The Stutz Super Bearcat

1932 Stutz Supe Bearcat (from the author's collection)

Wearing a set of Goodrich Silvertown whitewall tires, distinguished by the double diamonds seen on the side wall, the shortened chassis of the Stutz Super Bearcat is clearly apparent. At only 116 inches, the wheelbase was a full foot and a half shorter than the standard offering. As a point of comparison, today’s Ferrari FF rides on a 117.7 inch wheelbase. The cut-down chassis and Weymann style fabric body (designed by Gordon Buehrig) were both focused on weight reduction, but the heart of the car was the DV-32 straight–eight engine. The twin overhead cam, four valves per cylinder engine produced 156 horsepower – a 40% increase over the old “vertical eight” that it was based on. Not the most powerful engine of the era, regardless the Super Bearcat had one of the best power-to-weight ratios of the time.

From its inception in 1911, the Stutz Motor Car Company was all about racing. Although Stutz halted factory-supported racing in 1929, Stutz cars continued to be raced by privateers. The 24 Hours of Le Mans saw numerous Stutz cars competing until 1932. The Blackhawk version of the Stutz Vertical Eight came to dominant AAA stock car racing, winning the championship in 1927. Stutz also competed at the 24 Hours of Le Mans with the sole Stutz losing its lead on the final lap to one of the factory-entered Bentleys in 1928. The best showing of any American entry until Ford’s GT40 claimed victory thirty-eight years later. The Stutz DV-32 engine, in a different chassis, raced at LeMans as well – achieving a 5th place finish.

Harry Stutz, founder of his namesake company, had departed back in 1922. Fred Moscovics had brought a newfound success to the Stutz brand upon his arrival, buy even his engineering prowess couldn’t halt the economic decline initiated by the stock market collapse of 1929. Kept alive by the personal fortune of Charles Schwab, who held controlling interest, the company soldiered on until closing its doors for good in 1934.

These cars were quite expensive at the height of the depression and only about twenty are thought to have been made – fewer than a dozen are thought to survive. The last Super Bearcat to come to auction was sold by Bonhams at Amelia Island earlier this year. It sold for $1,012,000.

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