The best known of all Stutzes, the Bearcat, was
introduced in 1912 and would turn out to be a fierce competitor for its
arch rival, the Mercer Raceabout. The Bearcat had a huge four-cylinder
T-head (inlet valves in one side of the cylinder block and exhausts in
the other) Wisconsin engine that displaced 6.4 litres (389 cu in.) and
produced 50 horsepower.
The Bearcat was the starkest of sports cars. Along
with the fenders there was a "doghouse" hood over the engine, two seats,
a round barrel-like fuel tank, a trunk that really was, and a couple of
spare tires. The driver peered through a monocle windshield; the
passenger got no protection.
Despite minimal bodywork the Bearcat weighed a
healthy 2,041 kg (4,500 lb). Its wheelbase was 3,048 mm (120 in.) long,
it rode on giant 4.50 by 34 inch tires, and it stood 1,219 mm (48 in.)
high at the hood.
Tom McCahill, Mechanix Illustrated magazine's car
writer, tested a mint condition 1914 Stutz Bearcat in September, 1951.
He reported that it would reach almost 129 km/h (80 mph) and accelerate
from zero to 96 km/h (60 mph) in 29.2 seconds.
He also pointed out that Bearcats required rugged
drivers. "They would go where you headed them, and keep going, but you
still needed lots of arm moxie to turn them. And plenty of beef to throw
out the clutch and push down the brake. You couldn't ride those old-time
clutches, Buster. It takes a good 75 to 100 pounds of pressure to throw
them out." He said the two-wheel mechanical brakes took "... enough
pressure to squash a rock."
Harry Stutz continued in competition, with the
Indianapolis 500 a sentimental favourite. Stutzes finished third in 1913
and 1915. A Stutz racing team, called the White Squadron, was the
scourge of the American racing circuit during the teens.
The Stutz's exploits weren't confined to the race
track. The owner of a new 1916 Bearcat apparently brought the car to his
New York dealer complaining that it was so slow that the Mercers were
trouncing him in the streets.
The Stutz public relations department, smelling an
opportunity, arranged to have the car driven coast-to-coast by an
Indianapolis record driver named Erwin George Baker. Baker didn't
disappoint them. He flogged the car across the continent in 11 days,
7-1/2 hours, earning a new transcontinental speed record for Stutz, and
the nickname "Cannonball" Baker for himself. He loved the name, and had
it copyrighted. Baker went on to become the premier cross-country
driver, eventually setting 143 distance records.
Founder Harry Stutz lost control of the company and
left in 1919. Although the Bearcat was continued, sales went into a
slide and by 1924 the Bearcat name was dropped, although it would return
The Stutz company continued to build some
high-performance cars, including the Black Hawk speedster, which was the
American Automobile Association champion in 1927. In 1928 one was second
in the famous LeMans, France, 24-hour endurance race, the best American
car showing until the Ford GT40s of the 1960s. The Bearcat was the only
car that could give the Bentleys a run for their money. Oddly, when
pushed hard, the cam drive would fail, which was also the weak point of
In the early '30s, unable to afford a huge
multi-cylinder engine like the Cadillac, Packard and Marmon V-12s and
V-16s, Stutz fitted double overhead camshafts and four valves per
cylinder to its Vertical Eight, creating the fabulous 156-horsepower,
32-valve DV-32. The car was also supplied with others bodies.
It was guaranteed to exceed 161 km/h (100 mph). A
shorter version, the Super Bearcat, with a 2,946 mm (116 in.) wheelbase
rather than the standard Bearcat's 3,146 mm (134-1/2 in.), was even