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M Supercharged Lancefield Coupe
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  Stutz M Supercharged Lancefield Coupe

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Country of origin:United States
Produced in:1929
Numbers built:2
Designed by:Lancefield
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:August 14, 2006
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Click here to download printer friendly versionSports car production reached an early peak in the first two decades of the 20th century in North America, but as the second decade closed manufacturers turned towards more affordable vehicles to appeal to the ever increasing passenger car market. Harry C. Stutz was among these pioneers with his legendary Bearcat, but his talents did not lay in the money side of the business and he was removed from the company he founded in 1919. Unlike for example Mercer, the Stutz company did linger on into the 1920s, but the glory days seemed to be over. It all changed for the better again in 1925, when Frederic E. Moscovics was appointed as the new Stutz president.

For his former employer, Marmon, Moscovics had started work on a radical new vehicle, but the proposal was rejected. Stutz owner, steel magnate Charles Schwab, gave his new president the opportunity to turn his ideas into metal. With the help of a number of highly talented engineers, he started work on his high performance, and above all safe vehicle. Even today these two ingredients are on opposite ends of the spectrum, but Moscovics insisted on the unlikely combination.

For the high performance part of the new Stutz, the engine, Charles Greuter was hired. Following his boss' plans, he designed a straight eight engine with a single overhead camshaft. The initial displacement was just under 4.7 litres, but over the years it gradually grew to nearly 5.4 litre. In the country of side-valve engines, the chain driven single overhead camshaft was quite a 'European' departure. Another exotic feature was the installation of twin plugs (one on either side of the engine) for every cylinder.

The highly advanced eight cylinder engine was installed in a ladder chassis formed by two pressed steel side members. The frame curved up on both sides to allow for an almost underslung location of the front and rear axles, which in turn lowered the overall height of the car considerably. Combined with pioneering hydraulic brakes, the low centre of gravity gave the new Stutz superior (read safer) road holding compared to its contemporaries. Other safety features included the front and rear bumpers, and the running boards, which were all designed to survive a crash of up to 5 mph unscathed.

The Safety Stutz or SV8 (Stutz Vertical 8) was first shown to the public at the 1926 New York Auto Show. Not surprisingly, it was one of the big stars of the show and Stutz was clearly on the way up again. With the advanced engine and chassis design, the new Stutz was a born racer and Moscovics had a special 4.9 litre engined example prepared for the 1927 season. Fitted with a stylish boat-tail roadster body, the racing Stutz was christened 'Black Hawk'. The Stutz Black Hawk took the racing scene by force, winning all but one race in the AAA stock racing class. More impressive was the reliability record with the rare retirements all caused by accidents.

Stutz' renewed fortunes grabbed the attention of Charles Weymann, who had made quite name for himself with very light fabric on wood bodies. Moscovics arranged for a 24 hours race against a Hispano Suiza bodied and supplied by Weymann on the Indianapolis oval; the best Europe had to offer against the most European of the Americans. Sadly the amazing reliability record was crushed when the Black Hawk dropped a valve, losing the company $25,000 and a fair chunk of their reputation. Amazingly, the strong run had impressed Weymann so much so that he bought a Black Hawk and had it shipped to Europe for the 24 Hours of Le Mans race.

Although located in France, the Le Mans track had been the playing ground of the British 'Bentley Boys', who reigned supreme with their four cylinder engined Bentleys. Driven by regulars Edouard Brisson and Robert Bloch gave the jolly Brits quite a fright when it motored off into the lead in the opening stages of the 1928 Le Mans. One of the Bentleys eventually got by, but Stutz made a very impressive debut with a second place finish. The Le Mans car stayed in Europe and was raced with continuing success against Europe's finest. It proved to be a perfect marketing tool and Stutz opened shop in London and Paris.

Stutz returned to Le Mans in 1929 with three examples of a revised Black Hawk. Before the race all three cars were tried with a Supercharger, but only the Weymann entered car was equipped with it for the race. Just like the Mercedes-Benz 'kompressors' of the time, the Supercharger could be engaged by the driver. Other improvements carried through was a new four speed gearbox replacing the old three speeder that had slowed the Black Hawk down in the closing stages of the 1928 race. Stutz had obviously pushed the envelope too far as two of the three entered cars retired, but also not far enough as the surviving car did no better than fifth behind four Bentleys.

All of the new features fitted on the racing cars were gradually incorporated in the road cars, which truly were the finest of their time. The final evolution of the straight eight engine even came equipped with double cams and 32 valves. Sadly the 1930s got off to a very rough start with the great depression completely destroying the niche market in which Stutz operated. The company tried to produce more affordable cars, but by 1935 it was really over for the Stutz company.

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  Article Image gallery (18) 31312 Specifications