Steve_Mack_CT

Early Bearcat

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For me, the ultimate Stutz is the early Bearcat. I had the chance to get up close and personal with one this past weekend at a garage tour here in New England. A 1916 - really cool since this is one of my first recollections of what represents an antique car .

These seem like relatively simple compared to some of the other speedster type cars of the era, yet more valuable than many. I understand there are only a handful of true early Bearcats in existance, perhaps 7, although simillar models have been rebodied or "de" bodied into Bearcats? Is this true for the early Bearcats? How many years were these cars produced in the basic, open speedster form?

For me this was really cool, as I had never seen one before in years of attending meets, concours, etc.

Any early Bearcat people on this forum? would love to see some more pictures of these great cars.

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To answer your question, the original open Bearcat was produced between 1912-16. After that, the cars were basically similar but had enclosed convertible bodies.

The "7 original cars left" number gets thrown around a great deal.

I don't buy it.

The Stutz Club lists about 30 1912-16 Bearcats in its roster.

Plus a friend who keep track of these things, knows of about a dozen whose owners are not in the Stutz Club, making for a possible total of 40 cars.

I'm guessing that 33 can't be re-bodies.

And Stutz factory records from the period don't exist, so that isn't going to answer our questions.

In fact, the factory couldn't even decide whether the car's name was Bearcat or Bear-Cat, official documents spell it both ways.

True, some have been re-bodied. Certainly, there aren't many remaining 1912-16 Stutz touring cars (Buldogs) and I believe the roadsters are extinct (it was basically a Bearcat with doors. One was the pace car for the 1912 Indy 500), so some of those that survived the 20s were possibly turned into Bearcats at a later date, perhaps as early as the 1930s (well ahead of the post-war antique car craze when their value began to rise).

But also, because of it's fame, it's very likely that simply more Bearcats survived (than touring cars) in the first place.

Basically for the same reasons a higher percentage of Corvettes have survived than Chevy sedans.

A well known Stutz restorer has never answered my queries on the topic.

He'd be able to shed some light on the touchy topic of re-bodies.

But at this late date, few people involved are around, or willing to talk, on the subject.

And sadly, it's hard to believe owners will come clean if and when their cars come up at auction.

I'd guess many don't know if their cars are original or not...and probably don't care.

That's why cars with known history bring larger amounts at auctions.

The late Tony Koveleski's car was sold a couple of years back for $1.4 million. Since then other Bearcats sold have brought far less. But the Koveleski car was a "no stories" original that he bought in the late 40s (he was basically the second owner, IIRC) and was well documented since.

If you're a Bearcat fan, you might do what I did and join the Stutz Club.

And buy a copy of the club book, The Splendid Stutz (expensive, but well worth it)and find the 1971 paperback, Racing Stutz by the late stutz expert Mark Howell. Oddly, that book has a photo of my car on the cover, one of the full-scale, all metal Bearcat replicas built by George Barris for the Bearcats! TV series in 1971. Probably the only vertical layout color photo they could find. :)

There is one early Bearcat owner I know who frequents this site...hopefully he'll make himself known to you.

Most Bearcat owners don't hang out here. Many, I'd suspect, are well-to-do collectors who have people maintain the cars for them so they don't need to come here for help or are just not that interested in Stutz history (or else they'd be in the club).

I'm a former journalist...and I have half a mind to write a book on the early Bearcat survivors. I'll be at the Stutz meet this May in Indianapolis and I might make some contacts there.

If anyone disagrees, knows differently, or can add to my suppositions as given above, please feel free to provide your thoughts on the subject.

Edited by JohnBoyle (see edit history)
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There is a Bear~Cat existing today that was actually re-created by A K Miller the famous Stutz collector/hoarder ~~~

A K Miller once told of putting his name on back of this car's dashboard before it was sold~~~

Many folks today think that this car is indeed the real thing !

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Thanks John & Brad, most interesting - John I appreciate the detailed reply.

Our gracious host indicated this was a "known car" and detailed it's history along with the arch rival but slightly later Mercer parked next door... I think he is a 20 + year owner. This was a truly amazing car - exactly like the model Bearcat I have had since I was a kid; residing in my family room! Not at all surprised at the value or at least the neighborhood. If 30 - 40 survived then that would be maybe 15% of surviving Duesenberg J cars in rough numbers! Still a rare beast for such an iconic car. As you can tell I was pretty thrilled to be able to check this car out in detail, and hope to get a ride once Springtime comes!

BTW this guy does his own work, the gas tank is off the car right now getting cleaned out and painted, he knew exactly what did or did not need attention for a number of fine prewar cars - personally I find it hard enough to find time to maintain one restored car!

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There is a Bear~Cat existing today that was actually re-created by A K Miller the famous Stutz collector/hoarder ~~~

A K Miller once told of putting his name on back of this car's dashboard before it was sold~~~

Many folks today think that this car is indeed the real thing !

I'll go out on a limb here and say that it wouldn't be too hard to do.

As I understand it, the Bearcats and the other Stutzes had similar running gear, all that would have to be done is shorten the chassis and relocate the gear/brake levers. And of course, make the seats, fuel tank and source a trunk.

BTW: early 1911-14 T-head Mercer Raceabouts have also been made out of touring cars.

As a kid, I read everything I could find on Bearcats and raceabouts and I saw in a book that someone modified a Mercer touring car to a Raceabout.

That was a big project, the steering column had to re re-raked, the chassis had to be not only shortened as I recall but the chassis siderails were shaved to a shallower depth.

Mercers, because of their rarity, have always been more valuable than Bearcats, so someone went to that much trouble and expense in the 50s or 60s. In the early 60s, Ralph Stein wrote that Mercers were selling for the unbelievable amount of $10,000. Of course, that was Rolls Royce or Ferrari GTO money back then.

By the time he wrote The American Automobile in 1971 (my first car book), he estimated the cost of a Bearcat at $40,000.

Edited by JohnBoyle (see edit history)
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The Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum in Cleveland, Ohio has an original 1914 Stutz roadster. They got it back in the 1960's in rough shape and restored it. While it's true many 1916 & earlier roadsters and Bulldogs were made into Bearcats, this is one example that was not.

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great discussion, thanks all.

John, sounds like you have been able to come up with the next best thing - how's about a picture or two of the "Barris Bearcat" :)

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John is right about the factory being inexact on the name. In 1918 the sales literature calls the body without doors a Bear-Cat while the parts catalog calls it a Speedster! The public seems to have not made as big a thing of the name as we do today. The California license registrations thru 1913 list 210 Stutz cars, about a sixth of factory production, of those 111 are stated as tourings, 71 roadsters and 28 are mostly unstated but include a coupe, a couple of runabouts, a racer, and a race-about. Not one listed Bearcat but no doubt there were some, perhaps the race-about and runabouts, some of the unstated and some of the roadsters, even the racer.

Here is a 1913 Bearcat in a period shot.

post-34894-143138414173_thumb.jpg

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Sure, here it is.

It may be humble, but it's mine... :)

It's fun and well designed. Barris did good work with dummy friction shocks and other details he probably didn't have to do for a TV car, since most film cars are "20 footers" at best.

By the way, I always credit Layden for his help in restoring my car. Thanks again.

post-43752-143138414232_thumb.jpg

post-43752-143138414259_thumb.jpg

Edited by JohnBoyle (see edit history)

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I somehow remember this TV re-creation riding on the railroad tracks for one TV episode !

Does anyone else remember this ?

Yes, they did it in the pilot film for the series/TV movie "Powderkeg".

The car used in that was a real 1914 Bearcat (serial 1403) currently owned by Marshall Matthews' estate in California.

I don't know the track of a Bearcat and whether it would really work on a standard U.S. railroad.

Edited by JohnBoyle (see edit history)

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There is a Bear~Cat existing today that was actually re-created by A K Miller the famous Stutz collector/hoarder ~~~

A K Miller once told of putting his name on back of this car's dashboard before it was sold~~~

Many folks today think that this car is indeed the real thing !

My father stated many years that Mr. Miller fabricated fenders, other body parts on a few of the bearcats. I did not understand since he had such an abundance of part inventories but perhaps not all were complete when he purchased them.

Keith

keith123451@live.com

1922,26 auburn

28-31 auburn parts

23 moon

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Your car looks great, John!! The TV series is real hazy in my mind, I remember it but my first connection to a Bearcat was the model given to me by my great aunt, whose husband was involved in Stutz sales at one time, although I would tend to believe in the later 20s based on his age - he would have been a teen in the teens.. Anyway, the model we think dates from the 50s and was probably given to him by someone as a momento of his Stutz days, given to me as a child and one of my favorite pieces today even though I have managed a respectable collection of automobilia.

Great discussion on these cars, guys. Thanks again.

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I'll go out on a limb here and say that it wouldn't be too hard to do.

As I understand it, the Bearcats and the other Stutzes had similar running gear, all that would have to be done is shorten the chassis and relocate the gear/brake levers. And of course, make the seats, fuel tank and source a trunk.

BTW: early 1911-14 T-head Mercer Raceabouts have also been made out of touring cars.

As a kid, I read everything I could find on Bearcats and raceabouts and I saw in a book that someone modified a Mercer touring car to a Raceabout.

That was a big project, the steering column had to re re-raked, the chassis had to be not only shortened as I recall but the chassis siderails were shaved to a shallower depth.

Mercers, because of their rarity, have always been more valuable than Bearcats, so someone went to that much trouble and expense in the 50s or 60s. In the early 60s, Ralph Stein wrote that Mercers were selling for the unbelievable amount of $10,000. Of course, that was Rolls Royce or Ferrari GTO money back then.

By the time he wrote The American Automobile in 1971 (my first car book), he estimated the cost of a Bearcat at $40,000.

John, your comment about T-Head Mercer Raceabouts having started life as touring cars is interesting. Do you know of any specific examples? I know that a conversion was started on the 1911 toy tonneau but was fortunately reversed due to various reasons, one of which was 3/4 elliptic springs versus semi-elliptic on raceabouts. Also, there are a number of cars that were converted from runabouts to raceabouts due to both having the same chassis, except I believe in 1914.

As far as early prices go, in 1966 the record auction price according to the newspaper article was sixty plus thousand for a Mercer Raceabout.

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A. Ballard...

Sorry, that's all I recall about the converted touring car. I wish I could remember what book I read that in. Perhaps it was one of the books by Ken Purdy (who himself had a Raceabout).

And I mis-wrote about the value of a Mercer.

In his 1961 book, The Treasury of the Automobile, Stein said that he was told of a potential buyer "...offering $10,000 for a nice Raceabout, with no takers". (Pg. 163)

A half-dozen years later in his 1967 book, The Great Cars, he repeats and updates the story: and praised Raceabout owners for not taking the $10,000 offer. "Not too long ago, a New Jersey man I know invested $31,000 in such a car, and unless our economy goes bang, a Raceabout may be worth $50,000 in a couple of years." (Pg. 179)

Also in the 1961 book Stein writes how Ralph Buckley, a well known restorer of the time, rebuilt his Raceabout:

"This Raceabout had been literally resurrected from junk: three-forths of the chassis frame, part o an engine; Buckley even had to make a new radiator and its brass surround". (Pg. 162)

So clearly, with any car that's approaching 100 years of age, there is a huge scope for it to be un-original.

Somehow, I'm sure the current owner of that car don't mind...because everything I've read or heard about a Raceabout has been positive.

Edited by JohnBoyle (see edit history)

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If the Toy Tonneau is considered a touring car, then that that is the one you read about. The project/conversion was well under way when it was, I believe, turned over to Ralph Buckley who restored it back to the original for Miles Coverdale.

The Ken Purdy 1912 35C is in a museum in Sandwich, MA, and has not been running for many years.

Ralph Buckley's own car (1914 35J) is still in Absecon, NJ, as part of the Palumbo Buckley Foundation. Vic Palumbo brought it to the 2009 Mercer Centennial in Roebling.

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This is an interesting older thread that I am bringing to the top.  I, like Steve, have admired these cars since a kid.  I am wondering after reading all this, did Bearcat have its own rear axle ratio?  If a Bearcat was converted from a cart, I am wondering about the rear axle gear being different.  Maybe a sales brochure would have the rear axle ratio's listed?  

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Thanks for bringing up the Bearcat posts again. Yes there are more 1912-1915 Bearcats now a days then Stutz ever made back then. Thats also true with the early Mercer raceabouts. Paul Freehill was a renowned and respected Stutz restorer for many decades but he made  many repro  Bearcat frames, running gear, bodies and everything else and flooded the hobby with phony Bearcats.  Buyer beware of these that are now sold as "originals" !

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a very quick way to tell an authentic Bearcat, is wheel base, a real Bearcat is 118 inch and all of the Freehill's fake Bearcats were all 120 inch, as Durospeed stated, "buyer beware" time does tend to hide the sins of the fake...

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i remember Paul brining a Bearcat to Hershey in either 96 or 97 to sell at his booth area or shared area.  But it was late teen era.

 

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6 minutes ago, j m davis phd said:

a very quick way to tell an authentic Bearcat, is wheel base, a real Bearcat is 118 inch and all of the Freehill's fake Bearcats were all 120 inch, as Durospeed stated, "buyer beware" time does tend to hide the sins of the fake...

was he really trying to deceive as your post implies or was he creating replicas for those who could not afford or find the real thing?  I recall having some correspondence with him about other Stutz matters and he seemed like an honest chap who was well thought of in Stutz circles.

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6 minutes ago, bruffsup said:

was he really trying to deceive as your post implies or was he creating replicas for those who could not afford or find the real thing?  I recall having some correspondence with him about other Stutz matters and he seemed like an honest chap who was well thought of in Stutz circles.

think Paul traded upon his reputation for money, the difference between the real thing and a made up Bearcat was very little after Paul billed you for the work.

he was a well known for his knowledge of the STuTZ and yes he could be a very likable fellow.

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I seem to recall he had a desire to acquire an 8 cylinder Alfa,which was sort of unobtainium even back then

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Back then Paul let you know you were buying a reproduction and didnt claim many of his to be "the real thing". I was talking about buying a 13 bearcat from him back in the day and he was upfront about the car. That being said that was some time ago and in todays collector market and new people coming into the hobby and many of us "older" HCCA members, 65 years for me in the club, will no longer be around to say what ones are fake. In time they will all be "real" at million dollar prices. That goes for all the other great pre 1915 quality name and rare high dollar cars that will be real in a decade or two. 

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