1918 Stutz Bearcat Series S Roadster

  • 1918 Stutz Bearcat Series S Roadster
  • Highly original example with 5.8-litre Stutz engine
  • Formerly owned by noted collector Rick Carroll
  • Eligible for VCC and VSCC events

The Stutz Bearcat is one of the most evocative names in motoring history, epitomising the sporting success and high-performance models for which the American marque became famous in the years either side of the First World War.

The Series S Bearcat was made for only a single model year, starting in September 1917. Serial numbers ran from 1 to 2396, and the Bearcat now being offered for sale by the Classic Motor Hub is chassis number 1355, fitted with engine number S1264. Although little is known of its early history, it was owned at one time by celebrated Rolls-Royce collector Rick Carroll.

In 1975, the Stutz was acquired by Herbert W Watts and fully restored. A new fuel tank was fitted, and the fuel lines, battery box, water pump, water hoses, and interior trim were all replaced. The soft-top was also renewed, but elsewhere on the car it was possible to rebuild and retain the original components. It even still has the correct Boyce MotoMeter – standard fitment on all Stutz models – on the radiator cap, complete with Stutz transfer.

Following the restoration, the Bearcat was a multiple award winner in Antique Automobile Club of America events from 1976 to 1980. It was then imported to the UK in the late 1980s and driven on various rallies. Sensible additions for regular use include indicators, modified rear lights, and gauges for water temperature and oil pressure.

From behind the wheel, this Stutz Bearcat certainly doesn’t feel 103 years old and drives like a much younger car. As you’d expect from the 5780cc four-cylinder engine, there’s plenty of torque and power on offer – the car will pull strongly in top gear from almost walking pace – and gearchanges are easy on the three-speed ’box. Although there are rear-wheel brakes only, the drums are vast and they stop the car tidily.

The car has run well in the recent warm weather, Stutz being justifiably proud of the Bearcat’s cooling system in period, boasting that it ‘has the coolest motor imaginable… due to the extreme care with which the cooling apparatus has been designed.’

This charismatic Stutz Bearcat is eligible for Veteran Car Club events as well as the Edwardian class in Vintage Sports-Car Club meetings, and offers an impressive blend of performance and usability that belies its age.

Model history

Harry C Stutz started building cars in 1911, following an impressive showing by his Bear Cat racer in that year’s Indianapolis 500. Those early models combined a Wisconsin four-cylinder, 16-valve engine with Stutz’s own transaxle and underslung chassis, and the production Bearcats featured minimal bodywork.

At the heart of the model’s appeal was its performance and the fact that it could bask in the success of the factory racers. It was launched in Series A form in 1912, and until 1916 there was the option of a six-cylinder engine for an extra $250. There were also Roadster and Touring models offered on a longer wheelbase (130in rather than 120in) and with more practical bodywork.

In late 1917, Stutz introduced its own four-cylinder, 5780cc, monobloc engine fitted with a 16-valve ‘T-head’ and a Stromberg carburettor. Stutz proclaimed it ‘the result of several years’ practical and successful racing experience… having met all competition on special constructed speedways and rough roads.’ The company concluded that it ‘affords high power, speed, flexibility, simplicity, and especially smoothness and economy in operation.’

The new engine was fitted to the Series S Bearcat, which retained the 120in wheelbase but featured an enclosed cockpit rather than the open-sided bodywork of earlier cars. The gearbox featured three speeds plus reverse, shaft drive was employed, suspension was by semi-elliptic leaf springs front and rear, and Houk detachable wheels were fitted.

In 1919 came the Series G and Series H – the latter featuring cut-down body sides – while the Series K of 1921 was fitted a new detachable-head engine. The famous Bearcat name disappeared from the Stutz range between 1924 and 1931, when it was reintroduced on an eight-cylinder coupe in an attempt to boost flagging sales. It was followed by the Super Bearcat, but the company was struggling and production stopped in 1934. Stutz finally went into liquidation in 1939 – a sad end for a once-great marque.

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