Wednesday, June 24, 2009

1953 Studebaker Commander Convertible

Spotted in The Dalles, Oregon on June 10, this car is perfect for my first classic car profile. It is more than it seems, as Studebaker never sold any convertibles with this body style. But first, some history...

In 1947, Studebaker was "first by far with a postwar car;" the first major U.S. Automaker to have a significantly new car design that wasn't based on their prewar models. At the time, postwar carbuyers weren't really so concerned with models that were truly new designs. They hadn't been able to replace their cars since 1941, and having been in a depression, many had cars much older than that, or were young G.I. just coming back from the war with a lot of cash saved to buy a new car. The other carmakers held onto their new designs for a couple more years, by which time the Studebaker design had become dated. Studebaker planned new models for the company's 100th anniversary in 1952, but they didn't actually come out until 1953.

The 1953 Studebaker line featured a sleek hardtop coupe designed by Raymond Loewy and Bob Bourke based on an earlier show car, and the sedans featured similar lines. With their European-inspired lines, all were sleeker than just about anything else available. A single prototype 1953 convertible was built, but convertibles had only accounted for 2% of Studebaker's 1952 sales so it didn't go into production, and financial troubles kept them from making a convertible version in subsequent years.

This example actually started out as a 1956 Studebaker Golden Hawk Hardtop Coupe. In 1983, the roof was removed and a convertible top from a 1964 Dodge Dart was installed and the styling was changed to that of a 1953 model. Carol and Steve Hudson of The Dalles discovered the unfinished project in 1995 and completed it in 2003.

This beautiful car is perfectly restored and looks stunning with its red paint and white interior. It absolutely looks like a factory model, and if you don't know that Studebaker never actually amde any you'd never suspect that any significant work had been done to it. It is a shame that Studebaker never actually sold 1953 convertibles, but it makes this custom car that much more unique.

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