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Postwar Studebakers

This topic is for discussion of the history, product line, achievements, and ultimate demise of the Studebaker automobile.


  • jljacjljac Posts: 649
    edited November 2010
    When I mentioned disc brakes in my post, I was careful to mention that they were the first modern disc brakes to be as standard equipment on a mass-produced American vehicle. The Crosley Hot Shot was not one of those. Here is the a more compete story about the use of modern disc brakes

    Modern-style disc brakes first appeared on the low-volume Crosley Hotshot in 1949, although they had to be discontinued in 1950 due to design problems,.
    Chrysler's Imperial also offered a type of disc brake from 1949 through 1953, though in this instance they were enclosed with dual internal-expanding, full-circle pressure plates. . . The next American production cars to be fitted with disc brakes were the 1963 Studebaker Avanti (optional on other Studebaker models), standard equipment on the 1965 Rambler Marlin (optional on other AMC models), and the 1965 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray (C2). The 1965 Ford Thunderbird came with front disc brakes as standard equipment.

    This web site identifies the following rich and famous people who were proud too own Avantis.I only listed the ones I recognized) - - - - - hp

    Johnny Carson, owned a 1964 Avanti, Richard Carpenter, of the pop singing duo, The Carpenters, was the proud owner of 1963 Avanti, Alice Cooper, the popular 1970's era shock rocker who something like the White man's Screaming Jay Hawkins, owned a 1963 Avanti, Jimmy Dean, the popular folksy country singer, Dick Van [non-permissible content removed], another great talented performer on TV and screen, NBA basketball legend, Dr. J., Julius Irving, Al Jardine, of the Beach Boys, owned a 1989 model Avanti, DeForest Kelly, "Dr. Bones" to all you STAR TREK fans out there was so proud of his 1973 Avanti II, that he managed to slip in into the STAR TREK film, THE VOYAGE HOME, Ian Fleming, the author of the JAMES BOND,
    Andy Granatelli (he owned two of them), Sandy Koufax, who was the L.A. Dodgers great pitcher, Michael Landon, (little Joe Cartwright) Ricky Nelson, the teen idol offspring of OZZY AND HARRIET, Rod Sterling, Frank Sinatra, the great music and film legend, owned a 1963 Avanti, Gene Siskell, the late great film critic not only knew great films, but he knew great cars. Siskell owned a 1963 Avanti (note Roger Ebert went for the 1958 Golden Hawk),.Barabra Walters, the interview legend over at ABC, and on the cast of THE VIEW, owned an Avanti of an unknown year, Roger Ward, not only won the Indy 500 race one year, but he managed to win the race to become the first ever Avanti owner of a brand new 1963 model.

    Even though less than 5,000 original Avanti cars ever rolled off the Studebaker production line, it is simply amazing that so many of the cars were sold to celebrities.
  • jljacjljac Posts: 649
    edited November 2010
    I figured new that Uplander guy and me were eventually going to distract other members who are impressed when whey see a Datsun B-210. I am intersted in many cars from 1946 until the government got too involved with the bumpers and smog controls, especially American cars.

    It is really not correct to call cars made after World War II "classics" so maybe Milestone Cars or Nifty Fifties and Sixties would be good.

    How do I post images???

    This is an attempt ">from my website,
  • To post an image, first thing is that this image has to reside somewhere---either as a URL at some other website (be sure you have permission to use it) or it can reside say at photobucket, your own website, etc.

    Once the image has a URL, then it's easy.

    First you click on the tab IMG (below) just one time---then paste in the URL---then click on the tab IMG a *second* time and you're done!
  • Would you like for me to open a Nifty 50s and 60s Topic for you?
  • I'd be careful if I were you to judge a car by the celebrities who owned it---some of the most awful cars ever made would make the list.
  • jljacjljac Posts: 649
    I don't want to be too limited. How about Orphan & Milestone cars. The way things are going, we could include Oldsmobile, Plymouth, Pontiac.Mercury. Come to think of it, eventually most American cars will be covered.
  • jljacjljac Posts: 649
    edited November 2010
  • MrShift@EdmundsMrShift@Edmunds Posts: 43,648
    edited November 2010
    Okay, let's keep this topic for Studebaker and you can e-mail me and Uplander and we'll discuss other topics.

    That '55 you posted was a exact color car I had. Mine was a "President", 3 speed w/ overdrive, 289. Because of the overdrive it had a pretty low ratio differential, so for the first 0-60 or so it was pretty quick.
  • jljacjljac Posts: 649
    edited November 2010
    Sorry, but the 1955s had a 224 motor until January 1955, then Studebaker decided that smaller was not better to they up sized to 259 That was part of the problem. . . nobody wanted an ecomonical V-8. The 289 motor arrived in 1956. Same motor, longer stroke.

    A friend of mine who up sized his 1955 Commander from 259 to 289 cu,in ended up converting to a 12 volt electrical system because the starter would not turn the 289 motor. I already said how much I liked the 3 speed with overdrive transmission.

    BTW, my grandfather was involved in painting an Avanti black for James Bond author Ian Flemming and said they would not do that again because it was too much body work. His 40 years of pins from working at Studebaker are below, except the red and blue ones are mine from the Driver's Club. I need to add my 40 year pin to that collection. image

    They were awarded for every five years of service. The order is copper, bronze, silver, gold (20 years), one pearl bottom (25 years), one ruby bottom,(30 years) two pearls top (35 years), two rubies top (forty years).
  • yes mine had a 289 in it. A 56H I think. I bought it used but only identified that sometime later. I also had 12V electrics.

    Most American cars had gone to 12V in 1955.

    I still have some Packard memorabilia from when my Dad worked for them.
  • jljacjljac Posts: 649
    edited November 2010
    Studebaker went to 12 volts in 1956. My Commander has power windows, but they are slow with the 6 volt system. Must be a safety feature for people with small children. :-) The same type of motor powers the front seat.

    About two years ago I was able to buy a NOS 6 volt window motor and did not have to look hard to find it. That was amazing considering that Studebaker only had 6 volt power windows in 1955 and why I am skeptical about claims that it is hard to get parts for Studebakers when I can get parts for a rare option that was only available for one year.

    My Dad had a 1951 Champion and my Grandfather had a 1952 Champion. Both would start in the coldest weather and my Dad would push the neighbor's 1954 Cadillac to get it started in the winter. I could not get my 1960 Lark VI with a 12 volt system to start when it was below zero. My Uncle tried for eight years before he sold it to me. One would think that a 12 volt system would be more reliable than a six volt system, but it was not. Cold weather starting is not often mentioned for the demise of Studebaker, but it was definitely a problem for the six cylinder motors..

    I like Packards but my Dad's friend had a 1955 Packard and it was not a reliable car and was a gas hog. Packard had so long to get that engine right, but they got it so wrong. It is bad enough of pay a little money for a cheap unreliable car but an expensive unreliable car really causes hard feelings.

    One would think that the same company that built the Rolls Royce Merlin engine under license in World War II would have been the leader of post-war OHV-8s, but they took ten years to produce theirs and got it wrong. That is why it is unfair to blame Studebaker for their failure.
  • uplanderguyuplanderguy Kent, OHPosts: 7,360
    edited November 2010
    I gotta say that among Packards, I could enjoy owning a Scottish Heather and white '56 Four-Hundred hardtop. I'm told the Ultramatic was a bit better for '56. With the exception of Caribbeans and Four-Hundreds, V8 Packards and Clippers are pretty affordable too...I see them on eBay pretty frequently.

    My friend, our hometown S-P-MB dealer, said that every V8 Packard they sold came back in for torsion-level issues. However, I've ridden in a few in the past two decades, and they were the smoothest ride in that price class, for sure.

    My hometown dealer sold '56 Caribbean convertible no. 1258 (18 from the last) and it survives in beautiful condition in NC today. One night the Doctor (original) owner phoned in a huff from Cleveland, OH--it could not back out of a parking space. My dealer friend and his service manager had to drive to Cleveland and tow it home (about 80 miles one-way). Had something to do with the contacts in the pushbutton shift selector. It was relatively new at the time.
  • The 55-56 Packard were bedeviled by electrical problems with the torsion bar motors---the car would end up stuck in the high or low position. Also there was a problem with oil feed to the hydraulic lifters.

    I don't think anyone blames Studebaker for Packard's failure, only for the careless handling of Packard archives. Studebaker just looted Packard and actually deceived them during the merger. To use a more popular modern term, Studebaker "cooked the books". Quite a bit of research has been done on this, and it's in the history books.

    But, to be fair, business is business in America and a substitute for warfare. I don't expect any other automaker would have been any more respectful or careful.

    Really, the "Little Four" were doomed right from 1946, but naturally no one had our crystal ball back then, so they couldn't know that. They had to play it out.
  • el_tigreel_tigre Posts: 4
    edited November 2010
    My father owned 7 Studebakers. His last was a 1955 Speedster, Sun Valley Yellow and Hialeah Green. Neatest car I have ever seen, bar none. The day he traded it in on a 1957 DeSoto, a guy stopped him to look at the car. But Dad was a salesman and 50K miles in those days were high mileage. BTW the DeSoto salesman gave him the "orphan" pitch. Turns out they stopped making DeSotos before Studes. :)

    My Studebaker was a 1962 Lark 2dr, Riviera Blue. I loved that car. But living in the rust belt, the fenders rusted through in front of the doors and I had to get rid of it. :cry:
    BTW I paid $2200, new, for that car. When I bought it, I really liked the Daytona, hardtop, bucket seats, four in the floor, but it was $3500, way beyond my means at the time being I was an apprentice machinist. :(
  • uplanderguyuplanderguy Kent, OHPosts: 7,360
    edited November 2010
    Studebaker just looted Packard and actually deceived them during the merger. To use a more popular modern term, Studebaker "cooked the books". Quite a bit of research has been done on this, and it's in the history books.

    This is absolutely true. Studebaker presented their books in a way which understated their actual breakeven point. This is bad stuff.

    But, it was Packard's decline in 1956 that put the Corporation into Roy Hurley's grasping hands. An excellent book on the merger years is James Ward's "The Rise and Fall of the Packard Motor Car Company". It was researched in large part using the vast amount of files from Packard and Studebaker, board minutes, etc., during the merger years, which are on file at the Studebaker National Museum archives.

    It has been said that Studebaker should probably not have spent the money so early after the war, on new '47 model bodies and '49 model trucks. Also--and this point was driven home to me yesterday at a Studebaker Drivers' Club meet I attended, while salivating over a lady's gorgeous, bone-stock '53 Commander Starlight Coupe--I'll never understand why Studebaker spent the money in '53 to build two entirely different lines of cars. Not a single piece of sheetmetal will interchange from a Loewy coupe or hardtop with a two-or four-door sedan...not one. What a huge expense at the time.
  • jljacjljac Posts: 649
    The President Speedster appeared halfway through the 1955 model year as Studebaker's answer to the Ford Crown Victoria and it included a similar chrome strip across the roof. The "egg and olive" combination was the most common color scheme. The padded instrument panel was very advanced for its time.

    The success of this car affected Studebaker's thinking quite a bit. At the beginning of 1955 model year Studebaker down sized its V-8 from 232 to 224 but then decided they were going the wrong way and up sized to 259 to be more comparable to the Ford. The success of the Speedster led to the Hawk line the following year.

    Of the 1955 Studebaker line, only the Speedster is recognized by the Milestone Car Society. It seems unfair to exclude the other Lowey coupes and hardtops for that year, but that was not my decision to make. The President Speedster was a great car. My Commander has the same body, engine, 4 barrel carburetor and dual exhausts.
  • The smaller automakers were doomed because they did not have the capital to field a diverse line of cars, styles and options. By 1955, the GM & Ford tidal wave just washed over them, with a bewildering array of models, gadgets, chrome, power and styling. Studebaker or Packard or Hudson could have come out with the Mercedes Gullwing or an American Ferrari in 1955 and it wouldn't have saved them.

    It wasn't the fault of their products IMO--it was about the diversity and annual variation of their products, or lack thereof.
  • jljacjljac Posts: 649
    edited November 2010
    Studebaker just looted Packard and actually deceived them during the merger. To use a more popular modern term, Studebaker "cooked the books".

    This is the most common example of Packard fans blaming Studebaker for Packard’s failure. Prior to the merger in 1954, Studebaker claimed that its break-even point was 165,000 cars. After the Packard merger, Packard’s chief financial officer, Walter Grant, claimed that the true break even-point was 282,000 cars. Which side is correct?

    The facts are that in calendar year 1953, Studebaker made a small profit by selling 186,484 passenger vehicles. In 1959, they sold 153,823 cars and they were dancing in the streets of South Bend because Studebaker was making a handsome profit. If the Packard version of history is correct, how was Studebaker able to make a profit by selling approximately half the number of cars that Packard said was necessary for Studebaker just to break even only five years earlier?

    I say that Studebaker, under the direction of Packard’s James Nance was able to reduce it labor costs to lower Studebaker’s break even point from 165,000 cars to 125,000 cars. Packard fans have no explanation how the figure could have been reduced from 282,000 to 125,000 between 1954 and 1959 and some discount the idea that the reduction could have come because of reduced labor costs without providing any alternative explanation of how Studebaker could have made a profit in 1959 by selling less than 165,000 cars.

    Another omission from the Packard side of the argument is how the Studebaker merger benefited Packard. Studebaker had nearly three times the number of dealers that Packard had. Not all of the Studebaker dealers also sold Packards after the merger, but more than half of them did, and they were the biggest and best Studebaker dealers.

    How many sales did Packard get because some businessman went to a Studebaker-Packard dealer to buy a Studebaker truck for his business and ended up looking at the new Packards? Additionally, in 1956, Studebaker put 4,071 Packard motors and transmissions into its Golden Hawks while Studebaker did not sell any engines or transmissions to Packard in 1955-56.

    It should also be remembered that in 1955-56, Packard tried to market the Clipper as a separate model line sold at its own (Clipper) dealerships. Why was Packard expanding in 1955-56 IF it was convinced that Studebaker was dragging it to doom?

    Packard would have lasted longer without Studebaker, but that would not have changed the outcome. Studebaker benefited from Packard because of Packard's capital and because Packard's President James Nance got tough with Studebaker-UAW Local No. 6 to get the labor costs down to a realistic level.
  • jljacjljac Posts: 649
    edited November 2010
    The smaller automakers were doomed because they did not have the capital to field a diverse line of cars, styles and options.

    That is mostly true but if it were completely true then American Motors would not have survived the 1950s and 1960s when they actually expanded and grew to challenge Plymouth as the third best selling model in America.

    AMC survived Henry Ford II dumping cars in the 1950s, the compact car flood of the 1960s and it responded well to the "pony car" stampede with its own Javelin and AMX. It got into trouble with the Matador and then the Pacer which took plenty of money to develop but never paid off.
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