Stutz may be famous for the Bearcat, a Brass Era sports car that married a monster truck engine to a quaint-looking body with a quilted leather seat and monocle windshield. However, its influence is arguably matched by a revival of the brand by a banker and a Chrysler stylist that married Italian craftsmanship with American engineering.
1974 Stutz Blackhawk – American Muscle, Italian Coachbuilding
Once banker James O’Donnell secured the rights to Stutz, he got former Chrysler stylist Virgil Exner on board for a project that would apply Italian coachbuilding to an American chassis. They decided to use the new Pontiac Grand Prix as the base for the car since it placed the engine well behind the front axle, giving it the long front-end proportions Exner wanted for the body.
The Grand Prixs were shipped over to Italy where Carrozzeria Padane spent 1,500 man hours stripping down and rebuilding each car; only the chassis and drivetrain were retained. Today, it’s hard to understand what an impact the styling had: nearly every mid-70s car aped the Blackhawk’s baroque styling, but when it debuted among “Coke bottle” muscle cars, there was nothing like it. Luxury touches like the birdseye maple dash, carpets in mink or ermine and 24k gold trim set it apart from anything else on the market, although it still packed an all-American V8 under the hood. Granted, by the time it hit the market, the Grand Prix’s 400 V8 was making just 225 hp. Combined with the Blackhawk’s added weight, it meant zero to 60 mph times over 12 seconds. However, this car wasn’t about speed, it was about style.
The Car of the Rich and Famous
The first prototype was built in 1968 and used by McConnell as his personal car. Once the design was proven, a second car was built to bring to shows and attract buyer interest. It worked better than intended: Elvis and Frank Sinatra fought to buy the car, but in the end the King of Rock and Roll got it. Elvis bought three more Blackhawks during the car’s production run.
Once in production, just about anybody who was anybody was buying Blackhawks: Dean Martin, Willie Nelson, Elton John, Issac Hayes, Lucile Ball, futurist designer Luigi Colani and the Shah of Iran are just a few of Stutz’s famous customers. It even made the list of cars to be stolen in “Gone in 60 Seconds.”
Stutz Blackhawk – A Surprising Legacy
In 1980, the car was redesigned to use the Bonneville as its base, and continued development saw half a dozen engines under the hood as technology progressed. A new Bearcat was planned to replace the dated Blackhawk in 1987, but only a handful were built before the company collapsed. Blackhawk production never exceeded 50 units per year, retaining the car’s exclusivity.
Powered by Facebook Comments