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Studebaker History Post WW2

Article by Mark Trotta

With origins dating back to 1852, the Studebaker company has a long and colorful history. This article focuses on passenger cars built after World War Two.

Studebaker car history

Post-War Models

After the Second World War ended, Studebaker was the one of the first Automakers to offer freshly-styled cars to the American public. The new 1947 models were announced in early 1946.

1947 Studebaker

Offered in Coupe or convertible, the Champion was their lower-priced model. Top of the line was the Commander (coupe or convertible). Automatic transmission was available in 1949.

By the late 1940's, Studebaker was the fourth largest car company in America, right behind Ford, GM, and Chrysler.

Bullet Nose Studebaker

The "bullet nose" models were produced in 1950 and 1951.

1950 Studebaker bullet nose

The year 1952 was Studebaker's 100th year in business, and passenger car models saw a mild restyle. The 232 cubic-inch V8, introduced a year earlier, proved to be reliable and economical.

1952 Studebaker Champion

Starliner Hardtop And Starlight Coupe

Heralded as one of the best new car designs of the fifties, Raymond Loewy spearheaded the teams that created the 1953 Starliner and Starlight. The aerodynamic shape was unlike anything seen before.

1950 Studebaker bullet nose

Offered in 1953 and 1954, the Starlight was a coupe (with a B pillar), and the more expensive Starliner model was a hardtop (no B pillar).

Studebaker-Packard Corporation

By the early 1950's, Detroit's Big Three (General Motors, Ford Motor Company and Chrysler Corporation) were dominating new car sales, while smaller U.S. car manufacturers fought for their share of the market. Hoping to strengthen sales organizations and reduce production costs for both parties, Studebaker and Packard merged in 1954.

Studebaker car history

Studebaker Speedster

This special edition two-door hardtop was offered for one year only (1955). Features included leather interior, unique dash panel, and two tone paint combinations. Power was from a 259 cubic-inch small-block V8.

Studebaker car history

Studebaker Hawk Series

Produced between 1956 and 1964, the Studebaker Hawk series was designed to compete with the Ford Thunderbird and the Oldsmobile Starfire. Four models were offered; the Flight Hawk and Power Hawk cars were two-door coupes, while the Golden Hawk and Sky Hawk were hardtops.

Studebaker car history

Studebaker's 289 cubic-inch V8 debuted in 1956.

Studebaker Golden Hawk

Produced from 1956-1958, the Golden Hawk was a stylish two-door coupe weighing 3360 pounds. First-year models were powered by Packard's 352ci V8 which produced 275 horsepower. At the time, it was second only to the Chrysler 300 (300 horsepower).

what was the first muscle car

Some consider the 1956 Golden Hawk to be the first muscle car.

With Packard's V8 no longer being produced, 1957 Golden Hawks were fitted with Studebaker's 289 V8 equipped with a McCulloch supercharger. Engine output was 275 horsepower, same as the Packard V8.

Packard Discontinued

By 1958, the company's sales had fallen to their lowest level since World-War-Two. The decision was made to drop the Packard brand.

Silver Hawk

Replacing the Golden Hawk, the Silver Hawk was produced from 1959-1961 and was powered by the 289 V8. A four-speed gearbox became available in 1961.

1961 Silver Hawk

Studebaker Lark

Debuting in the Fall of 1958 for the 1959 model year, the all-new Lark was available in two and four door sedans, convertible and wagon. In it's first year out, the compact Lark was very successful and produced the highest one-year profit the company had experienced up to that time.

Studebaker car history

The Lark's success was to be short lived. In 1960, the Big Three (as well as Rambler) countered with their own compacts, and Studebaker again found itself struggling. The Lark was the last successful car for the company.

Studebaker Avanti

Early in 1961, in hopes to boost the company's image and attract younger buyers, Raymond Loewy was commissioned to design the new Avanti sports car.

1963 Studebaker Avanti at classic car show

Studebaker Avanti

After great initial reception and an encouraging amount of pre-orders, the factory ran into production issues. The tolerances of the 100+ fiberglass body parts and panels were off, and the cars could not be assembled. There were reports of the rear window glass popping out at high speeds due to air pressure. Months rolled on and production backed up before the Avanti was in dealer showrooms.

Indy Pace Car

For the 1962 Indianapolis 500, the new Avanti was selected to pace the field, but the company was unable to furnish the car in time. As a substitute, a 1962 Lark Daytona Convertible held the honor. This would mark the last time an independent manufacturer's car was selected to pace the Indy 500.

Studebaker car history

The Pace Car Lark was equipped with a 289 CID V-8 producing 210 horsepower.

Closure Of South Bend Facilities

Studebaker's main production facilities were based in in South Bend, Indiana. They also had satellite plants in Ontario, Canada. In December of 1963, the South Bend plant ceased automobile production.

On the premise that the company could still be profitable by making just 20,000 vehicles a year, all production was shifted to the Canadian plant. Studebaker engines were no longer available, in their place were Chevy straight-6 and small-block V8 engines.

Studebaker Final Years

For the 1965 model year, 19,435 cars produced, which was close to the projected goal. With just 8,947 models sold for the 1966 model year, the decision was made to close the Ontario facilities in March of 1966, ending the company's 114 year history.

Related Articles:

Studebaker Avanti (1962-1964)

Packard History (Post WW2)

American Automotive Industry During World War Two

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