by Ramona K. Cecil
My husband loves cars, especially vintage cars. I can’t tell you how many hours this past summer and fall we’ve spent perusing car shows. Some of his favorite models among the vintage cars are sports cars. While he doesn’t own one himself, he knows a lot about them and loves looking at them. What he might not know is that the vehicle considered “
first sports car” was built in our own home state of . Indiana
The Bearcat, originally “Bear Cat,” made its debut in 1912. A high performance roadster built by the Stutz Motor Company of
—formerly the Ideal Motor
Car Company—the Bearcat was designed to appeal to the wealthy client with a
“need for speed.” Indianapolis,
A century ago, the Stutz Motor Company was among the most prestigious of car companies, their automobiles highly sought by the rich and famous. Several innovations by company engineers earned Stutz a reputation for building fast, durable, safe, and stylish cars, and made the name synonymous with automotive excellence. The groundbreaking innovations included the most powerful and quietest V-8 engine on the market, the first under-slung chassis, dual overhead cam engine, and the first use of safety glass.
The first car to bear the Stutz name was build in five weeks and then immediately entered in the 1911 Indianapolis 500 race where it finished in eleventh-place, earning the moniker “The car that made good in a day.”
|Number 8 Stutz car lined up for a race|
A year later the company rolled out the Bear Cat;
|1912 Stutz Bear Cat|
In 1915 driver Cannonball Baker—for whom the Cannonball Run car rally is named—broke speed records when he drove a Stutz Bearcat from
|Edwin George "Cannon Ball" Baker in Stutz Bearcat|
The Stutz Bearcat put the “roar” into the Roaring Twenties. Along with flappers, gangsters, speakeasies, and raccoon-skin coats, the Bearcat became an iconic symbol of the era.
|Hollywood movie featuring a Stutz Bearcat|
|1923 Stutz Bearcat|
|Jay Leno with his 1918 Stutz Bearcat|
Made for speed and beauty, the Bearcat somewhat lacked in comfort. The exceedingly stiff clutch gave rise to the rumor that it was purposely engineered that way to discourage women from driving what was considered a “man’s” sports car.
Ramona K. Cecil is a poet and award-winning author of historical fiction for the Christian market. A proud Hoosier, she often sets her stories in her home state of
Check out her website at www.ramonakcecil.com