As the son of a farmer, Harry C. Stutz grew up tinkering with mechanical objects. Prior to the turn of the twentieth century, young Stutz was repairing and improving implements on his family farm and he soon became enthralled with the burgeoning world of motorized transport. He left home to pursue an engineering education, and in 1897, built his first motorcar, following that with a second that was powered by an engine of his own design and manufacture! He quickly earned a stellar reputation for his talents and was known as a driven, creative, innovator. Stutz landed a job with the American Motor Car Company where he was charged with designing an engine for their most famous model, the Underslung. After a brief spell with American, Harry Stutz formed his own company called “Ideal Motor Car Company” based in Indianapolis, Indiana. The first Stutz automobile, the Model A, which served as the basis for the Bearcat, was built in just five weeks in 1911, and delivered across town to compete in the inaugural Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. An 11th place finish with Gil Anderson behind the wheel earned the slogan: “The Car That Made Good in a Day.” Later that summer, manufacture of the Stutz Model A, a road-going duplicate of the proven Indy racer, began in earnest. Stutz was keen to take advantage of marketing opportunities, with a Stutz Bearcat roadster serving as the pace car at the 1912 Indianapolis 500.
The Ideal Motor Car Company was reorganized into the Stutz Motor Company and the Model A evolved into the Bearcat for 1912. The first series Bearcat was a pared down racer-for-the-road with a light body, monocle windscreen and a pair of bucket seats; in the same ilk as its fierce competitor, the Mercer Raceabout. Early cars were powered by a massive T-Head four-cylinder engine supplied by Wisconsin Engines, but later cars received an advanced four cylinder, sixteen valve engine of Stutz’s own design. This new 360 cubic inch engine, which was derived from that of the White Squadron racers, necessitated an all new chassis to cope with the additional power. The Bearcat’s redesigned chassis was stronger than before, yet still relatively light and quite short at just 120”. Clothing the new framework and engine was an updated, stylish body that was more in keeping with the times. Still overtly sporty, with a single rear mounted spare and no doors, Stutz now offered the Bearcat with reasonable weather equipment and full road trim. The Bearcat came to define Stutz as a brand as well as a car that personified “The Roaring Twenties”, evoking images of young men in raccoon coats flying Ivy League pennants on their prized sports cars. Today they remain massively collectible as few survived the flogging they often received at the hands of their enthusiastic, blue-blooded young owners.
This exceptional 1920 Stutz Bearcat Series H has been treated to a very high quality restoration and presents in outstanding order. It wears a fabulous color scheme of a dark red main body over black fenders highlighted by a bright red chassis and elephant gray Buffalo wire wheels. The 2003 restoration has been well documented with many photos included. It has since been meticulously maintained and remains in beautiful order. Included documents show it was once owned by a General Motors executive and also spent a great deal of time in the hands of Raymond Katzell, author of the definitive marque reference, “The Splendid Stutz”. The paint work is excellent with very straight panels and very high quality fit and finish. Originally, the Bearcat was unadorned with heavy brightwork and this example is correctly presented with a black painted radiator shell, polished nickel rings and black-painted barrels on the Stutz headlamps, and a period correct nickel spot lamp on the driver’s side. A Stutz-branded Moto Meter sits atop the radiator and the gated shifter and handbrake lever are mounted outside the cockpit for the ultimate road-racer feel.
The cozy two-place cockpit is trimmed in black leather which remains in excellent order. Ingress and egress are via the passenger side running board and a secondary step plate, which cleverly features an embossed leather pad to protect the body from scuffs when climbing aboard. Compared to earlier models, the series H did have reasonable weather equipment with a full width windscreen and a folding canvas top, and the fitment is exemplary on this Bearcat.
Impressive detailing and presentation continues under the bonnet. Stutz’s fabulous 360 cubic inch, 16-valve four-cylinder produces 83 horsepower and is undoubtedly the centerpiece of this wonderful automobile. Our fine example is correctly finished with a green cylinder block, bare alloy crankcase and plenty of beautifully polished brass and alloy. It presents in very good condition, runs beautifully, and while it is showing some signs of use since the restoration was completed, it remains very attractive. The chassis and undercarriage are similarly detailed, showing in beautiful condition, reflective of the quality of restoration and careful use this Bearcat has received since.
Harry C. Stutz is one of the great automotive pioneers who should be considered among the greats alongside Ettore Bugatti, Harry Miller and the Duesenberg Brothers. His passion was reflected in the exquisite quality and performance of the cars that bore his name. This outstanding example of one of the most desirable models in Stutz history remains in showable condition, and would certainly be an outstanding touring companion given its performance and gorgeous presentation.