Frank Lockhart has been an inspiration for many racers, engineers and hot-rodder’s. His story is one filled with triumph, innovation and sadness. We recently shared the details of Frank’s quest to be the fastest man on earth during the late 1920s in The Incredible Drive of Frank Lockhart. Now we’re bridging the gap, sharing what can be brought back from that fateful and deadly day – the Stutz Black Hawk.
Photo courtesy of Lattin collection.
After the wreck in 1928 the car went missing. It was most probably scrapped, along with so many others back then. The only remaining piece of the original car is in the museum at Indy, the Stutz Black Hawk’s 180.4 cubic-inch dual Miller straight-eight V16 engine can be seen, along with other racing history, for a nominal donation (and is well worth a visit!) For a hot-rodder, one of the most bothersome parts of Frank’s story is that there was so much potential that was never realized. The Stutz Black Hawk was an amazing design in its day – and we will never know what speeds Frank could have achieved with it.
Photo courtesy of Lattin collection.
The fact that there is nothing left from the ill-fated day has made it next to impossible for anyone to make an accurate Stutz Black Hawk reproduction. There have been a couple of clones made in fiberglass, but the proportions were way off (and we all know fiberglass is no substitute for an all-aluminum, hand-formed body).
One sunny day in San Diego, I sat in a friend’s office and listened to him talk about one of the most beautiful streamliners ever made. At the time, he’d just finished a recreation of the Hilbourne and Sakai land speed cars and was looking to bite off a little more than he could chew. We bench rodded for a while on the construction of the car, and that was that.
Two weeks later Jim Lattin had begun the first steps to reproduce this amazing, historical car. He and his helper started by printing out life-size plans of the Stutz. The first tedious step in construction would be forming a wood buck of which to form the all-aluminum car to.
Jim had wanted to build the car forever and now was knee-deep into the process. Within a month, the car was coming together and had a rolling chassis and motor mock-up. For the next part of the process, Jim knew he wanted perfection – no paint or mud, no fiberglass – only flawless aluminum would work.
In order to create something so perfect would take a highly skilled metalworker. Jim made a call to a kid that he thought could do the work, someone who came highly recommended to him. The “kid’s” name was Jeb Scolman of Jeb’s Metal and Speed in Long Beach, California.
A little background on Jeb – he may be a little young (30 or so), but his work is that of an accomplished metal smith with decades of experience. After a few meetings of the minds, Jim and Jeb decided to go forward together in this project. Jeb knew the car… and knew how to do it right.
The project was dropped off at his shop and Jeb started by spending some time looking at the bucks and forms on the chassis. Using original photos of the car and some calipers, Jeb deduced that some of the lines on the car were a little bit off. Jeb and Jim hit the drawing board a little more, until they got the measurements and proportions just right.
From there, Jeb set off to work – doing what metalsmiths do…hammering and forming, sculpting perfection from flat sheets of metal. The work took Jeb 6 months of labor, 7 sheets of aluminum, and the drilling of over 1850 holes to complete.
The original Stutz was painted with white and wore the Stutz logo and Indianapolis naming for where it was built. Jeb had done such a perfect job on the pristine aluminum of the Stutz Black Hawk recreation that they left off the paint and lettering, choosing to leave it in bare aluminum instead.
The finished product debuted at the Long Beach Motorama, sitting on 4 tons of sand that had been shipped into the arena. Spectators were amazed to see this iconic car with such an aerodynamic design – resurrected from nearly a century ago. Quite an accomplishment, Jim Lattin has since brought the streamliner to a few outings at El Mirage as well as some local car shows – sharing the Stutz Black Hawk history with a new generation. If you ever get to see this streamliner in person, you’ll be amazed.