Harry C. Stutz was a very interesting man. He was the first American automobile entrepreneur! Here is the story of one of the most famous ‘auto-related’ Americans ever. He was as American as Uncle Sam, baseball, or apple pie. That’s about as American as you can get! It makes me proud to think that many automakers started out American, or with American CEO’s.
Harry C. Stutz was born in 1876 to John and Wilma Stutz, on a farm a few miles outside of Indianapolis, Indiana. Cool trivia: John Stutz was a Polish Jewish immigrant who met his wife on Ellis Island while waiting to immigrate to the United States. They were married on the ferry boat! From a very early age, Harry was interested in mechanical items. When he was 12, his father had him work on the farm equipment. Sometime around 1887, his father bought a John Deere tractor. Harry was intrigued, and soon built a tractor of his own, using random parts from around the farm.
Around 1911, Harry graduated from college with a degree in engineering. Soon after, he started the Ideal Motor Car Company, which was based out of Indianapolis. Eleven months later, he renamed it the Stutz Motor Car Company.
It wasn’t until Harry had renamed the company that it became well known. The Stutz Bearcat was the fastest car of it’s time, that was in production. With a center of gravity that was low enough to prevent rocks and debris from flying off to the sides. It had a 10.3 liter V8 that put out more than 240 horsepower! Most V6’s make that, but they have direct injection, variable valve timing (VVT), and other goodies. With it’s powerful V8, the Stutz Bearcat would often be seen flying down the road, at speeds in excess of 90 mph! VROOM!
In 1920, Harry got the idea into his head to sell the Stutz Motor Car Company to Charles M. Schwab, and two other investors. In 1919, Harry had created the Stutz Fire Engine Company, and the H.C.S Motor Car Company.
In 1929, he formed the Stutz-Bellanca Airplane Company. During the Great Depression, the Stutz-Bellanca biplanes were used by the U.S. Army Air Corps, because of their sturdiness and cheapness to operate. According to F.D.R, “12,000 Stutz biplanes cost the U.S. around $5,000 (now about $34,000). It’s good to keep our boys flying.”
For a long time, the Stutz Motor Car Company was a parts supplier to the U.S. Army for the VIP’s. In 1970, Stutz came out with their first new car in over 70 years. It was called the Stutz Blackhawk came out. Wanna see a picture of this beauty? I thought so.
The sleek, flowing lines of the Stutz Blackhawk show a hint of Jaguar’s, Lincoln’s, Caddy’s, and Ferrari’s! In fact, the car was so luxurious that Elvis Presley was the first buyer. The flowing Blackhawk remained in production until 1987. It used a 400 horsepower, 5.9 liter V8 that borrowed many parts from Cummins Diesel.
Today, the building where the Stutz Bearcat was built is now called the Business Center. It has offices and studios for over 100 Indianapolis designers, artists, and entrepreneurs. There is a small area where there is a Bearcat being assembled. There is a large plaque telling the world of Harry Stutz’s great invention.
In 1997, when the Automotive Hall of Fame was moved to Dearborn Michigan, Harry Stutz was the first Inductee to be inducted on the new site. Harry is Inductee #14.