2016 Bearcat Award

The Region recently presented Sec./Treas. J. Reuss with the “2016 Bearcat Award” for his many years of dedicated service to the club.

The award features a beautiful scale model of a 1915 Stutz Bearcat that was designed and built from scratch by Regional Executive Dean W. Johnson‘s father, Clark Johnson.

Clark is a retired building contractor who keeps his woodworking skills sharp by building model cars, trucks, and farm equipment. Clark got his start approximately 4 years ago by building simple wooden toys for his great-grandson. Starting with a tractor, Clark progressed to pickups, trucks, a wrecker (Tow Mater, the character in “Cars”), and road graders.

Clark’s most complex build was a 1907 Rolls-Royce. To build that car, Clark worked from a plan that was twice as large as he wanted and used metric measurements. Undaunted, Clark converted the measurements to the Imperial system and divided in half. Not happy with the first model, Clark started over and built a second which was more to his liking (and his high standards)!

The Bearcat model is constructed of 288 pieces and five types of wood–cottonwood for the seats, walnut for the wheels and darker parts, maple and birch for the light-colored parts, and bamboo for the wheel spokes (12 in the rear and 10 in the front–just like the “real” car) and the (operable) steering column. The car rides on functioning leaf springs fashioned from steel banding, and the wood has a coat of clear polyurethane.

While he was at it, Clark built a second Bearcat at the same time he built this car.  With no plans to work from for this car, he used photographs he downloaded from the Internet to create the design.

As far as the “real” Stutz Bearcat is concerned, it was a shorter and lighter version of the standard Stutz passenger car. It was originally powered by a 390-cubic-inch, 60-horsepower straight-four engine produced by the Wisconsin Motor Company. Common with racing and sports cars of the period, it featured minimal bodywork:  a “dog house” hood, open bucket seats, a tiny “monocle” windscreen in front of the driver, and a cylindrical fuel tank on a short rear deck.

The original production Bearcat was introduced in the 1912 Series A. The first public mention of the car (then spelled “Bear Cat” ) was in an advertisement in the 1912 program for the Indianapolis 500 mile race. This ad also was the first to use the soon to be famous Stutz slogan “The Car that made good in a day” referring to the Stutz racer’s 11th-place finish in the 1911 Indianapolis 500.

The Series E of 1913 brought electric lights and starter. A six-cylinder option was available for an extra $250.00 (equivalent to $5,986 in 2015). Owning a Stutz Bearcat became a famous status symbol for the wealthy of the era. In 1914 it was priced at $2,000 (equivalent to $47,249 in 2015), almost four times that of the basic Model T.