What did Elvis Presley and Evel Knievel, two cultural icons of the 1970s, have in common? Well, a few things. One was that besides being at the top of their respective professions, they were showmen.
Both Elvis and Evel understood that whether singing in Las Vegas or jumping motorcycles over cars, part of their performance was entertaining their fan bases with top-level showmanship. Both Elvis and Evel admired and emulated another top performer of his time, Liberace.
Liberace was well known for his exotic-looking, sparkling-studded jumpsuits and capes while he played classical music on his rhinestone piano.
So in top extravagant showman style, Elvis and Evel would follow with their own wild clothes to capture the attention and imagination of their fans.
There was another commonality of the two American icons, and that was their desire for and the ownership of the Stutz Blackhawk.
The luxury features
The Stutz Blackhawk was an American luxury car revived in 1971. The new 1971 model year was a first from a long-time hiatus of a once-dominant brand that died during the Great Depression in the 1930s.
General Motors custom built the new Blackhawk, prototyped in Italy, and which had Italian design features. The body styles were offered as a 2-door convertible or coupe, with the largest engine offered as a 500 V8.
The interior had 24-karat gold plated trim with burled walnut and redwood throughout. The carpeting was made of fine wool and mink, a liquor cabinet was available and even had a top quality 8-track quadraphonic sound system, just to name a few of the luxury features.
The Stutz Blackhawk was made with an extra heavy gauge steel body handmade in Modena, Italy. Each vehicle had a production time of 1,500 man-hours. The 425 hp engine could accelerate to 60 mph in 8 seconds, with a top speed of 130 mph.
Elvis’s and others’ Blackhawks
The very first Blackhawk was sold to Elvis Presley for $26,500 in 1970 (approximately $140,000 in today’s US dollars).
Elvis beat out Frank Sinatra for being the first person to own the Stutz Blackhawk, and it was the first Blackhawk of 26 built in 1971.
Elvis had customized the first car, but in 1971, a hired driver crashed the car and destroyed it. He kept the car after the wreck and had it repaired and rebuilt, but he didn’t wait around, purchasing 3 more.
Sadly, Elvis would never see his first Stutz Blackhawk restored, as he died before it was finished.
The Stutz Blackhawk was a pure status symbol at the time, flaunting money and celebrity lifestyle.
Evel Knievel was rumored to have seen the Stutz Blackhawk and said, “Elvis bought this piece of – – – -?” He then bought one of his own. An American superstar at the time, he lived on the edge in both his performances and his personal life.
Elvis and Evel were not the only celebrities to buy the Stutz Blackhawk—Lucille Ball, Dean Martin, Robert Goulet, Johnny Cash, Muhammad Ali, Elton John, Al Pacino, and the Shah of Iran were among those who did.
In the end, only 600 Stutz Blackhawks were produced, and production ultimately ended once more in 1987.