The original Bearcat was based on the company's competitive 1911 Indy car and featured a powerful 361 in³ (5.9 L) "T-head" straight-4 engine. Output was 50 hp (37 kW), and the transmission was placed in the rear as in a modern transaxle. A later I6 version of the T-head engine produced 80 hp (60 kW).
The original Bearcat lasted from 1914 through 1917. It used a 6388 cc I4 engine.
The car's "underslung" design was unusual for the time, and its low weight, balance, and power made it an excellent racer. For example, in 1912, Stutz Bearcats won 25 of the 30 auto races they were entered in. But the Bearcat was sparse, with no doors and a tiny "monocle" windscreen in front of the driver.
The Bearcat was also the car used in Erwin "Cannon Ball" Baker's record coast-to-coast drive, inspiration for the later Cannonball Run outlaw race and film spinoffs. Baker drove his Bearcat from California to New York in eleven days, seven hours, and fifteen minutes, shattering the previous record.
Owning a Stutz Bearcat became a famous status symbol for the very wealthy of the era.
The Bearcat name was quickly resurrected for the new Stutz Motor Car of America, but production lagged behind the 1970 Blackhawk. The original 1967 design of the new Bearcat was based on Virgil Exner's Duesenberg "Revival Car" concept, but a production Bearcat was not manufactured until 1979. That model used the GM A platform shared with the Blackhawk, and was essentially a targa-top coupe.
The Bearcat switched with the Blackhawk to the GM B platform the next year, with the exterior continuing the Blackhawk's exposed trunk-mounted spare tire. The base platform was now the GM F platform for 1987, with the trailing edge of the spare now forming part of the car's rear bumper.
Just 12 or 13 modern Bearcats were produced. Notable owners included the Sultan of Brunei, who owned two.