Pre­mium X 1971 Stutz Black­hawk

Exner’s Re­vival­ist Lux­ury Coupe

Die Cast X - - OUT OF THE BOX -

Exner was as se­ri­ous about look­ing back and re­viv­ing clas­sics as he had been about his “For­ward Look” de­signs. In 1963, as he was be­ing eased out at Chrysler, he penned a se­ries of four con­cept cars he la­beled “Re­vival Cars” for an ar­ti­cle in Esquire mag­a­zine. The four clas­sic Amer­i­can mar­ques he looked to re­vive were Due­sen­berg, Mercer, Packard, and Stutz. He later added three oth­ers: Bu­gatti, Jor­dan, and Pierce-Ar­row. All sought to marry vin­tage style and class with mod­ern (for 1963) tech­nol­ogy. It took sev­eral years and con­sid­er­able fi­nan­cial wran­gling by New York fi­nancier and en­thu­si­ast James O’Don­nell, but in 1968, he suc­cess­fully es­tab­lished Stutz Mo­tor Car of Amer­ica, 4 1/2 years af­ter he saw Exner’s re­vival de­sign.

A pro­to­type adapt­ing Exner’s de­sign to rolling chas­sis se­cured from Gen­eral Mo­tors was com­pleted by Exner’s old friends at Car­rozze­ria Ghia. The run­ning gear cho­sen was the G-body chas­sis from the sec­ond­gen­er­a­tion Pon­tiac Grand Prix, in­clud­ing its sus­pen­sion com­po­nents, Turbo-Hy­dra­matic trans­mis­sion, and its 370hp 455ci big block. The assem­bly of pro­duc­tion Black­hawks would ul­ti­mately fall to an­other coach­builder—Car­rozze­ria Padane—and that first pro­to­type was the only one built by Ghia. No­tably, the sec­ond pro­to­type (the first built by Padane) was sold to none other than Elvis Pres­ley (see side­bar). Pro­duc­tion would later shift to a third Ital­ian coach­builder—Saturn—and the car would un­dergo nu­mer­ous re­vi­sions to its me­chan­i­cals dur­ing its pro­duc­tion life, from 1971 to 1987. For ex­am­ple, once the Grand Prix was dis­con­tin­ued in 1979, it would be built on a Bon­neville chas­sis and then, from 1985, that of the Olds

Delta 88. And it would em­ploy more than a dozen dif­fer­ent

V-8 pow­er­plants—big block and small block—from Pon­tiac, Chevy, Olds, Cadil­lac, and even some from Ford.

Pre­mium X’s 1:18 replica cap­tures the key fea­tures that make the Black­hawk so unique. The model is sim­i­lar to the orig­i­nal Elvis car, dif­fer­ing only in the color of the trim around the head­lights and the wheel choice. It has the free­stand­ing

The story of the Stutz Black­hawk is, at once, a story about re­viv­ing and re-en­vi­sion­ing a clas­sic lux­ury name­plate for a new gen­er­a­tion as well as a state­ment by Vir­gil Exner that his semi­forced re­tire­ment from Chrysler was far from the end of his story as a stylist.

head­lamps, smooth chrome bumpers, and the fuel filler run­ning through the cen­ter of the spare tire. Styling el­e­ments from Exner’s orig­i­nal draw­ings—like the pro­trud­ing spare, the ex­tended C-pil­lars, and dra­mat­i­cally ta­pered rear flanks—are all present as well. The chrome side pipes were an ad­di­tion not on Exner’s orig­i­nal draw­ings, and they are cos­metic only—you can see con­ven­tional tailpipes un­der the rear bumper. The strong char­ac­ter line that traces the length of the car is ren­dered in chrome foil. The two-piece wind­screen is a throw­back item unique to the first-year cars; later mod­els sub­sti­tuted more con­ven­tional—and prac­ti­cal— sin­gle-piece glass. The elab­o­rate light­ing is well ren­dered as well, although the free­stand­ing head­light stalks are frag­ile— so be care­ful!

The in­te­rior with its sim­u­lated red leather and burled wal­nut trim is fan­tas­tic, and quite vis­i­ble de­spite this be­ing a sealed-body model. There is a lot of de­tail on the in­stru­ments and cen­ter stack; you can even make out the fancy 8-track quadra­phonic sound sys­tem out of a Lear­jet. There’s no sign of a Bar­risin­stalled phone, but that’s not a miss—this was not in­tended to be Elvis’s spe­cific car. The long, sculpted hood is sealed, so there’s no chance to gaze at the big Pon­tiac 455. Wheels are chrome with smooth hub­caps rather than the com­mon wire rims. They’re big too; the early Black­hawks got 17-inch rims at a time when 14- and 15-inch­ers were typ­i­cal. Tires have thin white­wall stripes and ac­cu­rate tread, but no side­wall mark­ings.


The orig­i­nal Stutz Black­hawk was man­u­fac­tured for only two years—from 1929 to 1930—but the re­vival car lasted 16 years. It was ex­pen­sive and os­ten­ta­tious, to be sure, but it rekin­dled a trend in retro Brougham styling— for bet­ter or worse! The Stutz did it right by stay­ing as faith­ful as pos­si­ble to Exner’s orig­i­nal vi­sion. Vir­gil Exner died in 1973, but be­fore he passed, he got to see at least one of his Re­vival Car de­signs en­ter pro­duc­tion, which is fit­ting. Pre­mium X’s model is a fit­ting trib­ute, both to the aes­thetic that Exner cre­ated and to the wild per­sonal lux­ury boule­vardier that be­came so


The model has the free­stand­ing head­lights, smooth bumpers, and the two-piece wind­screen of an early-year car. The dis­tinc­tive throw­back grille is su­perbly ren­dered.

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