The Stutz Blackhawk was an American luxury car manufactured from 1971 through 1987. Other than the name it bears no resemblance with the original Stutz Blackhawk (1929-1931). TheStutz Motor Company was revived in August 1968 by New York banker James O'Donnell. He joined forces with retired Chrysler stylist Virgil Exner who designed the new Blackhawk. Exner's design included a spare tire that protruded through the trunklid, a massive grille and freestanding headlamps. The new Blackhawk was prototyped by Ghia in Italy at a cost of over US$300,000. To offer exclusivity and still allow easy servicing in the US a custom built Italian body was added to a GM platform and engine. The Blackhawk debuted in January 1970 at theWaldorf Astoria in New York City. Prices ranged from US$22,500 to US$75,000. All early Blackhawks were coupes, but rare sedans were produced later. Convertible versions were called D'Italia and Bearcat. Stutz Blackhawks became the car of choice among elite entertainers of the day. By 1976 Stutz had sold 205 Blackhawks and about six a month were handbuilt in Italy and shipped to the US. By April 1980 350 Blackhawks had been sold and by the time production ended in 1987 approximately 500 to 600 cars had been manufactured.
Design and manufacturing
With an extra heavy gauge steel body handmade at Carrozzeria Padane in Modena, Italy, and from 1972 at Carrozzeria Saturn in Cavallermaggiore, near Torino, Italy, and greater than 19 feet long, the production Blackhawk used Pontiac Grand Prix running gear, Pontiac's 7.5 L (455 in³) V8 engine, and a GM TH400 3-speed automatic transmission. With its engine tuned to produce 425 hp (317 kW) and 420 ft·lbf (570 N·m), the 5000 lb (2300 kg) Blackhawk could accelerate to 60 mph (97 km/h) in 8.4 seconds with a 130 mph (210 km/h) top speed, delivering 8 miles per gallon (30 L/100 km). Later Blackhawks used Pontiac's 403 and 350. Also Ford, Chevrolet and Cadillac engines were used. The handbuilt Blackhawk had 18 to 22 handrubbed lacquer paint coats that took six weeks to apply. Total production time for each vehicle was over 1500 manhours. In 1980, the Blackhawk was redesigned for the Pontiac Bonneville chassis.
Exner's design included a spare tire that protruded through the trunklid and freestanding headlamps. The fuel filler cap was positioned inside the spare tire on first models.The interior included 24-carat gold plated trim and bird's eye maple or burled walnut and redwood, Connolly leather seats and dash, instrument markings in both English and Italian, fine wool or mink carpeting and headlining, a cigar lighter, and a liquor cabinet in the back. There was a clock in the steering wheel hub on some later models.Other special features included automatic headlamp control with twilight sensor, cornering lamps, bilevel automatic airconditioning, Superlift air adjustable shockabsorbers, Safe-T-Track limited slip differential, an electric sunroof, cruise control, central locking, a burglar alarm, non-functional exhaust side pipes, and a high-end Lear Jet AM/FM 8-track quadraphonic sound system. First models rolled on special 17-inchFirestone LXX run-flat tires and rims. These were taken of the market however as they turned out to be unsafe.
Price and value
The 1971 Blackhawk's factory price was US$22,500; adjusted for inflation approximately US$120,000 in 2010 dollars. In 1974 the factory price had increased to US$35,000 (appr. US$153,000 in 2010 dollars). A year later, in 1975, the factory price was US$41,500 (appr. US$167,000 in 2010 dollars). In 1976 a Blackhawk’s base price was US$47,500 (appr. US$182,000 in 2010 dollars). And in 1981 the coupe sold for US$84,500 (appr. US$203,000 in 2010 dollars). Mint condition early generations (1971–1975) estimated US$32,000 to US$35,000 in 2002. After his death Wilson Pickett's well preserved 1974 Stutz Blackhawk was auctioned off in 2007 for US$50,600.
Owners of the car
The very first Blackhawk sold was purchased by Elvis Presley on October 9, 1970 for US$26,500. This was the 2nd Blackhawk prototype, as built by Carrozzeria Padane (the first one, built by Ghia, was driven by James O'Donnell himself). Frank Sinatra had vied with Presley for the car. Sinatra was offered the 2nd prototype on the condition that the distributor, Jules Meyers, could show the car at the L.A. Auto show and got publicity photos with Sinatra at delivery. Sinatra declined but Presley accepted and ended up with the car. Presley had it customized byGeorge Barris after purchase. In January 1971 Presley had a mobile telephone installed for US$1,467.50. In July 1971 a hired driver totaled the car. Distributor Jules Meyers offered US$1,000 for the wreck but Presley declined and put the wrecked car in storage. It was only restored, with non-original parts, after his death and can now be seen at the Graceland museum. Presley bought at least three more Blackhawks and leased one other (he bought a black 1971 for himself and a white 1971 for his Las Vegas doctor Elias Ghanem, and leased a white 1972 and a black 1973, his favorite Blackhawk, which car he purchased at the end of the lease; this 1973 car is also on display at Graceland).
Other famous owners included Dick Martin (1971), Lucille Ball (who got her 1971 Blackhawk as a gift from her husband Gary Morton with a dash plaque saying I Love Lucy - Gary), Sammy Davis Jr. (who owned two 1972, one for himself and one for his wife), Dean Martin (who owned three and crashed his 1972 Blackhawk with vanity plate DRUNKY), Robert Goulet (1972), Evel Knievel (1974), Wilson Pickett (1974), Luigi Colani (1974), Johnnie Taylor (1975), Johnny Cash (1975), Curd Jürgens (1977), Larry Holmes (1982), as well as Jerry Lewis, Liberace, Willie Nelson, Lou Brock, Isaac Hayes, Muhammed Ali, George Foreman, Tom Jones, Billy Joel, Elton John, Paul McCartney, Al Pacino, Wayne Newton and H.B. Halicki. The Shah of Iran reportedly owned twelve of them. Stutz collector Ken Ramsey owns at least ten Blackhawks.
Each car included a dash plaque naming its original owner.
- Bill "Blaze" Blazejowski (played by Michael Keaton) in the movie Night Shift appears not to drive a Blackhawk but a 1981 Stutz IV-Porte sedan.
- In the movie 8mm, James Gandolfini's character Eddie Poole has a black Stutz Blackhawk.
- In the movie Never Die Alone, DMX's character King David owns a Stutz Blackhawk, which is then inherited by David Arquette's character Paul Paskoff.
- An episode of Dragonball GT features the appearance of an escape vehicle with a remarkable likeness to the Stutz Blackhawk.
- In the original Gone in 60 Seconds (1974 film), a 1973 Stutz Blackhawk (codenamed 'Karen') was one of the 48 vehicles stolen to fulfill Maindrian Pace's contract.