1920 Stutz Series H Roadster

As the son of a farmer, Harry C. Stutz grew up tinkering with mechanical objects. Prior to the turn of the twentieth century, young Harry was repairing and improving implements on his family farm which naturally led him to become enthralled with the burgeoning world of motorized transport. He left home to pursue an engineering education, and in 1897, built his first motorcar, following that with a second that was powered by an engine of his own design and manufacture! He quickly earned a stellar reputation for his talents and was known as a driven, creative, innovator. Stutz landed a job with the American Motor Car Company where he was charged with designing an engine for their most famous model, the Underslung. After a brief spell with American, Harry Stutz struck out on his own to form the Ideal Motor Car Company based in Indianapolis, Indiana. The first Stutz automobile, the Model A, which served as the basis for the famous Bearcat, was built in just five weeks in 1911, and delivered across town to compete in the inaugural Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. An 11th place finish with Gil Anderson behind the wheel earned the slogan: “The Car That Made Good in a Day.” Later that summer, manufacture of the Stutz Model A, a road-going duplicate of the proven Indy racer, began in earnest. Stutz was keen to take advantage of marketing opportunities, with a Stutz Bearcat roadster serving as the pace car at the 1912 Indianapolis 500.

The Series S of 1917 marked a major transition for Stutz. They now had the facilities to manufacture their own engines, and their first was a real gem in the form of a dual-camshaft 16 valve T-head four cylinder displacing 360 cubic inches and good for 80 brake horsepower. Harry Stutz designed an even lower-slung chassis to enhance the sporting appeal of the Series S, with the gearbox cleverly placed ahead of the rear axle as a precursor to the modern transaxle. The Series G replaced the S, followed by the Series H in 1920. Only minor changes were made between the three models, as sales remained brisk in the post WWI boom. The signature sports model remained the Bearcat, with its narrow, cut-down body that epitomized the youthful Roaring Twenties. In addition to the Bearcat was the similarly styled Roadster, which rode on a 10” longer wheelbase (130 inches) and shared the same 16 valve engine with its sportier sibling. The roadster had its shift and brake levers moved inside the body, which featured the same sporty turtle-deck treatment as the Bearcat, but with more practical doors and a taller convertible top. Stutz did not keep detailed production records, but it is believed that about 2,800 total Series H models were sold in 1920, making these sporty and advanced cars a very rare sight today.

This 1920 Stutz Series H roadster is an attractive example recently out of a large, eclectic collection of historically important sports cars. As the only known Series H Roadster registered with the Stutz Club, it is rarer than even the storied Bearcat. Finished in appropriately sporty red with black fenders, it is pleasingly presented and in good mechanical condition. The early history of this car is not currently known, however, it did spend some time the world-famous Harrah Collection before being sold at their 1978 auction following Mr. Harrah’s death. The Stutz was purchased that day by James McCloud of Piedmont, California who soon embarked on a long term restoration which is documented in a fastidiously kept hand-written log. The restoration continued into the 1980s, and Mr. McCloud retained his treasured Stutz until 1996 when it was sold it to another California collector. In 2003, it was acquired by the most recent owner. The car was in very good condition when he acquired it, and while a concours restoration was briefly considered, he found the Series H was such an enjoyable car as is, that he put on approximately 500 miles a year and simply maintained it as needed.

Today, the Stutz remains in very tidy condition, with the older restoration having held up quite well, benefiting from some freshening and expert maintenance during its tenure with the last owner. The paint work is very good overall, with nice quality finish on the black fenders and a red body, wheels and chassis. A few minor blemishes can be found in the paint that are consistent with the age of the restoration, and the car remains quite attractive. The two-place cockpit is trimmed in brown upholstery which is in good order along with the black carpet, a tan canvas top, and excellent nickel-plated switches and controls.

This car’s 360.8 cubic inch T-head four-cylinder engine is equipped with the optional dual plug ignition and a Delco twin-head distributor. It breathes in through a Stromberg updraft carb, and out through a large finned exhaust manifold. With 80 horsepower on tap, the Series H has surprisingly brisk performance though the two-wheel mechanical brakes do require some attentive driving. A good running unit, the engine is finished in signature bright green, with plenty of brass and nickel accents. As with all cars from the Harry C. Stutz era, the 3-speed gearbox is mounted immediately ahead of the rear axle.

Recognized as a Full Classic by the CCCA, this rare and sporting Stutz would make an exciting participant on CARavan tours or a fine companion for weekend jaunts on your favorite roads. Aside from its undeniable rarity as the only known Series H in this body style, this is a technically advanced and historically important car – one of the last models produced under the auspices of the great Harry C. Stutz, an engineer whose talent is comparable to the likes of Ettore Bugatti, Harry Miller and Fred Duesenberg.

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