Rare Rides Icons: The History of Stutz, Stop and Go Fast (Part I)

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides icons the history of stutz stop and go fast part i
An early American car company, Stutz started out as a manufacturer of a race car for the road. However, much like its founder, the brand’s direction changed very quickly. Stutz followed a winding path to its creation and went through a wild ride of death and rebirth over several decades. We begin our story in Ohio in the late 1800s. Everything is probably dark and muddy.Stutz was named after its founder, Harry Clayton Stutz (1876-1930). An Ohioan, Stutz was born in Ansonia, a small town in the middle of nowhere between Dayton and Fort Wayne, Indiana. He grew up on his father’s farm, where his assigned job was machine maintenance. Dayton had much appeal after a pastoral upbringing, so Stutz moved there after he finished basic schooling. He worked at a sewing machine company, and then at National Cash Register. Always a tinkerer of machines, Stutz started his own general repair shop in Dayton in 1897 at the age of 21.
In the surrounds of his new shop in 1897, Stutz built his first car almost immediately. With additional development and work, he created a follow-up car in 1900 that was powered by a gasoline engine he designed and built himself. Both cars were sort of homegrown prototypes and never realized production. However, the gasoline engine seemed a promising enterprise. Stutz founded Stutz Manufacturing Company to build the engines he’d designed. The small-time manufacturing outfit garnered the attention of the Lindsay Automobile Parts Company. They made Stutz an offer he couldn’t refuse and bought out his business in 1902. They also asked him to come and work at Lindsay.Stutz agreed and closed up his shop. He moved his family to Indianapolis for his new job at Lindsay’s headquarters. Stutz was full of larger automotive ideas and wasn’t satisfied with simple engine work, so he used the capital from selling his engine business and went in with two other investors to start the Central Motor Car Company. Indianapolis was quite the bustling place for the automobile industry in the early 20th century, but it’s unclear if Central actually produced any cars. It was established in 1903, but Stutz moved on from Central the very next year.
Then he took a job with Wheeler-Schebler Carburetor (1902-1987) and became a carburetor salesman. Stutz was partially responsible for the creation of Schebler, as while he was employed at Lindsay he introduced engineer George Schebler to money man Frank Wheeler. Wheeler would go on with a group of investors to found the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1909, and Wheeler-Schebler eventually became a part of Borg-Warner.
In 1905, while employed selling carburetors, Stutz left to design an all-new car for the upcoming and short-lived American Motor Car Company (1906-1913). American was notable for its creation of the “underslung” automobile in 1906. The design (a rework of the Stutz design after they sacked him) used a frame placed underneath its axles, and the car’s leaf spring suspension was above the frame. It allowed for a lower ride height and was considered much more stable and less prone to rollovers.Stutz’s next automotive employment came in 1907 when he moved back to Ohio to work at the Marion Motor Car Company (1901- c. 1912). He performed the dual role of factory manager and chief engineer, though he had no formal training in either. He took up race car driving for his employer almost immediately while doing other tasks on the side like engineering his own transaxle.
Said transaxle was marketable, and lead to the creation of the Stutz Auto Parts Company in 1910. The company focused almost entirely on the transaxle, but while managing his business Stutz received a call from the folks of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, already acquainted with Stutz via Frank Wheeler. The speedway’s founders wanted to start their own car firm (why not?), the Empire Motor Car Company. Stutz designed their first car, the 20. Available as a standard small runabout or as a sportier two-seater, it was called “the little aristocrat.”Around that time the first Indy 500 was approaching and Indianapolis was abuzz. Stutz wasn’t content sitting on the sidelines, so in five weeks he designed and built a car of his own to put in the race, driven by Gilbert Anderson. It was called the Stutz Racer, nicknamed Bearcat. On May 30th, 1911, the Stutz took 11th place in the race. Stutz himself termed the quickly built Racer “the car that made good in a day.” And though it ran the race as a product of the Stutz Auto Parts Company, the path forward was immediately apparent: It was time to sell the Racer as a production car.
Stutz went in with a buddy named Henry Campbell to establish the Ideal Motor Car Company in June 1911. Ideal set up their manufacturing facility quickly so the Bearcat could enter production and make use of the excellent free publicity received from the Indy 500. As regulations were not quite as rigorous in 1911, changes made to the race version to turn it into a passenger car were minimal. They included adding some fenders, lights so it could be driven at night, and a chromed Stutz emblem in the grille.Other bodywork was as minimal as could be and consisted of a hood, two tufted bucket seats, and a small oval-shaped windshield in front of the driver’s face that was known as a monocle. Doors were not available. An exposed cylinder of gasoline was at the rear, with a trunk behind for storage. Under the hood, the first Bearcats used a large inline-four engine. The 6.4-liter mill offered 60 horsepower and was a product of Wisconsin Motor Manufacturing (1909-2018). The engine had four valves per cylinder and was one of the earliest engines to employ multi-valve technology. Stutz used his own handy transaxle in the Bearcat.The first Bearcats went into production in 1912 and were called Series A. Worth noting that at the time, the BearCat name was two words. The Series A was fittingly advertised in the program for the 1912 Indy 500 and featured the company’s new “car that made good in a day” official slogan.Ideal Motors was up and running, selling a car that had been developed in just over a month. Things were looking up, but Stutz was not the type to remain content about anything automobile. He started editing the Bearcat almost immediately and headed in an upmarket direction. More on that in Part II.Note: 1915 Bearcat shown here.[Images: YouTube, Wheeler-Schebler]
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  • Inside Looking Out Inside Looking Out on Feb 03, 2022

    I read about Stutz before in beautifully illustrated book "American Auto Legends: Classics of Style and Design" by Michael Furman. He writes there about Stutz and his company and 1930 Stutz Model M. Absolutely beautiful car (thanks to beautifully shot photos). It looks elegant and sporty at same time. I would drive one even today, EV conversion of course.

  • Kruser Kruser on Feb 04, 2022

    I remember the short-lived TV series "Bearcats!" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aX_bDkaNE0o It is a vague memory, but I remember the guys screaming around in this Stutz, shooting guns, etc. I think the show was cancelled and afterwards I got a 10" long metal toy version of the car as a gift.

  • Sayahh Is it 1974 or 1794? The article is inconsistent.
  • Laura I just buy a Hyndai Elantra SEL, and My car started to have issues with the AC dont work the air sometimes is really hot and later cold and also I heard a noice in the engine so I went to the dealer for the first service and explain what was hapenning to the AC they told me that the car was getting hot because the vent is not working I didnt know that the car was getting hot because it doesnt show nothing no sign no beep nothing I was surprise and also I notice that it needed engine oil, I think that something is wrong with this car because is a model 23 and I just got it on April only 5 months use. is this normal ? Also my daughter bought the same model and she went for a trip and the car also got hot and it didnt show up in the system she called them and they said to take the car to the dealer for a check up I think that if the cars are new they shouldnt be having this problems.
  • JamesGarfield What charging network does the Polestar use?
  • JamesGarfield Re: Getting away from union plantsAbout a dozen years or so ago, Caterpillar built a huge new engine plant, just down the road here in Seguin TX. Story has it, Caterpillar came to Seguin City council in advance, and told them their plans. Then they asked for no advanced publicity from Seguin, until announcement day. This new plant was gonna be a non-union replacement for a couple of union plants in IL and SC, and Cat didn't want to stir up union problems until the plan was set. They told Seguin, If you about blab this in advance, we'll walk. Well, Seguin kept quiet as instructed, and the plan went through, with all the usual expected tax abatements given.Plant construction began, but the Caterpillar name was conspicuously absent from anywhere on the site. Instead, the plant was described as being a collective of various contractors and suppliers for Caterpillar. Which in fact, it was. Then comes the day, with the big new plant fully operationa!, that Caterpillar comes in and announces, Hey, Yeah it's our plant, and the Caterpillar name boldly goes up on the front. All you contractor folks, welcome aboard, you're now Caterpillar employees. Then, Cat turns and announces they are closing those two union plants immediately, and will be transporting all the heavy manufacturing equipment to Seguin. None of the union workers, just the equipment. And today, the Caterpillar plant sits out there, humming away happily, making engines for the industry and good paying jobs for us. I'd call that a winner.
  • Stuki Moi What Subaru taketh away in costs, dealers will no doubt add right back in adjustments.... Fat chance Subaru will offer a sufficient supply of them.