While Ray Harroun and his Marmon Wasp won the very first Indianapolis 500-mile race in 1911, a brand new machine secured 11th place. In fact, it managed to finish the grueling race without having to make a pit stop for anything other than fuel and new tires! The designer of the car, Harry C. Stutz, could not have been any more pleased. Having entered his car to prove the reliability of his automobile designs to the American public, Stutz succeeded brilliantly.
Following his Indianapolis success, a six-cylinder Stutz appeared on the market, possessing a stellar reputation for performance and dependability. By 1914, Stutz had established a total dominance of the American road-racing scene, and the Bearcat, first introduced that year, was the all-American sports car of the time and the object of every motoring enthusiast’s desires.
Not a car for the faint of heart, Bearcats were achieving racing successes at all levels in the hands of skilled drivers. All the while, factory-backed teams like Stutz’s own famous 1915 racing team, the White Squadron, roared from victory to victory, placing first at the grueling Elgin race, Minneapolis, Point Loma and Sheepshead Bay, as well as taking third, fourth and seventh at Indianapolis that year.
The Stutz Bearcat undoubtedly ranks among the most memorable and exciting cars in American automotive history – and for very good reasons. Here was one of the few cars ever built whose legend is only exceeded by its reality, particularly in terms of its brilliant performance on the road and in its long list of racing victories.
Aside from its history and reputation, the Bearcat’s appeal to sophisticated auto enthusiasts through the years is quite easy to understand by just a quick visual appraisal of the car itself. Like its great rival, the T-head Mercer Raceabout, the Stutz Bearcat is an exercise in purposeful, minimalist design. Two bucket seats exposed to wind and weather, a round gas tank, a modest-sized trunk clamped down behind the seats, an open floor and dashboard, and a hood stuffed full of engine – that is the essential Bearcat. Dashing and quite beautiful in a no-nonsense way, the Stutz Bearcat was built to go tearing down the road ahead of everyone else; truly, it was the Corvette of its time and just as exciting and soul-stirring to drive today as it was in those innocent years before America’s entry into World War I.
This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in July of 2010 at the Shotwell Gustafson Pavilion at Meadow Brook Hall, Rochester, Michigan.
50 hp, 390 cu. in. four-cylinder T-head engine cast in pairs, three-speed selective sliding transaxle, leaf-sprung front and rear suspension, and two-wheel mechanical rear brakes. Wheelbase: 120"
Source: RM Auctions
Photo Credit: Copyright Darin Schnabel