Premium X 1971 Stutz Blackhawk
Exner’s Revivalist Luxury Coupe
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
PREMIUM X’S 1:18 REPLICA CAPTURES THE KEY FEATURES THAT MAKE THE BLACKHAWK SO UNIQUE.
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.