Aerodynamics

1927. Stutz “Black Hawk”
The day the white hawk turned black

With the valuable support of Prof. Massimo Grandi’s depth of knowledge and illustrative talent

Photo credit: Some images are taken from the book Asi Service "Quando le disegnava il vento" by Massimo Grandi

Over time, the desire for supremacy has robbed the world of some great talents. One is Frank Lockhart, born in the USA in 1903, and, by the age of 23, already a racing idol with various successes under his belt, including Indianapolis. Lockhart is also a perfect example of how it is possible to create an extraordinarily innovative and high-performance car on the basis of experience rather than formal learning.

This image conveys perfectly the accuracy of the aerodynamics characterizing the Stutz “Black Hawk” designed by Frank Lockhart to beat the land speed record

His Stutz Black Hawk, built for an attempt to break the land speed record on the hard-packed sand of Daytona Beach, was a true masterpiece of its time. Backed by the Stutz motor company, for which he competed, and supported by Duesenberg engineers, Lockhart created a “real missile”. Lightweight, powered by a small supercharged engine — this was actually a combination of two small (1500 cc) Miller inline V8 engines installed at an angle of 30° —, perfectly faired, and developed for maximum aerodynamic efficiency, the car had all the credentials to set a new record.

Powered by a small (3000 cc) supercharged V16 engine, complete with intercooler, the car reached 327.40 km/h

Everyone was anticipating a happy and exciting day: the weather was perfect and the driver was Lockhart himself, race champion and creator of the Black Hawk, which, despite its name (the same as that of the place where the Stutz plant was located), was actually white with silver wheel fairings. It was 25 April, 1928.

The front ¾ of the Stutz shows the precision of the silver-painted wheel fairings. Even though the car was called “Black Hawk”, it was actually white

This was meant to be the moment: Frank reached 327.40 km/hour, an amazing, unprecedented speed. Everything seemed to be going fantastically. We say “seemed” because, all of a sudden, tragedy struck. Something, probably a shell, burst one of the tires and the car started to roll over and over. Lockhart was flung from the vehicle and left lying, lifeless, on the sand.

Designed by its unlucky driver, the car was perfectly tapered, as this plan shows