March '21

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6 THE SHOP MARCH 2021 (EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the second in a two-part series looking at the history of the Studebaker auto brand. Part I appeared in the August 2020 issue of THE SHOP.) T o recap the scene in the early 1950s, history shows that the all-new line of 1953 Studebakers was a good attempt at gaining market share. "I shall never forget the day that the new 1953 model cars were shown to the Studebaker Dealer Council for the first time. The showing was held in the center court of the Proving Ground. A huge sheet of white paper had been stretched across the entire width and at the signal of a blare of trumpets a Coral Red and beige Commander hardtop crashed through the paper barrier. The reaction of the dealers was ecstatic! Never before nor since have I witnessed such unbridled enthusiasm for a new model," recalled E.T. Reynolds, assis- tant to the VP of engineering at the time. Most of the attention went to the beau- tiful Starliner and Starlight hardtops and coupes, which ran on a 120.5-inch wheel- base and looked striking. The sleek, stylish cars became known as low jobs because of their lowered stance and were promoted as being family sports cars. In the end, however, the European styling theme really didn't go over too well with the American buying public. People may have loved the looks, but they didn't step up and purchase them, and an early production faux pas (the front clips didn't fit the rest of the car, so extensive changes in metal dies had to take place, taking months) didn't help matters as a lot of buyers that had made advanced orders canceled because of the resulting lengthy delays. 6 THE SHOP MARCH 2021 From wagons to horseless carriages to an American original. By James Maxwell THE STUDEBAKER STORY PART II December 1954 was the cover date of this Science and Mechanics magazine that featured a lengthy story on the new 1955 line of Studebaker Commanders. "They are building more than a car down in South Bend right now. They are reconstructing a few dreams that are not as old-fashioned as some people think..." Illustrated in this 1955 advertisement are the four-door President and the two-door Conestoga wagon. Studebaker dropped to 13th position in domestic car builder sales that year at 116,333 vehicles sold. Studebaker came out with a wagon for 1954—its first since 1939—playing up the company history angle by naming the new two-door Conestoga after the com- pany's original horse-drawn covered wagons.

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