The Black Hawk Stutz
By The Editor
When we last had an opportunity, about eighteen months ago, of trying out the Stutz, we were amazed to find an American car which behaved in every way like the best type of sports car, as opposed to the more usual utility vehicle which comes from that country. The performance was remarkable as was the ease of handling, but there were still a few points in which it seemed to fall short of the ideal. One of the most important of these was the fact that it was fitted with an ordinary wide ratio 3-speed gear box, and although its performance on top gear was a revelation, we could only feel that, given the right sort of gear box, even this could be considerably improved.
As the latest models are now fitted with a 4-speed gear box we were anxious to see what could be done with it, and when Warwick Wright, Ltd., kindly put at our disposal the car which Mr. Watney had driven at Le Mans and in Ireland this year, we looked forward to some very pleasant motoring. We were not disappointed.
This car is fitted with a supercharger but this is not permanently connected. It is brought into operation by a lever on the dashboard and blows through a standard carburettor and induction pipe, which is sealed to balance the pressure. As the car had lately been used without the blower the pressures had not been adjusted and the pressure of the blower was greater than that in the fuel tank, and this caused starving of the fuel supply when the blower was used for more than a few seconds, and we therefore confined our attention to its performance as an unsupercharged car as it is in this form that most people would buy it.
Unless the car is actually to be used for racing it is somewhat superfluous, in view of its standard performance, to improve this by supercharging. Although the acceleration using the blower is to say the least of it, very entertaining, it also is so good without it that the sweeter and smoother performance of the standard job is worth the slight sacrifice in acceleration.
One of the most remarkable features of the car, which makes itself felt from the first is the almost absurd simplicity of control. No car designed for use by the most inexperienced novice could be easier to drive than the Stutz. The gear change is so easy that it is almost impossible to miss a change, and moreover it is nearly impossible to make any noise when changing. Many cars of the large engined sports type require definite concentration if one is to drive them correctly and although the argument may be advanced that only a fairly experienced motorist will buy a car of this type, there is no reason why he should be required to use his skill to make up for poor design in the matter of gear changing.
The Stutz can actually be driven with practically no need to touch the gear lever, and will get away perfectly smoothly in top gear from a standstill. There are however many occasions when one is not in a ” top-gear” mood and then one can appreciate an easily manipulated gear box. Third gear being very close to top gives amazing acceleration in the higher part of the range, and if one wishes to get by some other car as safely as possible, the way to do so is to pass as quickly as possible, and so avoid that horrible feeling of just getting past another car on a road which is rather narrow for comfort. On such occasions the wise man usually calls it off and has to hang behind till a suitable opportunity arises, to the detriment of his nerves and temper if he happens to be in a hurry. On a car like the Stutz, however, all that is required is a flick into third, and the other car is far behind by the time top gear is again engaged at about 70 m.p.h.
One hears such a lot nowadays about silent gears that it is a pleasure to find a car on which the term is more than a mere slogan. On several occasions when cruising along at about 50 m.p.h., we forgot we were not in top gear, and it was only a glance at the position of the gear lever that showed us we were still in third. The lower gears are just audible as are any ordinary gears on a high class car, though only as a faint hum, but third definitely cannot be distinguished from top by the car alone. The engine has the quiet smoothness which one expects from an eight cylinder engine, and this gives a degree of flexibility which we have not known to be attained on another sports car of this size and performance. The car we tried had been timed over the half mile at 98 m.p.h. and attained well over 90 m.p.h. on several occasions, without any fuss. The road holding at these speeds is such as to make them quite safe and the brakes give one real confidence From 40 m.p.h. the car can be brought to rest in 55ft., without locking the wheels which on a car of this size shows the efficiency of the servo mechanism.
The steering has that pleasant feeling of lightness combined with ample self centering which marks the thoroughbred, and this lightness has been attained without the steering being unduly low geared, which is not an easy state of affairs to attain on a heavy car.
The fuel system on this particular car had been modified somewhat for the events it had been entered for and there was alternative feed by pressure or autopulse, but we gather that pressure feed is not fitted in the ordinary way and this greatly simplifies the piping required.
There is certainly a growing demand for the type of sports car which combines flexibility, high speed and ample accommodation, and it would be hard to conceive a car in which these qualities are combined more cleverly and in better proportion than in the Black Hawk Stutz. It is without exception the smoothest sports car at under £2,000 which we have driven and at the same time one of the fastest. In a car of this type long runs can be undertaken without any fatigue, and the terrific power available makes long hills produce a sensation as near to flying as may be obtained without actually leaving Mother Earth.
Anything that is at the top of its class is liable to be expensive but at a chassis price of £1,250 the Stutz is really good value and we would strongly advise anyone contemplating the purchase of a high performance car around the 5-litre class, to go to Warwick Wright, Ltd., and have a run in one of these cars. They will be sure of a delightful experience, and one which they will certainly wish to repeat.
Cars in books, April 1980
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