Luxury Cars in Indianapolis’ History: Stutz Motor Car Company

What started out as the Ideal Motor Car Company in Indianapolis became the Stutz Motor Car Company in 1912, when owner Harry C. Stutz decided to add his surname to his newly formed business. But the moniker became known the world over when the company produced the Stutz Bearcat, the first American-made automobile to place in the inaugural Indianapolis 500 Mile Race (Indy 500). Until then, international races had been dominated by European-made cars, but the Bearcat offered a lowered center of gravity, making it easier to handle at high speeds and through turns. The car placed eleventh that year, earning it the well-known slogan “the car that made good in a day.” The high finish gave the Stutz Motor Car Company international acclaim, as well as making it a well-known Indianapolis business. It also made Harry Stutz a famous Indianapolis person.

By the early 1920s, Stutz had sold his business to Charles M. Schwab, as well as two lesser-known investors, and the company continued to grow. By then, the Stutz Motor Car Company was known for producing luxury vehicles. The new owners also brought in a new car designer, who refocused the Stutz brand on producing “safety vehicles.” The newer Stutz models featured safety glass, along with the lower center of gravity for better handling.

Throughout the 1920s and ’30s, several drivers supercharged their Stutz vehicles and drove them at races across the country, and a few of those drivers broke land speed records in their Stutz-made automobiles. But the glory of the Stutz Motor Car Company was short-lived, compared to the longevity of most major auto manufacturers. Production of the some 35,000 Stutz vehicles ended in 1935, succumbing to pressures from the economic depression. And the Stutz factory is now known as the Stutz Business Center, which houses the offices for more than a hundred Indianapolis designers, artists, and entrepreneurs.