Ex-Dr. Samuel L. Scher, Richard Paine, and John M. O'Quinn
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 Stutz's 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.
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.
American's 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 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 American's name. But while the American Underslung is widely known, Harry Stutz's original conventional chassis layout American is largely overlooked, a serious oversight in light of the model's continuation in production until 1913 as an essential contributor to the American Motor Car Company's production, marketing and cash flow.
Harry Stutz's 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 firm's 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 collection of the late-John O'Quinn is an excellent and very rare example of the Harry C. Stutz designed chassis. Powered by Stutz's 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 Tourist's approach.
Harry Stutz's 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 collection's 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 Paine's 1967 acquisition of 41 cars from Dr. Scher's collection, one of the great pioneering collections from which American car collecting has sprung. John O'Quinn acquired the car at the sale of Richard Paine's collection in 2008.
Condition is appropriate to a 1960's 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 Stutz's 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.
Having been part of the enviable garages of three important collectors, now another collector will have the privilege and the concomitant obligation of continuing his forebears' record of preservation and service.
- please note that this vehicle is titled under engine number 1783