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1918 stutz series s roadster

The general public could be forgiven for thinking that the Stutz Bearcat was the only model made by the company. However, since 1911 when Harry Stutz had set up his own firm, there had always been two-seat roadsters and touring cars to keep the limited number of Bearcats made each year company. Mechanically there was no significant difference between the stark Bearcat and the far more practical roadster, simply a ten-inch shorter wheelbase and less bodywork for the former.

In the latter part of 1917, Stutz introduced its own 16-valve twin-spark engine for all models. This T-head engine provided outstanding torque, transmitted through a three-speed transaxle, a Stutz feature from the first cars to wear the badge. They could be driven from a walking pace to speeds approaching 100 mph in top gear and it's not surprising that Stutz cars were highly successful in racing from the very first, and achieved public recognition far beyond the relatively small number of cars actually produced.

At one time the Stutz pictured here was owned by the well-known Rolls-Royce collector, the late Rick Carroll. In 1975 it was bought by Herbert Watts, who undertook a complete and meticulous restoration of the car. The quality and authenticity of the restoration resulted in the car becoming an award winner in many AACA events from 1976 through 1980. The car was imported into the UK in the late 1980s and has proved to be completely reliable in numerous runs since that time. Currently the car is fitted with directional signals, modified rear lights and oil pressure and water temperature gauges for practical use on modern-day roads. These items could be easily removed if the new owner wishes to return it to its totally authentic appearance.

The car is eligible for a variety of antique auto and vintage sports car events ranging from light touring to all-out competition.

{analysis}{auto}396{/auto} The car described here sold for $53,130 (including 15% commission) at Christie's Nine Elms Auction held in London on November 1, 1999. We said in our report in the January 2000 SCM (page 36) that it was a "shrewd purchase." Here's why: As the catalog text pointed out, except for the wheelbase, the car is for all practical purposes a Bearcat with a few more creature comforts. Just as important, it doesn't carry the hefty price premium a Bearcat from the same period would command-something on the order of 50% or more, all for going without doors and a slightly shorter car.

These are tough, brawny automobiles and require a bit of beef to drive, unlike their great rivals the Mercers, which demand little effort to conduct properly. And despite the claim in the catalog text about a top end nearing 100, a peak speed of 75 mph would be more realistic. Still, with just two-wheel mechanical brakes providing retardation, even 75 should be quite thrilling enough for most collectors.

The British buyer got an added bonus with this car as well. Unlike US clubs, which use a cut-off date of 1915 for "brass era" cars, the Veteran Car Club of Great Britain allows cars built through 1918 to participate in many of their events, giving the car added value in the UK. It could also compete in Vintage Sports Car Club events over there and vintage sports car races and rallies here in the US as well.

This particular car was missing its top and bows; not a big deal except to the purist, since fair-weather driving would bew the expected norm when exercising the car. The engine is a combination of the advanced and the near-obsolete. It has four valves per cylinder and a dual ignition system but retains the T-head layout which, by 1917, most automakers had abandoned in favor of side-valve or overhead-valve configuration. Still, the 353 ci monobloc unit is a powerhouse to be reckoned with and few marques of the time could match its road-going performance.

However, these engines also had the nasty habit of developing severe cracks in their water jackets over time and the potential buyer of a monobloc T-head Stutz today should check for this problem carefully. The transaxle design was conceived by Harry Stutz several years before he ever built a car bearing his name. Its operation can be balky if the linkage adjustment isn't just right.

But those are about the only caveats for these legendary cars. This Stutz should prove to be an excellent buy over time for the new owner since it has superb, documented provenance, along with a first-rate restoration not so long ago and conscientious care since then. Now it glows with the slight patina of use which the English collectors, particularly, prize in their vintage cars. Well bought.-Dave Brownell

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