1917-1922 Stutz Bearcat

To power his 1917 Stutz Bearcat models, Harry Stutz at last trotted out an engine of his own design and manufacture. Featuring four valves per cylinder, similar to some of the better cars of the 1990s, it developed a whopping (for 1917) 80 horse-power. This revised T-head four would remain in production as late as 1924, replacing both the earlier four-banger and the six-cylinder line.

This new, four-cylinder Stutz borrowed the 130-inch chassis of the late, presumably unlamented Six. This represented a gain of 10 inches over the previous Four. Because the longer chassis was considered inappropriate for a car of sporting pretensions, the Bearcat alone continued to employ the 120-inch wheelbase.

But despite the good news on the sales front, trouble was brewing. Allen Ryan, described as "a young Wall Street sharpie," purchased control of the company. Speculation in Stutz Motor Car Company stock was rife, driving the price up, at one point, to over $700 a share. Harry Stutz sold out and moved to another part of town, where he commenced production of the H.C.S., a direct competitor for the original automobile that bore his name.

By 1921, a depression year, the Stutz Bearcat sold for $3,900, up from $2,300 in 1917. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that it hardly sold at all. The following season was no better, despite a $650 price cut. Ryan departed, becoming involved in the promotion of the Frontenac car, but his stock market manipulations soon caught up with him, and in a few short months he found himself broke.

For three years commencing in 1923, Stutz offered a line (eventually two lines) of six-cylinder cars designed by the firm's new chief engineer, Charles S. Crawford, formerly of the Cole Motor Company. Sales started off briskly, but soon tapered off sharply. The great overhead-camshaft Vertical Eight followed in 1926. Sales that year spurted to more than 5,000 cars, but after that it was destined to be downhill all the way.

In the early 1930s Stutz marketed a model called the Super Bearcat, a bobtailed speedster powered by the 32-valve, 156-horsepower DV-32 straight-eight motor. It -- along with the other DV-32s -- was a superb automobile, but the grip of the Depression meant that it came too late to help Stutz. By 1934, production had skidded to just six cars, and the following year Stutz was bankrupt. But Stutz left behind a legacy of great automobiles -- notably the Bearcat.

On the next page, you will find the specifications for the 1915-1922 Stutz Bearcat.

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