Postwar Studebakers

Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
This topic is for discussion of the history, product line, achievements, and ultimate demise of the Studebaker automobile.


  • jljacjljac Member 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 Member 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,
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    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!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Would you like for me to open a Nifty 50s and 60s Topic for you?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    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 Member 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 Member Posts: 649
    edited November 2010
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    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 Member 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).
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    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 Member 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 Member Posts: 15,799
    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.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    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 Member 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 Member Posts: 15,799
    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 Member 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.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    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 Member 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 Member 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.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    I think you misinterpreted the comment.

    Studebaker's "cooking of the books" did not cause Packard's failure. Nobody I think makes that point in any automotive history books or articles. Studebaker's cooking of the books was the reason Studebaker-Packard failed as a *merger*.

    In short, it was one sick company (Packard) being taken over by an even sicker one.

    AMC --- Rambler survived for a number of complex reasons, none of which were available to Studebaker or Packard, IMO.

    1. Much better management -- in short George Romney (who turned down CEO offers from Packard to go with Nash, which he thought had a better future---he was right!

    2. Much better advertising -- sponsors of the wildly popular Disneyland show on TV.

    3. Much better product placement -- "the dinosaur fighters" -- "the economy King"---the "safety innovator" --

    4. (a Big Reason) --the *JEEP*

    And of course, being saved by Chrysler eventually when their luck ran out.
  • jljacjljac Member Posts: 649
    edited November 2010
    American Motors did not buy the Jeep until 1970.

    While all of your reasons are valid, American Motors lasted longer because they learned from Studebaker's past mistakes and their own.

    Studebaker pulled itself out of bankruptcy in 1939 with the Studebaker Champion, which was a "compact" version of the Commander. They did well selling full size cars and the compact Champion until 1951 when they dropped the smaller Champion body but let its smaller motor push the full size Commander body and as a result, the Champion got a reputation for being a "slug" that grandpas and grandmas drove.

    Meanwhile, Nash introduced the smaller Rambler and sponsored the Superman TV show where it showed off its Nash Rambler roll-top convertible. Nash quit making the smaller Rambler around 1954, but brought it back in 1958 as the Rambler American. Studebaker saw the success Rambler had and went back to the Champion idea with the Lark in 1959. They wasted the period between 1956 and 1959 trying to make their cars look bigger.

    I have to give American Motors credit for not trying to be like the Big Three, and for putting their efforts into a modern, reliable OHV 6 cylinder before developing their V-8. They also emphasized station wagons more than Studebaker did.

    The book "Studebaker The Postwar Years" by Richard M.Langworth gives a detailed description of the battle James Nance had with the UAW over labor costs. It says that there was a 35-day strike in January-February 1955 and 85 "wildcat"strikes in 1955 (NOTE: I believe that this actually took place in 1954) . The losses put Studebaker in a position of diversification out of the auto business to offset tax losses.

    In summary, Rambler stuck to building small, affordable cars while Studebaker wandered from that successful approach for too long and its cars cost too much because labor costs were too high and because its workers were getting 39 minutes of personal time per 8 hour shift while GM and Ford were only giving 24 minutes. The UAW definitely played its part in Studebaker's demise.
  • jljacjljac Member Posts: 649
    Here is an interesting page with images of all the Nash's that were used in the Superman TV show.

    I have the first season on DVD and it creates the impression that Metropolis was located in a parallel universe where the good guys drove Nash cars and the bad guys drove Packards.

    I don't know why that happened because I do not believe that Nash or Packard sponsored the show. George Reeves drove his own Nash Healy in some episodes.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Yes AMC bought Jeep and Jeep helped AMC survive. That's what i said.

    The union was very good to Studebaker for a long, long time.

    Fact is, Studebaker was a really lousily-run company and a lot of good people went down with the ship.
  • uplanderguyuplanderguy Member Posts: 15,799
    edited November 2010
    I think part of the "lousily run" truth is one reason we as owners have so much NOS leftover, quite honestly.

    However, Studebaker was in continuous production in South Bend for 111 years, and built automobiles for a total of 64 years. They outlived virtually every other independent automaker except Nash. Of course, American Motors was the combination of Hudson and Nash, but the successor company really was what was left of Nash.

    I do think Nash built good cars, but my oh my, talk about ugly (at least in the postwar years). Who builds cars with no wheel openings??! And some of the mid'50's sedans look like an Eastern European product.

    Also, it's funny that the other poster mentioned how Packard benefitted from Studebaker's dealer organization more than the other way around. I've always thought this. If a town had a Packard dealer, they almost surely already had a Studebaker dealer as well. However, in smaller areas, there were often Studebaker dealers but no Packard dealers...until the merger. I am personally aware of two specific 1956 Packard Caribbeans, the top of Packard's line--a $6,000 car in 1956. Both were sold at Studebaker dealers that had not sold Packard until the 1955 model year.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    yeah it is interesting that not many of the independents' products were particularly outstanding in looks. A few were attractive, but homely or awkward or outdated or weird was more the norm. This makes sense in a way, since they couldn't dare to compete with the Big Three, so they had to travel different roads, mostof them dead ends unfortunately. Jeep was the only real survivor in the end, wasn't it?
  • jljacjljac Member Posts: 649
    edited November 2010
    Yes AMC bought Jeep and Jeep helped AMC survive. That's what i said. RESPONSE: AMC buying Jeep in 1970 had nothing to do with the competition between Rambler and Studebaker which ended in December 1963 when Studebaker gave up operations in South Bend. You were comparing AMC to Studebaker. That competition had to end when Studebaker was gone.

    The union was very good to Studebaker for a long, long time. RESPONSE: There is no evidence that the union was good to Studebaker at any time. You should give an example of that taking place.

    The Book and video "Studebaker Less Than They Promised: by Michael Beatty interviews Lester Fox, President of the UAW No 6 at the time Studebaker closed shop in South Bend. He stated that Studebaker should have been tougher with the union. When the leader of the union says that Studebaker should have been tougher, you better believe it.

    This book, which is favorable to Studebaker notes that college students liked to work at Studebaker because they could sleep half the time.

    One book favors Studebaker and the other does not, but both agree that the UAW did not do Studebaker any favors.

    My Grandfather was worried that the whole operation was going to collapse before he got his full pension. He would say that if his fellow employees did not quit complaining about 24 minutes of personal time, they were going to get twenty four hours of personal time every day.

    My own web site, which has been posted since 2001 has a picture of Union Station in South Bend and notes :The final row of photos shows the main body plant where bodies and interiors were completed. In the good old days, workers could sometimes be seen hooting and whistling at the pretty girls at the Union Station. This behavior surely did not help productivity or the price of the vehicles that were assembled at South Bend Main."

    I saw that with my own eyes and was being polite when I wrote that.

    Fact is, Studebaker was a really lousily-run company and a lot of good people went down with the ship. RESPONSE: Studebaker was a “lousily-run company”because it coddled too many of its workers who did not dererve it. Packard President James Nance tried to correct that, as did Sherwood Egbert, but it was too late.

    Studebaker went to Canada where wages were lower and other American companies followed. Once again, Studebaker was ahead of its time.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    edited November 2010
    Blaming the unions for Studebaker's demise is like blaming the groundskeepers for the Chicago Cubs win/loss record. The unions could have worked for free---literally, and it would not have saved S-P. Sure, they put a nail in the coffin, but it hardly mattered when, for the first time in heaven knows how many generations, the union struck Studebaker. This must have been the most historically docile management/labor relationship in automotive history. Nance should have been made the poster boy for bad CEOs I think. I mean, compare and contrast to Romney!

    I was mentioning AMC's purchase of Jeep to explain why Jeep did not die with all the rest. The idea was that Jeep survived the other orphans, not that it was in direct competition with them. I guess that wasn't clear.
  • jljacjljac Member Posts: 649
    edited November 2010
    I think part of the "lousily run" truth is one reason we as owners have so much NOS leftover, quite honestly

    Once again, the old saying, "No good deed goes unpunished" comes to mind.

    If course Studebaker has a lot of NOS parts. They had a lot of dealers too. I have copies of the Centennial Report from the 1952 100th anniversary where Studebaker claimed to have had 2,815 dealers in the United States, which is approximately equal to the number of counties in the 48 states or the number of dealers that Dodge in 2001 when I wrote that.

    Most of the dealers were Mom and Pop operators who had a "break even point" that was lower than Studebaker's. Many were based in the rural areas where Studebaker once sold horse drawn wagons to farmers. When Studebaker quit the car business, the best dealers kept Mercedes Benz and the rest were on their own, but they still had customers to service. Studebaker also stayed in the parts service until approximately 1972.

    The sound clip at my site is from the movie "Beyond a Promise" which proudly notes that Harold S. Vance started as a mechanic's apprentice in 1910 working for 15 cents per hour. He was proud of Studebaker not having a strike BUT his good deeds eventually bankrupted the company. Studebaker made other movies about its workers including The Studebaker Story (starring the same actor who played Perry White in the Superman TV Show) and Family of Craftsmen, which starred the Bokon Family who worked at Studebaker for generations.

    Harold Churchill, who saved Studebaker with the Lark, was another leader who rose from the employee ranks to head the whole company.

    I believe that Studebaker was the only company which was headed by two former employees at different times who rose through the ranks to head the company. I thought that was the American Dream, but now they are called "lousy management." No good deed goes unpunished.
  • berriberri Member Posts: 10,165
    Honestly, I think looks helped speed up the demise of postwar Packard. First the bathtubs and then those homely, dowdy early 50's models that looked more like they should be competing with maybe Olds or DeSoto, or lower. I thought the 55/56 restyle was decent looking, but unfortunately too late.

    Nash and Hudson stayed with their early 50's look too long and then merged into the Hash which might have looked a bit better if it happened several years earlier, but by 55 it looked old fashioned as soon as it came out.

    Studebaker looked modern with the 53/54 redo, but I think Detroit styling began moving so quickly that the model looked old by 55/56. (and I still think Loewy took a lot more credit than he was personally due at that company).

    As for Kaiser, I think its new 51 model was so modern that people really took note of it, but that also meant that they may have been leery of buying it and by 54 people were already tiring of it.

    All of these cars also had the disadvantage of lower volume meaning higher fixed costs making it hard to be price competitive with D3 and profitable.

    The independents made the early 50's interesting though.
  • berriberri Member Posts: 10,165
    From what I've read, the Studebaker UAW was a rather militant bunch. Management ruined the company, but a more flexible union may have prolonged it a bit instead of forcing it to become a one horse show moving to Canada with the Lark. Sometimes I think union members get so focused and enthralled with their union that they end up sh...g their nest.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    edited November 2010
    Studebaker DID go bankrupt and that's really the bottom line. I don't recall the UAW designing the cars, doing the accounting and marketing, making the mergers, etc. I suppose we could cast the union as "militant" but the real word is probably more like "P-O'd".

    Hmmm.....It really doesn't matter if you came from Harvard to run a company on the rocks or if you came up from the ranks to do it, seems to me. That doesn't make it any better a failure.

    Walter Chrysler was a machinist. He didn't run his company into bankruptcy. Nor Henry Ford, the mechanic and clock repairman.

    I would personally not vote to elevate Studebaker management's record to that of a beacon for future CEOs of car companies. I think they were as blind as bats myself.
    Romney's record seems to show he had a lot more on the ball than they did.

  • berriberri Member Posts: 10,165
    AMC did successfully develop an independent niche into the sixties. Abernathy was a rather interesting leader there too I think and maybe a bit better manager. But Romney did push the "economy and comfort" vision that worked for quite awhile.

    As for Studebaker, the only people that really stand out in my mind are Brooks Stevens and Bourke, both designers. (Virgil Exner did some design work there in the late 40's/early 50's as well and got crosswise with Loewy IIRC).
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    edited November 2010
    Oh yeah Abernathy. I'd like to read up a bit more on him.

    Studebaker had some design talent in Stevens. Packard's forte was always engineering--that's what they excelled at. Packard's styling was very very conservative, and not really suited to the Postwar Boom.

    But all these smaller automakers were pushing a huge rock uphill. I think AMC worked out the best possible outcome, which really wasn't all that great.

    In the late 40s and early 50s, you could sell just about anything on wheels. People were so hungry for cars. This was good and this was bad. Good because it injected prosperity into the smaller automakers, but bad because I think it gave them a false sense of reality about their place in the auto industry of the future.

    While the Little Four or Five tinkered in their workshops, the Big Three was quietly moving a huge concrete block over their heads to flatten them with.
  • jpfjpf Member Posts: 496
    I believe the last Studebakers were built in Hamilton, Ontario up until 1965 or 1966. The last that I heard about the Avanti model is it has been manufactured in Mexico since 2006. Before the Avanti was manufactured in the southern U.S.
  • uplanderguyuplanderguy Member Posts: 15,799
    Studebaker did not file bankruptcy. They merged with Worthington in 1967 and their corporate bones are part of a leasing company called Studebaker-Worthington today. They only went out of the automobile business.
  • lemkolemko Member Posts: 15,261
    George Reeves as Clark Kent wasn't as much of a nebbish as Christopher Reeve as Clark Kent.

    Superman's car

    Metropolis Police cruiser
  • uplanderguyuplanderguy Member Posts: 15,799
    edited November 2010
    Andy Granatelli was an employee of Studebaker in the early '60's. He was part of the Paxton Supercharger acquisition. He was quite friendly with Sherwood Egbert, the President of Studebaker, and spoke at the Studebaker National Museum a few years back. He's pretty memorable! He said he was looking for a house in South Bend when the shutdown was announced. He was largely responsible for the Avanti setting new land speed records at Bonneville in '63.
  • jljacjljac Member Posts: 649
    edited November 2010
    Both Studebaker and Packard were victims of tax policies. Packard used to have its bodies built by Briggs in the same way GM had bodies by Fisher. Packard also sold engines and frames to other companies that put bodies on them. When Walter Briggs died in 1952, the family had to sell the body business to pay the inheritance taxes and Chrysler bought up most of the body plants.

    Packard got a lease on one of the plants and decided to move final assembly over there too. That did not work well, there were numerous costs and delays and quality suffered. Bad quality for an expensive car = bad news.

    Studebaker lost a lot of money between 1954-1958. They could not apply those tax losses to automobile manufacturing when they became profitable again in 1959. To recover the tax losses, they had to diversity into other profitable businesses. As Studebaker bought other businesses, its board of directors became more diversified and the traditional automobile men became a minority. Their duty and main objective was to be certain that Studebaker was a profitable corporation, whether or was in the business of manufacturing autos. What if they could have applied the tax losses to the same auto industry where the losses were incurred? What caused the losses in the first place?

    At the time Packard merged with Studebaker, there was a debate whether Studebaker's break-even point was 165,000 cars (as Studebaker claimed) or 282,000 cars (as Packard claimed. In 1959, the auto division was profitable selling only 153,823 cars. I say the reason was because Studebaker got tough with the UAW, reduced the pay, the number of employees and the personal time.

    Nobody provides an alternative explanation for this changed situation except to blame bad management BUT when Studebaker got outside management, the first thing the new management did was get tough with the union. James Nance did that in 1954-1955 and Sherwood Egbert did it in 1961-62.

    In both cases sales increased as prices became more competitive, but the recovery was not sustainable without new models. Studebaker could not apply its tax losses to new models, so it diversified into other businesses making a bad situation worse for those who wanted Studebaker to stay in the auto business.
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 25,543
    Am I seeing things, or does that one picture look like Clark Kent is pulling up in front of the Mayberry Sheriff's office? The Andy Griffth Show was shot on the "40 Acre Backlot" that changed hands many times over the decades and is now commercial space. Maybe Superman was shot there, as well?
  • jljacjljac Member Posts: 649
    My father's friend from high school bought a Nash Rambler around 1954 when it was the smaller 100' wheel base version driven by Lois Lane in the Superman TV series. Since we lived in South Bend, he was seen as something as a traitor for buying it at a time when Studebaker was in trouble, but I secretly liked it a lot and wished that Studebaker had something like it. It was the same hardtop model in the ad here

    I thought that the full size Nash was too big and bulky and that the Metro was too small, but the small Rambler was just right and the spare tire behind the trunk was cool too. Nash quit building the small version in 1956 and 1957 but brought it back in 1958 as the Rambler American. Nobody seemed to mind the "flathead" engine because you could get the car for about $1,700. During that time, the full sized Nash slowly died out.
  • uplanderguyuplanderguy Member Posts: 15,799
    I gotta admit, Andre, that sure does look like 'the courthouse' in Mayberry!

    Now, a Nash Healey is one Nash I could enjoy owning, although IMO it shares the goofy inboard headlights of other Nashes. It's pretty cool everywhere else though.
  • keystonecarfankeystonecarfan Member Posts: 181
    Studebaker never declared bankruptcy. It simply exited the auto business, but survived as a diversified corporation. Through a series of mergers, the Studebaker name finally disappeared in 1979, but the stockholders never lost their ownership stake because of a bankruptcy.

    The company's relationship with the union was a complex one. During the tumultuous 1930s, Studebaker avoided the violence that happened at GM and Ford, thanks to a willingness to negotiate with the UAW. But after the war, Studebaker refused to take a strike to get its labor costs in line like the other companies did, and the union became increasingly militant. When those higher labor costs became a real disadvantage (after the postwar sellers' market ended about 1951), the union refused to budge until it was too late.

    The union did not kill Studebaker all by itself. But its insistence in maintaining high wages and lower productivity gave management a lot less room to maneuver when times got tough.
  • jljacjljac Member Posts: 649
    edited November 2010
    I agree with everything keystonecarfan said. High labor costs and low productivity were not the only reasons for Studebaker’s demise, but they were very important reasons because those costs are reflected in the price of the vehicle. I emphasized labor cost earlier in response to posts that take the position that labor costs had little or nothing to do with Studebaker’s demise.

    The public expected small cars to cost less than big cars, and that was true when applied to the small Nash Rambler. I was in error when I said that it cost $1,700 in an earlier post. . .in 1954 you could get one for $1,550. The other small cars of the 1953-1955 era when (Ford and Chevy were flooding the market) were often more expensive than the full size cars. For example , Hudson spent 12 million dollars to introduce the Hudson Jet in 1953 ( By comparison, Studebaker developed the 1959 Lark for about half that amount including the station wagon.) The Hudson Jet looked like a short and narrow Ford and only 21,143 of the 1953 model were sold and that figure dropped to 14,224 units in 1954. See which also says this:

    The Jet was Hudson's response to the popular Nash Rambler, and Hudson, with its limited financial resources, chose to pursue a compact instead of refurbishing its line of full-size cars. However the Jet failed to capture buyers as the Rambler had for Nash. . . . Although the Hudson Jet well appointed, it was priced higher than base level full-sized Chevrolet, Ford, and Plymouth sedans.

    Willys had the same problem of building small cars that cost more than full-size Big Three products. Therefore, when Studebaker sales hit the skids in 1954, it’s management had good reason to believe that building smaller cars was not the way to save the company because the small cars of that era (Crosley, Hudson Jet, Willys Aero, Henry J ) had failed or were in the process of failing. Only the small Nash Rambler was an exception to that rule and it was developed before George Romney took over. Kudos to Nash.

    As Nash/AMC pushed Studebaker our of its position as the fourth largest American automaker and mounted a challenge to Plymouth as the third best selling American car, Studebaker finally realized that "bigger was not better" and turned its sedans into Larks. The change worked for a couple of years, but Studebaker had no tax incentive to put the profits into new models - it's tax incentive was to get out of the auto manufacturing business. The choice was to save the corporation or to try and save auto production.

    By 1959, Studebaker could make a profit selling 125,000+cars which it could not do when Packard bought it in 1954. Studebaker sold 133,826 of its 1955 model and had a terrible year even though it was a big improvement over the 81,930 it sold for the 1954 model year. If the reason for that changed situation was not reduced labor costs, what was the reason(s)?
  • jljacjljac Member Posts: 649
    Last night ABC News reported that South Korea sold 735,000 cars and light trucks in America while we were restricted to selling 6,140 cars there. ican-goods-cars-president-g20-12125993

    Here is a very informative site about US auto production.

    Ten years ago, in 2000, Pontiac was the best selling GM division, with 573,805 cars produced. Chevrolet was second with 547,294 cars produced. GM's best selling division of 2000 is gone now. That same year, Oldsmobile produced 237,399, which was less than Studebaker produced in 1950 (320,884) and 1951 (246,195).

    Studebaker did that before it installed its conveyor system in 1954 which shipped bodies to the assembly plant and brought back body parts from the stamping plant. They were moving bodies and body parts by truck in 1950. That is why I am skeptical about claims that Studebaker needed a new factory in the 1960s when it could make a profit by selling half the number of cars it produced in 1950 with less than half the number of employees. Production facilities were way down the list of Studebaker's problems.

    Maybe this discussion group should be called US Orphan cars. That way the participation would be ever expanding in members, makes and models.
  • martianmartian Member Posts: 220
    I was just looking at Raymond Loewy's book of design..and his performance (designing of the Avanti) was amazing-basically, they car was designed on a shoestring, and brought from concept to final design in less than 3 months.
    Amazing design-too bad it came too late for Studebaker.
    I still want an Avanti.
  • uplanderguyuplanderguy Member Posts: 15,799
    Nice, but not perfect....for instance, the door handle guards are installed upside-down:
  • jljacjljac Member Posts: 649
    I got my Avanti when I was 19 years old and took it with me when I was in the army at Ft. Dix, New Jersey. Sometimes when I got a three day weekend, I would drive it home to Chicago. It was a fantastic car, especially at night with all the instruments lit in red and the overhead rocker switches. It was like driving a Lear jet.
    I have an Avanti sound clip at the bottom of this page at my web site.
  • jljacjljac Member Posts: 649
    We have been discussing the Studebaker factory so much that I made a gif slideshow and added it to the botttom of the page here

    The buildings in the images are the final assembly buildings. I took the images before and during demolition, 2002-2007. I also have a sound clip where the Studebaker factory workers in 1952 sing their song, "Rolling Along for 100 Years." I think you will enjoy it.
  • jljacjljac Member Posts: 649
    This is what looks so cool in red lights at night.

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