1912 Stutz Bearcat

During his 30 years in the automobile industry, Harry Clayton Stutz had a hand in many automobiles that crossed the American landscape.  The one bearing his own name, the Stutz, is the most well known among his contributions.

In 1911, Stutz formulated his dream of a quality sports car built from assembled, high-quality components manufactured by outside suppliers at a price below $2,000.  The first Stutz was built in just five weeks and was immediately taken to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the inaugural running of the 500 Mile Race.  Gil Anderson drove the car to an eleventh place finish.  Thus, the advertising slogan: “Stutz – The Car That Made Good In A Day.”  He immediately organized the Ideal Motor Car Company to manufacture the Stutz Model A, a duplicate of the Indy race car.

The famous Stutz Bearcat sports car appeared in 1912 for a run of 10 years.  It followed the usual Stutz recipe of a low-slung chassis, a large engine, and other bare necessities–hood, fenders, a right-hand raked steering column, two bucket seats, a fuel tank behind the seats, and wooden spoke wheels.  The Stutz Bearcat was a popular car in the $2,000 price range.

In June 1913, the Ideal Motor Car Company was reorganized as the Stutz Motor Car Company with Harry Stutz as president.  The demand for Stutz motor cars prompted the construction of a new manufacturing facility at 1002 North Capitol Avenue in Indianapolis.


Stutz Factory

Stutz Factory

Increasing sales necessitated an expansion of manufacturing facilities in 1916.  Stutz also decided to sell stock in his company in 1916. A group of Wall Street investors headed by Allan A. Ryan bought controlling interest in Stutz. Unhappy with the new direction of the company, Harry sold his remaining interest in the company that bore his name in June 1919.  At the end of 1919, with rapidly increasing sales, the Stutz company further expanded its manufacturing facilities to cover the entire city block.

The boom following World War I provided Stutz with one of its best years ever, with 2,816 cars sold in 1920.  Unfortunately, the recession of the early twenties took its toll on many auto companies, and Stutz was no exception.  The Stutz Company reacted to decreasing sales promptly with a price reduction in July 1921, but reported a loss for the year. Stutz’s proven four-cylinder models were aging in the marketplace.

In August 1922, control of Stutz passed to Charles M. Schwab and his associates.  The popular Bearcat model was no longer listed after this date.

1929 Blackhawk Four Passenger Speedster

1929 Blackhawk Four Passenger Speedster

Stutz introduced the six-cylinder Blackhawk marque starting at $2,345, in January 1929, at the National Automobile Show in New York City.  By July, the company reduced the price to $1,995 in hopes of being more competitive in the market.

 The 1933 DV-32 Cabriolet Coupe was one of the last cars made by Stutz

The 1933 DV-32 Cabriolet Coupe was one of the last cars made by Stutz

In May 1931, Stutz introduced the DV-32, designed to compete with the new multi‑cylinder cars being brought out by Lincoln, Cadillac, Marmon, and others. DV-32 prices started at $4,895.  The single-camshaft eight with two valves per cylinder was renamed the SV-16.

Meanwhile the Depression was taking its toll on the smaller manufacturers who lacked the financial resources to survive. After record sales of 5,069 cars in 1926, the Stutz company business declined to 110 autos in 1933.  Stutz auto production effectively ended with the final six cars built in 1934.   The company continued to manufacture a light delivery van called the Pak‑Age-Car until April 23, 1938, when a federal court ordered liquidation.

 Today, the Stutz building complex is an outstanding example of industrial recycling.  Developer Turner Woodard has divided the approximately 360,000 square feet into light-industrial flex space.  Tenants include Web studios, business incubators, and artists’ lofts.  Turner displays many Stutz automobiles and a Stutz fire engine in one of the building’s enclosed courtyards.

3 responses to “Stutz – The Car That Made Good In A Day”

  1. Tom Davis says:

    As you know Dennis, those who go through the trouble of finding Harry’s grave in the middle of Section 47 at Crown Hill, a difficult task, probably scratch their head when they see it says Stutz on one side of the pink granite monutment, and Secrest on the other. I puzzled over it a year or two myself and it may have been you who put me on the right trail. Sanford Perry Secrest purchased Lot 334 of Section 47, having space for four burials, on July 9, 1908, apparently making plans for what he hoped was the distant future. On June 21, 1926 he laid his beloved wife Martha to rest there. He himself hung on for another ten years, being buried on November 14, 1936. In the meantime, his stepdaughter, Blanche Stutz, Martha’s daughter, and Harry Stutz’s second wife, found herself unexpectedly needing a place to bury Harry after his sudden death from a burst appendix. Sanford graciously offered his stepdaughter one of the three remaining lots. That still left a space for him beside Martha, and Blanche planned to be buried beside Harry when the time came. But she continued to live a long time, putting down roots in Orlando with an adopted daughter. So when the time did come, Blanche was buried in Orlando, convenient to the surviving daughter rather than beside the man she had once loved. Harry’s first wife and other family members are entombed inside the community mausoleum.

  2. Dennis E. Horvath says:

    Hi Tom:
    Thank you for sharing the mystery of Harry Stutz’s grave marker. When I did my Indianapolis Auto Pioneers Tour last September, I marked the grave with a checkered flage so that it was visible from the west road. It had been sometime since I visited the grave and I had a hard time finding it.and wondered what the story was. So, now I know.

  3. Jeff Downer says:

    If anyone is considering visiting the Stutz building, there is an great place to eat there called “Bearcats” (best cheeseburger in town). Take a long lunch, having a bite and exploring the building complex.

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