Stutz Motor Company

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The Stutz Motor Company was a producer of luxury cars based in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA. Production began in 1911 and continued until 1935. The brand reappeared in 1968 under the aegis of Stutz Motor Car of America, Inc., and with a newly defined modern retro-look. Although the company is still active today, actual sales of factory produced vehicles ceased in 1995. Throughout its history, Stutz was known as a producer of fast cars (America's first sports car) and luxury cars for the rich and famous.

1915 Stutz White Squadron racer in the Petersen Automotive Museum
1912 Stutz racer
1927 Stutz Vertical Eight AA Limousine
1928 Stutz Blackhawk 5-Litre Indyracer

The company was founded as the Ideal Motor Car Company in Indianapolis, Indiana in 1911. Ideal entered a car in the Indianapolis 500 that year and placed 11th, earning it the slogan, "the car that made good in a day". The next year, the founder, Harry C. Stutz, renamed the company Stutz Motor Company and began selling high-performance roadsters like the famous Stutz Bearcat. The Bearcat featured a brawny 4-cylinder T-head engine with four valves per cylinder, one of the earliest multi-valve engines. Stutz has also been credited with the development of "the under-slung chassis", an invention that greatly enhanced the safety and cornering of motor vehicles and one that is still in use today. Stutz "White Squadron" race team won the 1913 and 1915 Championships.

Stutz was forced to raise money to fund his automobile production, eventually selling the company in 1919 after a falling out with the company's major stockholders, Allan A. Ryan, who then went bankrupt. In 1922, three Stutz investors, one of whom was Charles M. Schwab, gained control of the company. The new owners brought in Frederick Ewan Moskowics, formerly of Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft, Marmon, and Franklin, in 1923. Moskowics quickly refocused the company as a developer of safety cars, a recurring theme in the auto industry. In the case of Stutz, the car featured safety glass, a low center of gravity for better handling, and a hill-holding transmission called "Noback". One notable advance was the 1931 DOHC 32-valve in-line 8 called the "DV32" (DV for 'dual valve'). This was during the so-called "cylinders race" of the early 1930s, when makers of some expensive cars were rushing to produce multi-cylinder engines. Stutz did not go to the V12 and V16 engines, but instead stayed true to its performance heritage with the dual overhead cam 8 design as used on the sporting cars of the era such as Bugatti, Alfa, Duesenberg and Miller. Brochures boasted 100 mph+.

In 1927, a Stutz set a world record for speed, averaging 68 mph (109.5 km/h) for 24 hours. The following year, a 4.9 litre (300ci) Stutz (entered and owned by French coachbuilder Charles Weymann[1]) in the hands of by Robert Bloch and Edouard Brisson finished second at the 24 Hours of Le Mans (losing to the 4.5 litre {275ci} Bentley of Rubin and Barnato,[2] despite losing top gear 90 minutes from the flag[3]), the best result for an American car until 1966. That same year, development engineer and racing driver Frank Lockhart used a pair of supercharged 91ci (1.5 liter) DOHC engines in his Stutz Black Hawk Special streamliner LSR car,[4] while Stutz set another speed record at Daytona, reaching 106.53 mph (171.3 km/h) in the hands of Gil Anderson making it the fastest production car in America.[5] Also in 1927, Stutz won the AAA Championship winning every race and every Stutz entered finished. In 1929, three Stutzes, with bodies designed by Gordon Buehrig, built by Weymann's U.S. subsidiary, and powered by a 155hp (115kW) 322ci (5.3 liter) supercharged straight 8 ran at Le Mans, piloted by Edouard Brisson, George Eyston (of land speed racing fame), and co-drivers Philippe de Rothschild and Guy Bouriat; de Rothschild and Bouriat placed fifth after the other two cars fell out with split fuel tanks.[6]

Production ended in 1935 after 35,000 cars had been manufactured. The former Indianapolis factory is today known as the Stutz Business Center and is home to more than eighty artists, sculptors, photographers, designers, architects, and craftsmen.

Stutz Motor Car of America

SMCA badge
1979 Stutz IV-Porte

Virgil Exner had more luck with the Stutz name. In August 1968, New York banker James O'Donnell raised funds and incorporated Stutz Motor Car of America. A prototype of Exner's Stutz Blackhawk was produced by Ghia, and the car debuted in 1970. All these cars used General Motors running gear, featuring perimeter-type chassis frames, automatic transmission, power steering and power brakes with discs at the front. They were lavishly furnished, with all possible luxury features such as electric windows, air conditioning, central locking, electric seats and leather upholstery. On the sedans there was typically a console for beverages in the rear seat. Engines were large V8s, originally of 6.6 or 7.5 litres but by 1984 the Victoria, Blackhawk and Bearcat were using a 160 horsepower 5,736 cc unit and the Royale a 6,962 cc Oldsmobile unit developing a modest 180 horsepower (130 kW).

This incarnation of Stutz had some reasonable success selling newly designed Blackhawks, Bearcats, Royale Limousines, IV Portes, and Victorias. Elvis Presley bought the first Blackhawk in 1971, and later purchased a further three. Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Evel Knievel, Barry White and Sammy Davis, Jr. all owned Stutz cars. The Stutz Blackhawk owned by Lucille Ball was for a time on display at the Imperial Palace Hotel and Casino Auto Collection in Las Vegas. However, owing to their extraordinary cost (Stutz was touted as the World's Most Expensive Car) - a Royale limousine cost US$285,000 and a Blackhawk coupé over US$115,000 in 1984[7] - production was very limited and it is believed only 617 cars were built during the company's first twenty-five years of existence (1971–1995). Sales of Stutz began to wane in 1985 and continued to do so on until 1995. Warren Liu became its main share-holder and took over leadership of SMCA, Inc. in 1982. The company is most recently preparing for the production of its new line of luxury sport sedan, as well as for its new electric and hybrid vehicles.[citation needed]

Stutz models

Advertisement for 1915 Stutz H.C.S. Roadster

In popular culture

A short-lived 1971 American television series, Bearcats!, featured a Stutz Bearcat as part of the show's premise, although the actual cars used were replicas of a 1914 Bearcat custom-built by car customizer George Barris.

In the 1989 American film Parenthood (film), Jason Robards' deadbeat son gives him a model car. Robards exclaims with great excitement "a Stutz!"

In a September 2012 episode of Counting Cars, Barry White's former Stutz IV-Porte was found and renovated.[8]

In the Happy Days episode, "In the Name of Love", Howard Cunningham tells his son, Richie, about how Marion was in love with a man that "drove a Stutz Bearcat and wore a racoon skin coat" before they were married.

On The Simpsons, Mr. Burns owns a 1936 Stutz Bearcat, and he and Homer Simpson and Smithers use the car to get away from the FBI when they committed treason in the episode "The Trouble with Trillions".

The 1981 movie 'Night Shift' featured a Stutz IV-Porte sedan driven by Michael Keaton's character, Billy Blaze. Notable scene driving in New York pulls up next to a NYC patrol car.


  1. Buehrig, Gordon M., and Jackson, William S. Rolling Sculpture: A Designer and his Work. Newfoundland, NJ: Haessner Publishing Inc., 1975.
  2. Mike Kettlewell, "Le Mans", in Tom Northey, ed., World of Automobiles (London: Orbis Publishing Ltd, 1974), Volume 10, p.1176
  3. David Burgess Wise, "Stutz", in Northey, op. cit., Volume 19, p.2230
  4. Mike Twite, "Frank Lockhart", in Northey, op. cit., Volume 11, p.1210
  5. Wise, loc. cit.
  6. Buehrig & Jackson, op. cit.
  7. Lösch, Annamaria (editor): World Cars 1984. Herald Books, Pelham, New York (Imprint of Automobile Club of Italy), 1984

External links