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Lot 420: Stutz Series M Two-Passenger Speedster

Collectors' Motorcars and Automobilia, Bonhams (3 June 2012)

2011 marked the centennial of America's most sporting prewar car, Stutz. Based in Indianapolis, it didn't take long for the marque to prove they had racing in their DNA. At the inaugural Indy 500, Harry C. Stutz's first car, the Bearcat prototype, scored 11th place; well earning their slogan: "The Car That Made Good in a Day." Despite always being a small, low production company, Stutz has always been well known for their speed and performance. They dominated American racing in the teens with the "White Squadron" racing team and the Bearcat has always been considered one of the great icons of motoring. Despite market trends, Stutz never abandoned its sporting heritage. The Stutz Company went through many ups and downs and Harry C. Stutz eventually lost control of his company. Fortunately for the firm, however, an equally visionary and brilliant man would come in to fill his shoes: Fred Moskovics. Moscovics had made a good reputation for himself in the auto industry, his period at Marmon had led to their most charismatic and high performance products to date. His automotive inspirations were heavily directed toward the powerful and sophisticated machines coming from Europe. Alfa Romeo, Daimler, Bentley, Mercedes, and other potent Grand Touring machines were his fascination and he saw that America produced nothing like them. Moskovics took it on himself to produce an American car that could rival the world's best. Moskovics surrounded himself with a team of talented engineers, most notably Charles "Pop" Greuter. Greuter was an engine-man fascinated with the potential of over-head cam valve trains. His design for Excelsior of an over-head cam straight-eight would prove the basis for the new Stutz Eight. This Eight was a marvel of sophistication: chain driven overhead cam, ten main bearings, dual ignition, dual throat carburetion and cross flow porting. A new chassis would need to be developed to get the full potential out of this great new engine. Stutz had always touted the benefits of a low chassis and the Eight would take it further. By using a Timken worm drive rear axle, the whole chassis could be lowered considerably. This design was also used to the same effect in the Double Six Daimler and low chassis Invictas. Braking would initially be by Timken hydrostatic then Lockheed hydraulics with over-sized finned drums on all four wheels. The transmission would originally be a three-speed Warner, later replaced by a four-speed Detroit Gear unit. Four-speed transmissions were unheard of in American cars at the time and Stutz eventually went back to the three-speed Warner in '31. The new eight-cylinder "Safety Stutz" proved a break through. The 1928 model won every American Stock Car race entered and was declared World's Champion. Two custom Blackhawk Speedster bodies were penned by LeBaron to take full advantage of the performance. The four-passenger speedster body was designed and built so Stutz would have a car eligible for racing that required four seats. The most famous race requiring passenger cars with four seats and a top was the 24hrs of Le Mans. This now ubiquitous event was relatively unknown at the time in America despite being the Super Bowl for road going cars. A French Stutz agent entered a stock Stutz Blackhawk Four-Passenger Speedster in the 1928 event. It was the only Stutz entered, and it held the lead for much of the race, holding off an entire team of works Bentleys. Unfortunately a loss of high gear late in the race forced the Stutz to finish second. This 1929 Stutz Two-Passenger Speedster is an example of what many consider the ultimate year for the series. The 1929 Stutz features the "Challenger" engine, used at Le Mans, with better head porting and improved performance and flexibility. The engine is mated to the four-speed transmission that only 1929 and 1930 model Stutz's have. The brakes are the powerful vacuum boosted Lockheed units which are far superior to the Timken design of earlier models. The most notable feature of this car is its striking coachwork. The LeBaron Speedster bodywork is both elegant and sporting. The curvaceous bodywork was quite advanced for its time and predicted the look of classics going into the 1930s. The LeBaron coach-work is constructed with skinned aluminum from the cowl back to keep weight down and maximize the performance potential of the chassis. Today recognized as one of the fin-est coachbuilders of the classic era, LeBaron cars are sought out for their handsome and clean lines. The firm, established by Raymond Dietrich, produced some of its best work in this 1929-1934 period. Mechanically this car is in fine order. Having recently covered a long and grueling Classic Car Club Caravan to Newfoundland, the Stutz performed with no major difficulties and was found to be a reliable and spirited runner. It has been in its current owners hands for about seven years and prior to that was owned by noted Stutz collector Ernest Toth. Close inspection shows the restoration has aged slightly, but overall the car has a nice, pleasing look. One could use it as is or pick away at the car to bring it back to show standards. This is a fine opportunity to acquire a custom-bodied, sporting, classic car by one of America's finest marques for a very reasonable price. A tour proven, turn key car, it is ready to be enjoyed.

Lot Details
Auction Collectors' Motorcars and Automobilia
Bonhams, Greenwich, Connecticut
Lot Number420
Outcome SOLD
Hammer Price$120000
Hammer Price (inc premium)$139000
Condition rating
Registration number
Chassis number31276
Engine number
Engine capacity (cc)
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors