1929 Blackhawk by Stutz L-6 Two Passenger Speedster
Coachwork designed by LeBaron
Chassis no. 16858
Engine no. 16858
During the 1920s auto manufacturers were scrambling to increase their market share and survive a volatile period of consolidation. There had been hundreds of manufacturers in the teens and numbers had dropped to just dozens. In an attempt to regain footing in the market a number of prominent manufacturers introduced offshoot brands to expand their presence in the market. Marmon would introduce the Roosevelt, Oakland the Pontiac, Franklin the Olympic and so on. Stutz, fully aware of its need to regain market share, introduced its own offshoot company in late 1928: Blackhawk.
Stutz lent the name of its heralded sports car to the new brand. Blackhawk was a great name as the Blackhawk Stutz had achieved stellar racing success both here and in Europe. Stutz had a hard time downgrading its new offering and instead made a car as high quality and handsome as the Eights but just a bit smaller. An all-new, six-cylinder version of the vertical Eight motor was developed for the Blackhawk, signifying Stutz's commitment to the new brand. The slick overhead-cam motor was essentially the big Eight minus pistons 2 and 7. The Eight was a triumph of sophistication and proved a strong performer so Stutz did not want to tamper with success in the Blackhawk. The Six employed all the positive features of the latest "Challenger" Eight: improved head passageways, higher compression as well as the dual plug ignition and silent chain valve drive. As one would expect, the new Six produced a bit less power than the Eight and came in at 85 in standard compression configuration. The motor sat inside an all-new, short wheelbase frame, its 127" chassis being a marked improvement over the eight-cylinder model's frame and featuring substantial cross-bracing. A marvel of design and technically worlds ahead of the competition, the frame was a low-slung, double-drop design allowed by the use of a Timken worm drive rear axle. Engine power drove through a four-speed transmission making Blackhawk one of only two US manufacturers at the time to have this feature. Braking was by large Lockheed hydraulic drums on all four wheels, and a B&K vacuum booster as seen on Duesenberg and Stutz Eight models was offered as an option. Blackhawk could even be equipped with the optional 19" Buffalo wire wheels.
This new 127" chassis was so good that it was fitted with the eight-cylinder motor for Stutz famed attempts at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1929-1932, and it was noted for being noticeably more rigid than the Eights. Stutz, to save cost, equipped these new Blackhawks with the same bodies as the eight-cylinder models. LeBaron penned many of these handsome designs and some believe they even built many of the factory bodies for Stutz. A full complement of body styles was offered for the Blackhawk from sport to formal and even several exotic Weymann fabric bodies were available.
Stutz felt confident in the performance potential of this new car. The Six had a little less power than the Eight but was 500 pounds lighter and on a more nimble and better handling chassis. The sport body styles were usually constructed in aluminum or fabric in the case of the Weymann to further benefit the performance.
Unfortunately for Stutz, the American public was not all that interested in European type performance. Stutz was realizing this with its eight-cylinder cars and the expensive to develop and produce Blackhawk was turning out to be a poor seller. The timing of 1929 and the resulting economic despair obliterated Stutz sales. The Blackhawk name was discontinued the next year though the cars were still in stock and sold as Stutz for two more years. The company barely existed from 1932; in 1935 the doors were finally shut.
Like many legends, dying young can be good for the reputation and the fact that Stutz never made very many cars and always produced an exciting product has made their reputation live on, cementing a legendary status.
This attractive and rare Blackhawk Roadster is a wonderful example. The aluminum, LeBaron designed roadster body is gorgeous and complimented nicely by the elegant Stutz fenders, hood, and cowl with horizontal louvers. It is worth noting that this was sold as LeBaron when mounted on the Eight chassis. Perhaps the most compelling feature is the ultra-low windshield, a feature not seen on the early production cars and so dates this car later in the production run. The body looks particularly good on this low-slung chassis. So low is this frame that the running boards attach directly to the frame rails that are fully visible. This car was nicely restored many years ago and still very good. Finished in an attractive combination it is enhanced by the optional wire wheels with dual side mounted spares. Another desirable option on this Blackhawk is the B&K brake booster with dash-mounted control. This car has most of the expensive options one could get on a Blackhawk.
The engine compartment is quite tidy and the car did start easily when tested, though fuel has become a bit expired. The carburetor is a modern reproduction of the elusive and very brittle Zenith 105dc. These unusual two-barrel updraft carburetors are known to suffer from brittle zinc bodies, while the new carburetor seems to perform well.
The leather interior is good and the well-restored dash is complete with all its correct white-faced instruments mounted in a perfect instrument bezel. Even the rare, white, Borg electric clock is still present.
This car has been in the Short Collection for decades where it has been well taken care of. It is a very appealing machine that is equally good looking as it is to drive. Like all Stutz products of the era this machine is recognized by the CCCA as a Full Classic.
- The engine no. for this lot should read 16858. This vehicle is titled under its engine number.