Ex-Dr. Samuel L. Scher
1906 American Tourist Roi-des-Belges Touring Car
Chassis no. 1783
In 1905 Harry Stutz embarked upon a new venture to build an automobile of his own design.
The automobile that would bear his name and along the way make it immortal was still in the future but Harry had lofty ambitions even in 1905, showing them by naming the automobile he designed, and the company that would build it, American. It was one of many automobile and related companies bearing the American name, but Harry Stutzs American Motor Car Company of Indianapolis was one of the few that actually built an automobile. In fact, some 45,000 were turned out from 1906 through 1914.
Dave Emanuels 1983 history of American in Automobile Quarterly observes that it has never been clear whether Stutz was looking for backers for his car company and found V.A. Longaker and D.S. Menasco or whether Longaker and Menasco decided to get into the new automobile business and found Stutz. In any event they found each other, Longaker and Menasco bringing money from their success in the timber business (a field that funded a number of automotive ventures) and Stutz contributing experience. Remarkably for the time that experience stretched back to 1898 when the young Harry, only 22 years old, built his first internal combustion engine powered vehicle, a belt-drive buggy powered by a 2 horsepower single cylinder engine of his own design and manufacture.
In 1902 he had sold his Dayton engine manufacturing company to Lindsay Automobile Parts in Indianapolis and moved there to oversee Lindsays manufacture of the Stutz-designed engines. A year later he went to work for G&J Tire Company and in 1904 introduced F.H. Wheeler (the money) to George Schebler (the design) to form the Schebler Carburetor Company. Harry Stutz managed sales of the Schebler-designed carburetors.
He was still under thirty when the American Motor Car Company was formed but Stutz had as much experience in automobile design and engine manufacturing as anyone in America at the time. His combination of mechanical design savvy, production manufacturing background and sales experience was probably unmatched by anyone in the American automobile industry.
Americans intention to build automobiles was announced in September 1905 and just a few months later, in January 1906, the first examples were offered for sale.
The ambitious and peripatetic Stutz spent only a few more months at American before moving to the Marion Motor Car Company as chief engineer, effectively swapping employers with Fred Tone who concurrently left Marion to join American. A few years later, still backed by investors from Marion who by then were also in control of American, Stutz started his eponymous company after The car that made good in a day finished the 1911 Indianapolis 500 Mile Race.
Back at the American Motor Car Company Fred Tone created the underslung chassis design which has become synonymous with the company and was eventually adopted as an integral part of Americans name. But while the American Underslung is widely known, Harry Stutzs original conventional chassis layout American is largely overlooked, a serious oversight in light of the models continuation in production until 1913 only a year before American ceased production as an essential contributor to the American Motor Car Companys production, marketing and cash flow.
The history of the American four cylinder engine is a telling commentary on Harry Stutzs imagination, adaptability, stature and persuasiveness. The American was originally intended to be powered by a Continental four-cylinder engine. Continental soon informed American that it could not meet its production commitments but rather than risk offending an influential client it offered to give American access to Continentals vendor base to built engine parts to Stutzs design that would be assembled by American, essentially putting a competitor in business.
Harry Stutzs original American engine with variations in bore and stroke powered both the American Tourist chassis he designed and the unique American Underslung nearly to the end of the firms days. The first in the series, used in the 1906 Tourist chassis, was a 4.625 bore x 5 stroke 336 cubic inch side valve inline four-cylinder rated at 35 ALAM horsepower. In common with other engines of the time it had limited speed potential but while its maximum crankshaft speed was only some 1,450 rpm it would loaf along at only 125 rpm at the bottom, an 11.6 times range equivalent to a modern touring car engine that pulls smoothly at 1,000 rpm being redlined at a nearly unimaginable 11,600 rpm.
Although it is nearly forgotten today the contribution of the American Motor Car Company should not be overlooked. Its production of 45,000 cars between 1906 and 1914 was not just significant, it was twice as many automobiles as were built by Packard in the same time frame.
The 1906 American Tourist Roi des Belges Touring offered here from the Richard C. Paine, Jr. collection is an excellent and very rare example of the Harry C. Stutz designed chassis. Powered by Stutzs 35/40hp L-head inline four, it is bodied with handsome and practical Roi des Belges style touring car coachwork finished in Dark Red with Black fenders and upholstered in rich Red leather. A black cloth top with rollup windshield completes its presentation along with Rushmore acetylene headlights, Gray & Davis kerosene sidelights, a Castle kerosene taillight and an imposing Rushmore acetylene spotlight mounted on the dashboard/firewall. A single spare wheel with a very useful rear view mirror strapped to its top is installed on the right running board. A Rubes-style trumpet bulb horn aids in warning the less attentive of this American Tourists approach.
Harry Stutzs chassis design employs live axles with semi-elliptical leaf springs all around as well as a semi-elliptical cross spring in the platform rear suspension. Internal expanding rear drum brakes retard its advance.
It is elaborately trimmed in brass throughout except for nickel plating on some operating controls such as the gearshift and brake lever and gloriously elaborate border trim where the hood meets the firewall. An elaborate brass eagle radiator cap mascot completes its proud and patriotic presentation.
No prior history has been uncovered in the collections files however the American Tourist Roi des Belges Touring does bear an undated (and therefore very early) AACA National First Prize plaque. The doors bear the stylized S monogram of Dr. Samuel Scher and the American fits within the collection inventory number sequence of Richard Paines 1967 acquisition of 41 cars from Dr. Schers collection, one of the great pioneering collections from which American car collecting has sprung.
Condition is appropriate to a 1960s period restoration which Dr. Scher would have had done, aged but very well maintained in museum display condition. The paint is sound except for some peeling on the right rear fender and cracks on the wood panels of the tonneau. The engine is lightly oiled, the brass is well maintained and free of corrosion, the leather upholstery is sound and attractive but stiff and in need of conditioning, the top and top boot are in remarkably good condition. The Rushmore speedometer shows only 48.2 miles, mileage which is consistent with its age, restoration and condition.
An important but largely overlooked contributor both to the growth and success of the early American automobile industry and the experience and history which would soon make Harry Stutzs name legend, this 1906 American Tourist Roi des Belges Touring Car is one of precious few examples to survive. It has been carefully restored very early in the modern history of car collecting and equally carefully maintained by Richard Paine in his Seal Cove Museum collection.
Richard Paine recognized the importance of the continued preservation and presentation to the public of the Harry Stutz designed 1906 American Tourist Roi des Belges Touring Car and made it a centerpiece of his remarkable collection. Now another collector will have the privilege and the concomitant obligation of continuing Richard Paines record of preservation and service.