The Story of Stutz, Stop and Go Fast (Part X)

The reborn Stutz marque introduced its Blackhawk in 1971. It was a mostly hand-built, Virgil Exner-styled coupé on a late-’60s Pontiac Grand Prix platform. , the Blackhawk found an immediate following among the very wealthy who were of the showbiz genre. After Elvis took delivery of the first Blackhawk sold (prototype two, to be precise), celebrities of various statures placed their orders with Stutz.

This gave the Blackhawk the status and immediate credibility of luxury, as garish and Extra Super Seventies all was. Thus, Stutz increased the price of the Blackhawk throughout its first decade and effectively doubled its profits by the turn of the 80s. In 1981, the Blackhawk’s base price was $84,500 ($279,242 adjusted). But Stutz knew he would have to update his coupe to keep buyers coming back for more, and the majority of the updates came in the form of trim differentiation and cost cutting. Let’s talk about the multiple generations of Blackhawk.

First, a caveat: although they were considered different generations, the differences between them were mostly minor changes to Exner’s original design. That said, there were a few notable features that were exclusive to the first year Blackhawk in 1971.

Blackhawk’s 1971 split windshield had several design implications for the car: specially fabricated, split windshields, and a V-shaped dashboard against the windshield. And since the windscreen protruded to a certain extent, the hood also needed a special shape. It was pretty complicated stuff.

All of those things were gone for the 1972 “second generation” Blackhawk. The windshield adopted a one-piece design, much like any other passenger car. It had a much simpler shape and meant the dashboard was easier to build and install, as was the bonnet and hood. Probably the new front glass came directly from the Grand Prix.

There were more glass changes in 1972, which accompanied a door swap. In 1971 the Blackhawk had its own door design. It included a unique rear-hinged door handle, and the door contained a window with a separate vent. In 1972 the vent disappeared and a new piece of glass appeared behind the door in the previously all-metal B-pillar. Those familiar with the Grand Prix will note that the Stutz adopted the standard Grand Prix door and side window in 1972. This was most certainly an economy effort on Stutz’s part, as the creation of a single door was no small effort.

One of the Blackhawk’s most unique features—its exposed rear tire—was also changed for 1972. During the model’s first year, the tire was at the very bottom of the trunk. Its lower quarter protruded and effectively acted as a rear impact bumper. It was flanked by Italian-style circular taillights.

The following year, the tire look at as if it had migrated further up the trunk, when a new set of bumpers appeared. What actually happened was that the tire stayed in the same place, but the Blackhawk stretched a bit by adopting the Grand Prix rear clip.

The entire GP rear clip was grafted in, with the addition of horizontal chrome bars that covered the standard Grand Prix taillights. The once functional side exhausts became decorative and were replaced by dual rear exhausts. On the original Blackhawk, the fuel filler was in the rear tire assembly. With the Grand Prix modifications it moved behind the rear number plate. Up front, the chrome bars covering the taillights have been replicated and wrapped around the grille to provide a new visual connection to the rear.

Thanks to the questionable and economical modifications of 1972, the power under the Blackhawk remained the same. Although the primary engine used or advertised was the Grand Prix’s best 455 cubic-inch V8, buyers sometimes chose other power plants. Also available in the General Motors family, Chevrolet Monte Carlo’s big-block 454 (7.4L) was complemented by two Cadillac engines, the 472 (7.7L) and 500 (8.2L). A few Ford engines were also used in 1971 and 1972: the Cobra Jet 429 (7.0 L) from the Mustang, as well as the 460 (7.5 L) from the Thunderbird.

In 1973 there was a new generation of Blackhawk, and other minor changes were made. It should be mentioned that the Stutz was forced to branch out a bit that year. The accompanying Grand Prix moved to a new third generation and rear-drive A-body, but Blackhawk remained on the 1969 Grand Prix platform. In particular, it was a stretched version of the A platform that GM called G-body.

The window at the rear of the door disappeared in 1973, and although the old Grand Prix door remained unchanged, it used a new dogleg door handle this year. Elsewhere, a new style of chrome road wheel was available in addition to the 1972 chrome wires.

It looked like Stutz had used some parts he had in 1973. Some cars this model year used the old style rear end and spoked wheel, while others used a revised rear end with the wheels spokes, and others had both updated pieces. All 1973 Blackhawks used the updated door and window design.

The updated rear of the 1973 Blackhawk had two separate amber lenses and used a new chrome bumper. The bumper was not a Pontiac part, but rather unique to the Blackhawk. It had minimal ornamentation and was a neat horizontal line that came to a very slight point in the middle. This year, the spare tire was no longer fully exposed, but rather hidden by a matching leather cover inside every Blackhawk.

Blackhawk remained largely in stasis from 1974 through 1976, while retaining its 1971 platform and engines. The coupe’s MSRP continued to rise rapidly as celebrity orders poured in. However, between 1975 and 1976, mixed messages occurred between the people who ran Stutz, the people who worked there, and the desire of one or more celebrities for a convertible Blackhawk. It was to be the most expensive car in the world: d’Italia.

The story started with a standard 1974 Blackhawk that happened to be painted green. Stutz saved this one for some reason (probably the color) and had a guy named Dan Steckler use it in a small project. The request was to convert the Blackhawk into a convertible. Steckler was then an employee of Stutz and worked on the new car in sunny California.

Steckler worked to cut the Blackhawk’s thick roof and replaced it with a canvas roof. The reworked car looked a lot like the coupe, just with a soft top. Since it was a very special and exclusive car, it needed an exclusive sounding name. of Italy would, a legend about the fact that all Stutz cars were built in Italy. The car was finished with a luxurious white interior that showed lots of ruching and an exterior with a two-tone Pearl White and Banana Cream Yellow theme.

This is where the story gets a bit mixed, depending on who is telling the story. According to a source, the d’Italia was completed at the request of Elvis Presley. When presented with the $100,000+ ($551,831 adj.) from Italia in 1975, the King was not pleased. Instead, current Stutz client Evel Knievel bought it. At some point, the d’Italia passed into the ownership of Wayne Newton. Over the decades it changed owners and paint colors until it was recently sold by Mr. Newton’s estate. At that time, it passed into the hands of the Petersen Automotive Museum.

The other version of d’Italia’s backstory is quite different. The creation of the convertible was requested internally, by the management of Stutz. But around the time it was completed, sales of the domestic convertible were down sharply, due to (proposed but never enacted) US rollover regulations. Stutz’s management felt that the convertibles were not salable under these conditions, especially one with a price of $100,000. There was also disagreement over the Italia name, which sounded too foreign while Stutz was an “All-American” luxury brand. It was only after the decision was made not to build the d’Italia that the convertible was offered to outside buyers.

No matter which story one chooses to believe, it’s interesting that Stutz took some PR shots for a car he wasn’t sure he wanted to sell. In the end, with a press kit ready, the Italia idea was dropped. One or two examples have been completed, although it seems that there are only photos of a. The company would however return to the idea of ​​a convertible a few years later.

Elsewhere in Stutz, preparations were underway for a redesign of the Blackhawk. Management realized the car couldn’t continue on its ’60s platform forever when the luxury coupe transitioned into a more modern (and downsized) future. Stutz hired Paolo Martin, the famous Pininfarina designer behind Rolls-Royce Camargue, the Fiat 130 coupé, motorcycles and a few watches to design a new Blackhawk.

They had finally put Martin’s Blackhawk designs into service, but not before dragging the old coupe around in its original form for the rest of the 70s. We’ll finish the evolution of the original Blackhawk next time and talk about the convertible the company has actually produced.

[Images: Stutz]

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