1920 Stutz Model H Touring
Chassis no. 8631
2011 marks the centennial year for America's sportiest car. The marque has received a huge amount of attention this year including a display of roughly 50 Stutz cars at the Pebble Beach Concours D'Elegance.
Stutz will forever be "The Car That Made Good in a Day", a reputation made by Harry Stutz as he assembled the automobiles that bore his name around the performance of the rude, rugged Wisconsin T-head four-cylinder powered race car that came home eleventh in the 1911 Indianapolis 500.
If it weren't for the E.L. Cord-produced Model J, the Duesenberg brothers would be a racing footnote. Harry Arminius Miller would still be a genius, and Finley Robertson Porter's Mercer would merit its place at the top of the list of great sports cars, but no one marque has the stature, profile and image of Harry C. Stutz's eponymous automobiles.
D. Cameron Peck, a pioneering collector whose choices in the Fifties and Sixties were almost unlimited, observed in the Spring 1963 issue of Automobile Quarterly (only the fifth issue of AQ, placement alone which signifies the importance of Stutz in automobile history):
"The name evokes a kaleidoscope of conflicting images from those who were motorists when the make was still alive. It was often a car of controversy, both admired and despised during the twenty-three years (1912-1935) of its active existence. It enjoyed brilliant successes and suffered spectacular failures, but time has done its strange and defining work with Stutz. The debits and deficiencies are all but forgotten and it is considered one of America's great marques one of the few whose products were treasured as both antiques and classics."
Stutz had two complementary eras. The first came under Harry Stutz. A later existence, after stock promoter Alan Ryan seized and then ceded control, came under Bethlehem Steel magnate Charles Schwab with Fred Moskovics guiding Stutz's destiny.
Stutz "made good in a day" with Gil Anderson at the wheel of the Wisconsin-powered machine entered by the Ideal Motor Car Company. Anderson completed 200 laps (albeit at a speed some 7 mph slower than Ray Harroun's Marmon Wasp) behind marques whose names have since faded into footnotes Lozier, National, Simplex, Knox and Jackson among them while besting Mercer, National, Benz, Pope-Hartford and J.I. Case (which soon proved to be more successful building farm tractors).
Other competition soon followed, most notably the "White Squadron" of specially built Stutz race cars which toured the country in the late Teens and the incomparable iron man, Earl G. "Cannonball" Baker, who drove a Bearcat from San Diego to New York in 1915 in 11 days, 7 hours and 15 minutes.
Harry Stutz intuitively understood marketing and made the most of his cars' scrappy, aggressive, elemental character. They were not elegant, nor sophisticated. D. Cameron Peck commented: "Bearcat and Bulldog were among the model names that appeared in this era, and they typify perfectly the character of the cars themselves: fast, tough and just a bit crude. The carriage trade looked the other way with a shudder."
The Stutz Series H was one of the last designed and built under Harry Stutz's direct supervision before he was shunted aside by the Ryan. Powered by the Stutz designed and built four with 361 cubic inches, dual ignition and four valves per cylinder, it developed 88 brake horsepower at only 2,400 rpm and immense torque at any speed. The 3-speed transmission was integral with the rear axle and differential, a system that Harry Stutz designed himself very early in the marque's history and which he favored. Suspension was by semi-elliptical leaf springs front and rear and the steering wheel and shifter was on the right hand side, an arrangement which Stutz preferred for years.
The Series H was offered in the stripped Bearcat style as well as sport Tourers. The Tourer was the practical cousin to the Bearcat; both cars were mechanically identical to each other. However, the touring cars and roadster was built on a 10" longer wheelbase, and it gave away very little in terms of performance. The car's body was narrow and close coupled and by no means heavy. The practicality of the tourer has made them a favorite for touring as there is always plenty of room for luggage and guests.
This Stutz Tourer is powered by the same dual-valve four as the Bearcat. The Tourer is even fitted with a full set of wire wheels a rare feature on an American touring car of the era. The full vinyl top appears to be in good order. The back of the car is finished of with a set of twin spares and the nicely varnished wood dash is equipped with a full complement of instruments.
This is a wonderfully appealing example of a seldom seen model. Many of these Tourers were converted into Bearcats and few remain today. These, like their Mercer Sporting counterparts, represent the ultimate in an American sporting car of the era. The Stutz has the power advantage over the Mercer and even the most experienced driver of vintage era sportscars will be shocked by the performance of these Stutz dual valve cars.
- Please note that this vehicle is titled with chassis # H8631