Harry C Stutz is one of the great automotive pioneers who may be considered among the greats such as Ettore Bugatti, Harry Miller and the Duesenberg Brothers. A farm boy from Ohio with a natural gift and fascination with machinery, Stutz earned a local reputation as the boy who could fix anything. He left his home at 18 to pursue a career in engineering and quickly made a name for himself in industry as an innovative, creative perfectionist. One of his first forays into automobile manufacture was the design of an engine for the American Motor Car Company’s Underslung model. Harry Stutz soon left American to form his own company, the Ideal Motor Company, in 1911. Right from the start, Stutz saw the importance of marketing his automobiles through racing – in fact, the very first car that left the Indianapolis plant was delivered straight to the track to compete in the Indianapolis 500 mile race! That car finished 11th, suffering no mechanical issues or failures. It earned the slogan “The car that made good in a day”. Quite!
One year later, the business was renamed Stutz Motor Company. Stutz was respected by his employees, but they knew that if a single tool was left out of place or a work bench was left untidy after closing, they would hear about it the next day. They strove to build the best automobiles they could and their efforts paid off on race tracks around the world. The Stutz was seen as one of the finest cars money could buy. In 1919, facing a need to raise capital to fund production, he sold a portion of his business, but quickly grew disgusted with his lack of control over the operations and he soon departed. Following a stock scandal, bankruptcy and another change of ownership, Stutz Motor Company executives struck gold when they hired an equally gifted engineer by the name of Frederic Moscovics.
Moscovics quickly refocused the floundering company and developed the “Safety Stutz” chassis for 1926. His new chassis had a double drop that gave a low center of gravity, excellent handling and stability as well as a rakish look. Four wheel hydraulic brakes were fitted as well as a worm-drive rear axle. The new “Vertical Eight” was single overhead camshaft affair driven by a link-belt chain, with twin-plug ignition. In 1927 a Vertical Eight-equipped model AA set a 24 hour speed record, averaging 68 mph over 24 hours – it was a test that proved its worth in 1928 when a Stutz finished 2nd to the Bentley Boys at the 24 Hours of LeMans.
Sales at home remained sluggish, however, so Stutz spun off its sporty junior models into a new range called “Black Hawk” in late 1928 in an effort to boost sales. But like Harry Stutz before him, Moscovics was reluctant to cheapen his cars. A six-cylinder version of the Vertical Eight sat inside an all-new, short wheelbase frame, its 127" chassis being a marked improvement over the eight-cylinder model's frame and featuring substantial cross-bracing. A marvel of design and technically worlds ahead of the competition, the frame remained the low-slung, double-drop design as before. Engine power drove through a four-speed transmission making Black Hawk one of only two US manufacturers at the time to have this feature. Braking was by large Lockheed hydraulic drums on all four wheels, and a B&K vacuum booster as seen on Duesenberg and Stutz Eight models was offered as an option. All this proved too little too late however, and Stutz struggled against a failing economy and buyers who simply did not appreciate the sophisticated European design. By 1935 the doors were shut for good.
Black Hawks were only in production for a few short years, making them quite rare and highly desirable today. This extremely handsome example wears a rumble-seat roadster body, believed to be penned by LeBaron, who allegedly designed and built many catalog Black Hawk bodies. The handsome coachwork is in fine condition, having been treated to a very high quality restoration some years back and used sparingly since. The restoration was fully documented via a binder of photos which is included in the sale. It is finished in a lovely light green with contrasting black fenders and accented with dark green wire wheels. The paint is attractive and in good order, and panel fit is very good all around. Typical high quality detailing includes dual tail lights, step pads for the rumble seat, chrome mirrors, cowl lamps, trunk rack and a folding windscreen.
The cabin and rumble seat are trimmed in tan upholstery which still presents very well thanks to the light use and careful maintenance. The canvas top is in similarly good order and features a full complement of side curtains and a top boot. Moscovics’ incredible overhead cam engine presents well beneath the hood, showing signs of use but also maintenance and care. This is a very finely restored car that remains quite attractive for both collectors and driving enthusiasts. We feel this Black Hawk would be an outstanding tour car thanks to its superlative overhead cam engine, four-speed gearbox and world-class chassis. Few American cars could compete with the level of performance and driveability the Stutz Black Hawk offered in period and this is an excellent opportunity to experience that performance today.