam¬shaft, and dual ignition. The chassis featured four-wheel hydraulic brakes, an underslung worm drive differential, and centralized chassis lubrication. This configuration allowed the fitting of low built, attractive bodies with safety glass. A year’s free passenger insurance was included with each Safety Stutz.
The company introduced another new model the Black Hawk speedster, in 1927. These low and short open types had reduced coachwork with scant cycle fenders and step plates replaced the running boards. Their fast looks proved no illusion when they won the American Automobile Association Stock Car Championship in 1927 and 1928. A Black Hawk placed second at Twenty-Fours of LeMans after leading the Bentley team cars much of the way.
In 1931, Stutz introduced the dual overhead-camshaft, four-valves per cylinder, 156 horsepower, straight-eight engine, designated the DV-32, to compete with the new multi cylinder cars being brought out by Lincoln, Cadillac, Marmon and others. With the DV32 a new Bearcat was listed in speedster form, and on a shorter chassis, as the Super Bearcat.
After recording their record sales of 5,000 cars in 1926, their business declined to 110 autos in 1933 and 6 in 1934.
Harry Stutz’s creative spirit continued on through the late 1920’s.
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