Stutz Bearcat Series B

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Bearcat Series B





The Stutz Bearcat, named after the binturong, was a well-known American sports car of the pre- and post-World War One period.

Essentially, the Bearcats were a shorter (120" wheelbase vs 130"), lighter version of the standard Stutz passenger cars chassis. It was originally powered by a 390 in3, 60-horsepower straight-4 engine produced by the Wisconsin Motor Company. Common with racing and sports cars of the period, it featured minimal bodywork consisting of a "dog house" hood, open bucket seats, a tiny "monocle" windscreen in front of the driver, and a cylindrical fuel tank on a short rear deck. Production Bearcats differed from the factory "White Squadron" racers by having fenders, lights and a trunk.

The original production Bearcat was introduced in the Series A of 1912. The Bearcat was built in both four- and six-cylinder configurations through 1915. Engines were big T-head Wisconsin units of 50-60 brake horsepower, wheelbases 120 to 130 inches. Bodies were minimal, just seats for two, not even a cowl. Harry Stutz’s mechanical brilliance increased the engine’s performance to an estimated 60 horsepower, which was fed to the rear wheels through a transaxle—a technological advancement that was some five decades ahead of its time. When installed on a 120-inch wheelbase chassis with the Bear Cat’s barely-there bodywork, which was just seats and tanks, the Wisconsin T-head four resulted in superb speed from an already extremely lightweight performance-designed chassis. The Series E of 1913 brought electric lights and starting. A six-cylinder option was available for an extra $250.00. The door less body style would last through 1916. A sales catalog lists the available colors for the Series E as Vermillion, Monitor Gray, and Mercedes Red. Wire wheels were listed as a $125 option. From 1916 to 1924, Bearcats had four cylinders only (as did all Stutzes from then until 1923), and progressed through Models 4E to K (and not in any numerical or alphabetical order). Engines consisted of the 390 cubic inch T-head four, dropping to 361 on the Model S in 1917, when Stutz started to build its own engines. All these had four valves per cylinder, so the “16-valve four” is nothing new. The last of these Bearcats was the Speedway Four of 1924, which had the distinction of a detachable cylinder head.

The Series S Bearcat of 1917 brought the first large change to the model. While it retained the 120-inch wheelbase, its body now featured an enclosed cockpit with step-over sides. It continued to be right-hand drive with external gearshift and brake levers. The main change was under the hood, where a new Stutz-designed 360 C.I. 16-valve 4-cylinder engine resided. It was cast in a single block had a heat-treated nickel crank and camshafts. 1919’s Series G was similar, but the mid-1919 Series H bodies featured cut-down sides to make cockpit entrance easier. The H also introduced new colors, including yellow, Royal Red, or Elephant Gray. By the end of 1919 price for a Bearcat had risen to $3250 (the same price as the roadster and slightly less than the touring coupe). The 1920 Series K was again similar, but prices had risen to $3900 in the wake of a postwar auto sales boom. The 1921 series K featuring a new “DH” engine with a detachable head was introduced, but a switch to left-hand drive in the following KLDH (L for left) meant the end of the Bearcat, since its narrow front seat and cockpit did not leave room for centrally located gear and brake levers. By 1922, the famed Bearcat name was missing from model lists and sales literature. For 1923, the roadster was renamed the Bearcat, but the name would again disappear in 1924.

The Bearcat name was reintroduced in 1931. The depression had not been kind to Stutz, so the name was used as a way to boost sales. The new Bearcat had the DV-28 (28-valve) eight-cylinder engine and each car came with an affidavit saying the car had been tested at 100 mph (160 km/h). It was a small coupe featuring dual side-mount spare tires and a rakish dip in the doors, similar to current (and future) sports cars. The car lasted through 1933. The same year, the model range was enhanced by the “Super Bearcat” powered by the DV-32 engine. Unlike the standard model, it offered full weather protection and higher performance. Sitting on a 116-inch (2,900 mm) wheelbase, it featured a lightweight fabric body built by Weymann.

The DV-32 was a conundrum for Stutz; it was the company’s greatest achievement and also its swan song. By the time it was introduced, Stutz’s day was nearing its sunset. Just 384 cars of all types were built in 1931; about 120 the following year. Nearly that many saw life in 1933, but that was about the end. Just six cars, indistinguishable from ‘33s, were built in 1934. The company still exuded optimism, announcing the availability of cars into 1936, but these were undoubtedly unsold 1933s and ‘34s. Stutz’s day had reached its end. Stutz production ended in 1934.

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