Monday, July 30, 2012

Bulldogs, Brohms and Boattails

by Nancy DeWitt and Willy Vinton

As noted in our last post, it's been a busy summer at the museum. Among the 30 or so cars we've tuned up and exercised are three carrying the legendary Stutz name.

Mention the word "Stutz" and immediately the famous Bearcat comes to mind. Much less well-known, even among many automobile afficionados, is the stylish Bulldog. Introduced in 1914, it was identical to the Bearcat except that it carried a four-passenger sport touring body. Although heavier than a Bearcat and equipped with a windshield, a Bulldog could attain a respectable speed of 75 mph. This 1918 Series S 4-Passenger Special is one of only a few Bulldogs remaining. It carries an 80-hp, 4-cylinder T-head engine with four valves per cylinder. Willy says, "This car is very capable of running 80 mph today (not that I have tried--really!). When riding in or driving this car, it's obvious why people wanted a Bulldog. Both Ethan and Steve had ear-to-ear grins when I took them for a ride."

Often called "The Forgotten Stutz," the elegant Speedway Six was produced for a few short years. Equipped with high-grade coachwork and a new Stutz-built engine, it was the company's most luxurious automobile yet. The sedan body on our 1925 Series 695 Sportbrohm was made by the Robbins Body Corporation. The dash, steering wheel and window frames are solid black walnut, and the sumptuous interior features mohair upholstery, silk curtains and crystal bud vases. Only a handful of Series 695 models still exist. Stutz guaranteed that its 95-hp, 6-cylinder inline engine could propel the car to 80 mph. "For a 60s paint and upholstery job," says Willy, "this car still shows well and the body is remarkable for its fit and finish. The doors still close tight, the windows roll up and down like new, and it runs and drives very smooth and quiet."

Stutz introduced their radically different Vertical Eight in 1926, and the Speedway Six was soon forgotten. The new "Safety" chassis design allowed the body and frame to sit quite low, which reduced the risk of tipping. Other new safety features included four-wheel hydraulic brakes and a wire-reinforced windscreen. The racy Black Hawk was perhaps the most fashionable of the Vertical Eights. Our 1927 Series AA Black Hawk is powered by a 95-hp, single-overhead-cam straight-eight. Its boattail design added 10-12 mph to the car's top speed. Willy says, "I have to say that, of all our cars, this may be the most fun one to drive. I took it out last Wednesday evening for the local car club cruise, and it really turned some heads. One gentleman came into the museum later and spotted the car back on the floor. He was very impressed to see that we truly do drive our cars." It's hardship duty, but someone has to do it!

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