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Unusual Vehicles: Stutz Blackhawk Streamliner

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Unusual Vehicles is a series that takes a look at the weirdest cars from around the world. A lot of unique cars have been designed for racing purposes, some by racers themselves. For example, the Stutz Blackhawk Streamliner was created by Frank Lockhart, a man that had his career cut short by the same vehicle he designed.

Origins

Lockhart had earned a reputation for being a phenomenal racer, being nicknamed ‘Boy Wonder’ by the press. At the 1926 Indianapolis 500 he won the race on his first try and set a lap record 120.100 mph at the 1927 event. Lockhart also showed an aptitude for inventing, as he developed an intercooler for a 1.5-litre Miller engine. Armed with the engine and a standard Miller race car, Lockhart established a new lap record for an event at Muroc Dry Lake in California.

In 1927, Lockhart started building a Land Speed Record (LSR) car in the hopes of breaking Henry Segrave’s record. Lockhart teamed up with the Stutz Motor Car Company, who funded half the project.

Design

Lockhart and his team came up with the Stutz Blackhawk Streamliner, a car that possessed a 3-litre Miller V16 engine with intercooled twin superchargers. The sleek body was developed with the aid of a wind tunnel. After extensive testing it was predicted the engine could crank out a top speed of 280 mph.

Lockhart carried out several test runs in the Black Hawk, with each of them ending dangerously. One incident involved him losing control and the car landing in the sea. He experienced three severed tendons in his left wrist.

The worst incident occurred in 1928 when the Black Hawk wiped out at a speed of 220 mph. The impact hurled Lockhart out of the cockpit, killing him. At 25-years-old, he passed away too soon.

The cause of the wipe out came down to a damaged right rear tyre that had deteriorated over previous runs. The Black Hawk’s engine was salvaged and installed into the Sampson Special, owned by Alden Sampson. This car is currently on display at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum. Two Black Hawk replicas were built and one of them can be seen in the Stutz Building in Indianapolis.

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