Stutz versus Mercedes-Benz
American motor journals in general are addicted to sensationalism and catch-phrases, but PS de Beaumont; formerly of the Antique Automobile and now one of the seven Associate Editors of Speed Age steers clear of such methods and has a scientific approach to a subject worthy of our Laurence Pomeroy. Consequently, we are forced to take notice of his interesting article “Was America Eleven Years Ahead in Grand Prix Cars ?”, published in the March issue of Speed Age. In it he states fairly and clearly the case for the 3-litre V10 Stutz Black Hawk designed, built and driven by the late Frank Lockhart, comparing this very advanced car with the W163 3-litre V12 Mercedes-Benz GP car of 1939.
The Stutz Black hawk was ollicially timed at 203.5 mph. (on a one-way run and not, therefore, a Class D record as Beaumont suggests) at Daytona in 1928, when attempting to break Sir Malcolm Campbell’s Land Speed Record of 206,116 mph, as discribed in Chapter 4 of “The Land speed Record,” by W Boddy. On the return run Lockhart hit the sea and on a later attempt the Stutz crashed at an estimated 225 mph and Lockhart was killed.
It may seem unfair to compare a Land Speed record and a GP car, but it should be borne in mind that, aceording to Beaumont, the Stutz had been intended for subsequent use on dirt and board tracks (its engine was, indeed, afterwards used at Indianapolis for many years), and that the W163 Mercedes-Benz was specially streamlined for a successful attack on short-distance Class D records, which in 1939, it took at 248.29 for the mile, or much the equivalent of going out for the absolute speed record 11 years earlier ; also both cars were of 3 litres capacity. Beaumont sensibly makes the point that to compare the 1928 Stutz with a road-racing car requirs stretching the imagination, and its suspension and transmission might not have given it a chance against the Mercedes-Benz on a road circuit.
Nevertheless, the comparison is an absorbing one, and Beautnont sifts his evidence very impartially, pointing-out, for instance, that Lockhart arrived at an estimated output from his V16 Miller engine of 355 bhp via slide rule calculations, which may have well been optimistic. Conversely, he remarks that the Mercedes-Benz may have been giving more than its road-racing 483 bhp in record-breaking form..
Certainly this comparison between the American 3-litre record-breaker of 1928 and the 1939 GP Mercedes-Benz, which is usually accepted as the fastest road-racing car built to date, shows up the Stutz Black Hawk in a very favourable light. The figures got out by PS Beaumont are so interesting that, with full acknowledgment to Speed Age, we republish them on page 172.
Another task which Mr Beaumont would embark upon is that of comparing the straight-eight 14-litre Miller with which Lockhart set the International class F mile record to 164.009 mph in I927 (which in 1926 would have broken the Land Speed Record itself!) with cars which did not beat this figure until ten years later ! —WB