12-14 August 2010
1930 Stutz Model M Supercharged Coupe
- Chassis no. 31312
Sold for $660,000
- From the estate of Mr. John M. O'Quinn
- One of just two supercharged Stutz motor cars known to exist
- Owned long-term by famed Stutz collector A.K. Miller
- Comprehensively sorted by prior owner Skip Barber
- Multiple award-winner, including Best in Class at Pebble Beach
Stutz’s racing and sales successes continued through World War I, but by 1919, Harry C. Stutz lost control of his company to a Wall Street syndicate whose financial machinations ultimately led to the de-listing of Stutz from the New York Stock Exchange. Harry Schwab of Bethlehem Steel, whose mismanagement nearly led to the marque’s demise, then acquired the company.
Salvation came with the arrival of Hungarian-born Frederick E. Moskovics, a veteran of Daimler, Franklin and Marmon. He had, as the saying goes, gasoline in his veins and proved it with the introduction in 1926 of the Stutz Vertical Eight, an engineering and stylistic tour de force that included a SOHC inline eight-cylinder engine, hydrostatic brakes, safety glass and worm drive for a lower overall profile. It was the progenitor of the Model M, surely the most European of US automotive designs of the era.
This particular Stutz is even more European than most, having been originally sold by the company’s main UK dealer, Warwick Wright Ltd. of London, who also supplied the supercharged cars for Stutz’s famed assault on the Le Mans 24-hour race in 1929. It is also one of just two supercharged Stutz motor cars known to exist. This car’s one-off, dramatic coachwork is by Lancefield of London, with design trademarks including low and streamlined “gun-turret” tops, “helmet” wings, teardrop step-plates instead of running boards and many lovely louvers along the lower-body chassis covers.
A perfect period image of the Lancefield Coupe was rendered in the November 22nd, 1929 edition of the renowned UK motoring magazine, The Autocar. The earliest owner(s) of this stunning example is unfortunately not known, however the Lancefield Coupe was an important part of the astonishing Vermont-based Stutz collection of the late A.K. Miller and remained unrestored for decades while in his ownership.
At the estate auction, a well-known West Coast collector became the Lancefield Coupe’s new owner. An exceptional restoration ensued, and the Stutz was refinished in the attractive original color scheme of black with red. The owner then entered it in the 1997 Beijing-Paris Motor Challenge, a grueling 45-day event. The restoration was literally hours old with no test miles registered on the odometer when the car was shipped to China. Nonetheless, the Stutz performed valiantly until a lack of critical spare electrical parts forced a reluctant withdrawal from the event.
Next, the Lancefield Coupe was invited to the 50th Anniversary edition of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, where its stunning style and rakish appearance attracted great attention. There, it was so well prepared that the judges awarded it Best in Class, along with the Briggs Cunningham Award for the most exciting car present, as chosen by a special committee of judges.
Following that, it was consigned to RM’s Auto Salon & Auction held in New York City on September 23rd, 2000, where noted collector Skip Barber of Connecticut acquired it. As a former racing driver and the operator of the race driving school that bears his name, Mr. Barber drives his cars regularly on the challenging secondary roads of northern Connecticut. When he first took delivery of the car, it looked and, in fact, was concours-level in its appearance, but Barber subjected the car to a thorough mechanical sorting to ensure that its driving dynamics matched its stunning appearance.
The gearbox, clutch, steering, starter motor, electrical system and other items were identified for rectification after many of Barber’s test drives. Accordingly, the car was sent to Holman Engineering in Springfield, Massachusetts during 2003. George Holman, a mechanical engineer, is a well-known Stutz expert and has raced a Stutz Black Hawk Speedster in VSCCA events. The supercharger was completely rebuilt with modern internals and fitted with a rebuilt proper carburetor. The remainder of the mechanical work was completed by Holman between 2003 and 2005, with the car now performing strongly, exactly as it should. The Lancefield Coupe continued its winning ways in 2006, with the car earning Best of Show at the Greenwich Concours.
In the summer of 2006, the Stutz joined the private collection of the late Mr. John O’Quinn. A unique classic and a true thoroughbred indeed, the Lancefield Coupe remains virtually flawless and equally welcome at international concours, tours and vintage rallies. Its spectacular body design, powerful supercharged engine, rarity and careful ownership make it perhaps the most significant Stutz motor car in existence, as well as an unparalleled object of pure desire.
As the description in the 1996 A.K. Miller auction catalog correctly predicted, “This striking motor car holds the potential to become one of the premier entrants on the international Concours d’Elegance circuit.” Now that the restoration is complete, the Pebble Beach prizes have been won and the mechanicals have been expertly sorted, those words still ring true today.
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