We’re back again with more Stutz history, and our coverage of the bric-a-brac produced by the Stutz Neoclassical company as complementary offerings to two-doors like the Blackhawk, Bearcat, and Bearcat II. In our last entry, we covered the Duplex, a sedan that (unsuccessfully) wore Blackhawk styling. Based either on a Pontiac or a Cadillac, the Duplex was the ultimate production version of the Ministeriale prototype sedan built by Carrozzeria Padane.
With an astronomical ask of $32,500 ($251,312 adj.) circa 1970 and styling that hadn’t translated well into a sedan, the Duplex was a non-starter. Just one was ever made, and it was sold to a criminal in Utah. But that didn’t deter CEO James O’Donnell, who was insistent a Stutz sedan was viable. A few years later there was another Stutz sedan presented: IV-Porte.
We return to our long-running Stutz historical coverage today, with a few of the odds and ends vehicles that were never the headliners of Stutz’s brand portfolio. During the Seventies and Eighties, the Blackhawk and targa roof Bearcat funded some other fun ideas that occupied the thoughts of company CEO James O’Donnell.
In our last entry, we covered what was perhaps the strangest offering of the latter Stutz entity, a C/K era Suburban that concealed a mounted machine gun in its interior. The armored SUV was subsequently turned into a gun-free dictatorial parade sedan with targa roof, and a trunk. The be-trunked Suburban also donated its shape to an upright regular sedan and six-door funeral transport.
And while the Stutz Suburban takes were intended for foreign heads of state for security and coup d’etat purposes, the Stutz sedans were directed at the company’s more traditional American customer: Someone who feared no peasant uprising but did enjoy flashy styling and lots of elegance. Introducing the Duplex.
Last time in our tale of Stutz the company finally realized its dream of a true convertible, the Bearcat II. The original product dream of CEO James O’Donnell, the Bearcat II went on sale in 1987. Though the company’s fate was pretty much sealed by that time, Stutz had its heyday of models circa the early Eighties. Spoilers: Machine guns were involved.
We return to our coverage of the reborn and neoclassically-focused Stutz Motor Company today, at a point of considerable change in the company’s model portfolio. “Portfolio” may be a bit generous, but for a few years the company did produce a handful of different models.
Since Stutz was relaunched in 1970 its main offering was the Blackhawk coupe, in both its original 1969 Pontiac Grand Prix basis and downsized B-body Pontiac Bonneville basis. But Stutz CEO James O’Donnell always wanted a true convertible in the Stutz lineup. That wish was finally realized with the Bearcat II.
We pick up the Stutz story once again today after we reached the conclusion of the neoclassical Blackhawk coupe’s life in 1985. The coupe that sold so well in the Seventies with its exaggerated Exner styling was watered down considerably in the Eighties when it switched from its original 1969 Pontiac Grand Prix roots to those of a 1980 two-door Pontiac Bonneville.
However, even though the Blackhawk was the headline and best-known product from the Stutz neoclassical company, it was not the only car in the portfolio. First up: the Bearcat.
In our last entry in the Stutz saga, we covered the final few years of the Blackhawk that originated in 1971. Through various trim transformations and minor updates, the ’71 lived all the way through the 1979 model year. That final year it was also transformed into the very rare Bearcat targa convertible. But the winds of change were blowing: Detroit downsizing was already well underway, and Stutz was out of 1969 Pontiac Grand Prix platforms to use. The incredibly expensive Blackhawk sold roughly 350 examples in its first generation.
Because of domestic market downsizing, the contemporary G-body Grand Prix of 1980 wasn’t large enough for Blackhawk purposes. Instead, Stutz turned to the B-body platform, and specifically the Pontiac Bonneville’s two-door variant. And though it was marketed as a coupe by GM, the roofline was so formal your author would file it as a two-door sedan. In any event, the new hardpoints of the Bonneville meant considerable visual changes on the 1980 Blackhawk coupe.
We resume our coverage of Stutz today and pick up in the mid-Seventies. With the reborn brand’s personal luxury Blackhawk attracting the rich and famous from across the nation, Stutz attempted to keep the car fresh through visual edits every couple of years. In addition to the marketing appeal of a new “generation” Blackhawk, management was also able to cut costs: Split windshields became one-piece, and bespoke doors were replaced with those of a Pontiac Grand Prix.
All the while, the Blackhawk’s price continued to escalate and doubled by the end of its first decade. It was by far the most expensive American car on sale. We find ourselves in 1977, as Stutz continued with Blackhawk edits after the one-off convertible version named d’Italia was scrapped.
The reborn Stutz brand introduced its Blackhawk in 1971. It was a mostly hand-built and Virgil Exner-styled coupe atop a late Sixties Pontiac Grand Prix platform. Despite its rather common underpinnings, the Blackhawk found an immediate clientele among the very wealthy who were of a showbiz variety. After Elvis took delivery of the first Blackhawk sold (prototype two, to be precise), celebrities of various stature placed their orders with Stutz.
This gave the Blackhawk status and immediate luxury credibility, however garish and Extra Super Seventies it all was. Thus, Stutz increased the price of the Blackhawk throughout its debut decade and effectively doubled its profits by the turn of the Eighties. By 1981 the Blackhawk’s base price was $84,500 ($279,242 adj.). But Stutz knew it would have to update its coupe to keep buyers coming back for more, and the majority of updates took the form of trim differentiation and cost-cutting. Let’s talk about the multiple generations of Blackhawk.
We pick back up in the Stutz story today, at a time when (once again) all was new and promising at the luxury brand. Under the company’s new ownership, Stutz had the funding for Italian craftsmanship and hand-built goodness. The all-new Stutz Blackhawk entered production in 1971.
Nineteen feet long and full of wood, precious metals, and optional mink upholstery, the Blackhawk asked for a stunning amount of money that was far greater than domestic personal luxury coupes and more than a Rolls-Royce. At a base ask of $22,500 ($162,533 adj.) in 1971 dollars, there were few cars that actually competed with the Blackhawk’s purchasable exclusivity. And said exclusivity attracted some very wealthy people. Let’s talk celebrity status.
In our last Stutz entry, we saw the once famed luxury maker resuscitated by an entrepreneurial banker. Still headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana, the newly renamed Stutz Motor Car of America, Inc. built a neoclassical coupe to excite lovers of polyester, personal luxury, and a mélange of styling cues from the Twenties and Thirties. The company’s first offering was the new Blackhawk, styled in a baroque Pontiac kind of way by Virgil Exner.
We pick up the Stutz story again today, as the super luxurious American brand went off to the automotive graveyard in the sky. Troubled by braking issues, dated product, and management keen to ignore the brand’s racing heritage, Stutz poured its limited development dollars onto delivery trucks and a rather sophisticated DOHC straight-eight engine. Both those developments were finished around the time of the Great Depression.
Unfortunately for Stutz, circa 1930 there was little demand for a new type of delivery truck, and really no demand at all for six-figure (adjusted) luxury cars. The company went bankrupt in 1937 and was liquidated fully in 1939. But the legendary name was not forgotten by certain people in Indianapolis who wore wide lapel suits.
Today we reach the 22nd and final installment in the Imperial series. In our last edition, we reviewed the development and birth of the final production car to wear the Imperial name: The super-extended K-car platform known as the Y-body. Lee Iacocca was keen on the idea of a full-size luxury sedan for the elderly customer, but Chrysler had neither the resources nor the platform to do it properly. Thus the Y-body appeared, and its angular and pencil-thin shape went on sale in 1990 alongside the similarly lengthened Chrysler New Yorker Fifth Avenue. Speaking of angles, let’s talk about that sweet money-saving clip swap action.
We find ourselves at the final two installments of the long-running Imperial series today. It’s been almost six months since the first Imperial entry, when a new model was dreamt up by Chrysler’s founder as competition for the likes of Pierce-Arrow and Studebaker. The Imperial name outlived most of the Twenties competition it was designed to beat, though along the way it drifted both nearer and further to the original mission. The concluding entrant into the Imperial lineage was definitely the weakest ever. K-car time, commence!
Today we pick up our Stutz series once more, at the dawn of 1929. Stutz wasn’t in the best way at the time: Its vehicles, though very luxurious, were selling slowly, and were largely seen as behind the times with the luxury competition. Management had taken the company’s advertising in a new direction in the second half of the Twenties and was largely ignoring the company’s racing pedigree – the thing that put Stutz on the map.
There was no Bearcat in the company’s lineup, as wares drifted further from performance and more into elegance territory. And finally, given the company’s financial struggle and recent lack of interest in motorsport, the board room discontinued all support for racing activities in 1928. The sole promising source of money was the distribution rights for the Pak-Age-Car, which saw the delivery trucks placed alongside luxury cars in Stutz showrooms. Things went downhill further as the Great Depression loomed.
Here we are, the 20th installment of the Imperial series. We’ve covered the Imperial’s inception as a coach-built car for the wealthy, through its Fifties rebirth as an independent brand with hand-built quality that rivaled the best luxury car makers had to offer. From there Imperial’s tale was ups and downs (mostly downs) as Chrysler’s luxury arm continually found itself less independent, and more tied to the New Yorker.
But after its sad Seventies cancellation, it was time for an Eighties rebirth under the direction of CEO Lee Iacocca. He was determined to make the best, most exclusive American personal luxury coupe money could buy. To date we’ve learned about the angular bustle back exterior, the J-body Cordoba platform underneath, and the Cordoba-plus leather-lined interior, by Mark Cross. Today we continue with Iacocca’s close personal friend, Frank Sinatra (or ‘FS’ if you’re talking badges.)