In 1876, Harry C. Stutz was born. He grew up on the family farm where he often helped repair their farm equipment. This led to a fascination with engines, and in 1897 he built his first car; soon after, he began designing and creating engines. The Stutz Company, based in Indianapolis, Indiana, introduced its first production vehicle in 1911. The vehicle, after only five months of design and build, was immediately entered in the inaugural Indianapolis 500-mile race, where it captured an 11th-place finish. Not bad for its first vehicle and first race. Throughout the company's life span, it would endure good and bad times. The Stutz Company was in production during World War I and the Great Depression, both responsible for negatively affecting Industry.
Stutz will be forever remembered for their Bearcat model, a vehicle produced until 1925. This pure-bred race car had an aggressive and masculine stance; the interior was void of luxury and amenities. With its high-revving straight 8-cylinder overhead camshaft engine and lightweight construction, the vehicle was poised to compete in national and international competitions.
In 1919, Harry Stutz was forced by stockholders to leave his company. In 1922, Charles Schwab was given control of the company. In 1925, Schwab gave control of the company to Frederick Moskovics. Moskovic planned to revitalize the company by shifting the priorities from racing to producing luxurious automobiles. This did not mean that the company was to abandon its racing heritage, rather Moskovics wanted to expand its racing prowess by entering International competition. The 24 Hours of Le Mans is a grueling endurance battle that tests stamina, speed, and durability. In 1928 a Stutz Series BB Black Hawk Speedster, driven by Edouard Brisson and Robert Bloch, was entered in the French LeMans race. The vehicle did well, leading for most of the race. Halfway through the 22nd hour, the gearbox broke on the Stutz, and a Bentley 4.5-liter was able to secure a first-place finish. The Stutz was second, the best an American car had ever placed in this prestigious race.
In 1929, the Stutz Company increased their chances of victory by entering more than one vehicle into the Le Man's race. The vehicles were designed and prepared especially for the race. Gordon Buehrig was tasked with designing the bodies for the 2-seater sportscars. A modified 5.5-liter straight 8-cylinder with a supercharger was placed in the front and powered the rear wheels. Three vehicles entered by Stutz Paris, Colonel Warwick Wright, and Charles Weymann were anxiously anticipating a repeat of the prior year's success or possibly an overall victory. Sadly, only one vehicle would finish. Behind a fleet of Bentley's was the Stutz, followed by a Chrysler 75. With a fifth-place finish, the Stutz cars were no match for the powerful and agile Bentley Speed Six models.
In the early part of 1929, Moskovics resigned, and Edgar Gorrell assumed the duties of president. Many manufacturers were developing multi-cylinder cars, which attracted a larger market share of the already small luxury car market. The Stutz Company was not in a financial position to develop an engine of this caliber. Instead, Stutz embarked on developing an inline eight-cylinder engine with single overhead cams. The result was the SV16, representing the side-valve 16, meaning that one exhaust and one intake valve per cylinder were allocated for the eight cylinders. By using the name SV16, it gave the vehicle an allure of equal capacity to other nameplates such as the Cadillac and Marmon V16. The SV-16 came equipped with windshield safety glass and hydrostatic brakes. The chassis sat lower than most of the competition, giving it an advantage through turns. During its production run, around 100 examples were produced.
Following on the heels of the SV16 was the DV-32. The engine featured updraft Schebler carburetors and four valves per cylinder equaling 32 valves and dual overhead camshafts. The powerplant was capable of producing 156 horsepower. The vehicle sat atop a 145-inch wheelbase and was outfitted with Stutz 8 hubcaps. At $6,400, these vehicles were extremely expensive at the time.
The Stutz 8 was produced from 1926 through 1935. The engine produced just over 90 horsepower. Within a few years, horsepower had been increased to over 115.
In 1928, the Blackhawk series was introduced. These sports cars were affordable, competitive, and compact, outfitted with powerful engines.
During the close of the 1920's, the Stutz company was riddled with lawsuits, including 'breach-of-contract' over engine building. James Scripps-Booth entered a lawsuit about the low-slung worm drive design Stutz had been using. The Stutz Company was beginning to fall on hard times.
The demise on the race track would slowly transcend to the marketplace. For all of 1930, there were less than 1500 cars produced. Sales declined even more in the following years, and in 1934, after only six Stutz cars were produced, the factory closed its doors. This is not to suggest the racing results were solely responsible for the company's woes. The Great Depression crippled and destroyed many auto manufacturers at this time. Competition in design and technology was ever present, and the dependable, mass-produced, low-cost automobile manufacturers were in the best positions to come out on top. The Stutz Company had an impressive racing heritage, and its automobiles are legendary. The Stutz name is respected by many, including those overseas.
In 1968 a New York banker named James O'Donnell incorporated Stutz Motor Car of America. Ghia was commissioned to create a design for the Stutz Blackhawk, which was shown to the public in 1970. Sales continued for more than a decade, selling very strongly until 1987. Production slowed from 1987 until 1995, when production ceased.
By Daniel Vaughan | Aug 2007