Eighty years ago the last Stutz automobile was manufactured in 1934, yet even today the name is still recognized by many. Much of this is due to the popular Stutz Bear Cat, being given one of the most attention-getting car names of all time. The story does not start there, but back when Harry Clayton Stutz built his first car in 1898. A year later, he set up Stutz Mfg. Co. to build gasoline engines and by 1900 he completed his second car.
Stutz then went to work for the Lindsay Auto Parts Co., and followed that by becoming a salesman for the Schebler Carburetor Co. in 1904. Next he engineered the chassis layout for the American Tourist, and then moved on to the Marion Motor Car Co. as its Chief Engineer from 1907 to 1910. Finally, he worked briefly for the Empire Motor Car Co. while redesigning the automaker’s car chassis from chain to shaft-drive.
The Stutz Auto Parts Co. was next established in Indianapolis, Indiana in 1910 to produce the combination rear axle-transmission seen above which he designed. Stutz also had dreams of producing his own car and started building the first one in April of 1911 in a small factory in Indianapolis. It was finished after five weeks of hard work, and he confidently entered it in the first 500-mile race held at the Indianapolis Speedway that year.
The sturdy car was powered by a 389-c.i.d. Wisconsin four-cylinder engine, the chassis, featured the Stutz Rear Axle and Transmission, a Timken front axle and a Gemmer steering box. Racing car driver Gil Anderson finished in 11th place, while averaging 68.25 m.p.h. for the distance. The performance was an outstanding showing for a new and untested machine that was only hampered by tire trouble. The ten purpose-built racing cars that placed ahead of it all had larger engines of between 432 and 589 c.i.d.
This first car generated such good publicity in the 500-mile race that by mid-June of 1911, Stutz had set up the Ideal Motor Car Co. to manufacture what was cleverly called The Car That Made Good in a Day. At the same time the new company moved to a larger facility at 430 North Capital Avenue in Indianapolis, and tooled up to begin building the new car, which was named the Model A.
Seen above and below is, the earliest article we can find covering the car, from the Cycle and Automobile Trade Journal, April 1912 issue. This coverage came at about the same time that the company added the new Bear Cat model to its model lineup. Stutz promoted the sporty and attractive new car by using its name for their racing cars, which used the same chassis with modifications.
After having been fortunate enough to rebuild a couple of early Stutz Wisconsin engines, and spend several weeks behind the steering wheel of a 1912 Bear Cat and a later modified 450 c.i.d. version, on both the road and the racetrack, I can attest to the car’s capabilities. The legendary automobile is truly one of the most potent and best-handling American production cars that were made during its era. You see and learn more about the early Stutz Bear Cat and racing cars here.