1918 Stutz Bearcat – Jay Leno’s Garage


Newly restored and ready to hit the road! Jay gives an in-depth look at his 1918 Stutz Bearcat.

To some, a Stutz is a garish 1970s retro-mobile that was owned almost exclusively by very wealthy celebrities like Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra. To others, Stutz represents the pinnacle of pre-war automobiles.

Sure, Stutz wasn’t as flashy as an Auburn or the crosstown rival Duesenberg, but it was a relatively affordable way to go fast. As Leno puts it, Stutz Bearcats and Mercer Raceabouts were the Camaros and Mustangs of the time.

Unlike with Camaros and Mustangs, you can’t exactly go down to the local parts store and order a rotating assembly for a 1918 Bearcat. Leno claims to have replaced the pistons three times in total and has finally figured out a combination that is reliable.

Fans of the long-running web series “Jay Leno’s Garage” might be confused and think this is is an ancient video, as this isn’t the first time Leno has shown off his 1918 Stutz Bearcat on the series. During the three years since the vintage Stutz had seen a camera, it has, as we mentioned, been mechanically overhauled. Leno has also done some sensible period upgrades to the Stutz -– such as a later ignition system and a four-bladed fan.

With no front brakes, external shifter and an exhaust cutout, the Bearcat was basically a road-going race car. Unlike the pedestrian Ford Model T of its day, the Bearcat must have seemed like an absolute performer. Now, the Bearcat acts almost like a rolling automotive museum, thanks to all the semi-obsolete tech that car uses.