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  Stutz Bearcat

  Article Image gallery (24) 997 Specifications  
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Country of origin:United States
Produced from:1914 - 1917
Designed by:Harry C. Stutz
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:December 17, 2007
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Click here to download printer friendly versionMotor racing has always been for the brave, but never more than in the formative years of the sport. A racing car simply consisted of the largest engine available strapped to a simple ladder frame. Brakes or weather protection had little priority in the quest for speed. The Stutz Bearcat is a fine example of that era with its massive four cylinder engine and completely open cockpit. Who were they really fooling with that tiny 'monocle' windshield? Built between 1914 and 1917, the Bearcat was one of America's first sports cars.

Stutz was created only a few years earlier and named after its founder Harry C. Stutz, who had previously worked at Marmon. Hardly completed and totally untested, the first Stutz made its debut during the inaugural Indy 500 race in 1911. The car managed to finish the gruelling race in a very commendable 11th position from over 30 starters. Coincidentally, the race was won by Ray Harroun in a Marmon. Shortly after the race, Stutz introduced a six cylinder road car with the marketing phrase "The car that made good in a day".

Stutz continued the development of his racing cars, which eventually led to the introduction of the Stutz Bearcat road car in 1914. Closely related to the highly successful racing car, the Bearcat used a Wisconsin derived straight four. The engine was cast in two pairs of cylinders with a lateral camshaft on either side of the block. The 6.4 litre 'four' was mounted in a ladder frame, which curved up on both ends to create a nearly underslung suspension, reminiscent of the American Underslung, Stutz had developed a few years earlier. The power was transferred to the rear wheels through a three speed gearbox that was one unit with the rear axle.

As mentioned earlier, weather protection was of little concern and the body of the Bearcat was limited to fenders and an engine cover. As such the Bearcat was similarly appointed as the Mercer Raceabout launched just one year earlier. It sparked a rivalry between the two companies that was quite often fought out through the media. To show what the Bearcat was really capable off, Erwin 'Cannonball' Baker set out for a cross country run in 1916. He covered the 5,965 km between San Diego and New York in a record braking 11 days, 7 hours and 30 minutes. His heroic journey, referred to as the Cannonball Run, has been the inspiration for the outlaw races and motion pictures.

Although it was great publicity Baker's run was hardly necessary, looking at the amazing results of Stutz on the racing track. Specially prepared Bearcats with four-valve per cylinder heads were raced with great success by the "White Squadron". In 1912 Stutz had won 25 races of the 30 it had entered. Three years later, White Squadron drivers Earl Cooper and Gil Anderson finished first and third respectively in the American racing championships. After that season most of the racing stopped as the United States entered the first world war.

Production of the Bearcat ceased in 1917, although Stutz continued to produce cars under that name well into the 1920s, which were only loosely related to the original. In 1930 the name was revived once again for the sportiest model of the Stutz line-up. Harry Stutz himself had left the company in 1919, shortly after floating his company on the stock-market. He felt he could not work with the shareholders constantly looking over his shoulders. He briefly made a return to automobile manufacturing under the name HCS, but his absolute high-end cars struggled to find customers.

The featured Stutz Bearcat is one of less than 10 of the original Bearcats that have survived and it is seen above during the 2006 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. It is currently owned by the National Automobile Collection (the former Harrah Collection, and on permanent display in their museum in Reno Nevada.

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  Article Image gallery (24) 997 Specifications