Last week’s photo showed a 1947 Studebaker Champion Regal De Luxe, one of the first American cars to be redesigned after World War II.
Readers really surprised us on this one. We expected few to remember the long run and sad demise of Studebaker, which moved to Canada in late 1963 and died two years later. In fact, however, we received more entries than ever before. Read on for the history of Studebaker.
Chosen randomly from the correct entries was Jeff Brown, of Evans, who told us:
“The car contest is a picture of a 1947 Studebaker. Of course, your hint made it a lot easier to narrow it down! I like learning something new about cars because I had no idea Studebaker started out as wagon-makers.”
Brown wins a prize from The Augusta Chronicle. Other readers identifying the vehicle were:
AIKEN: Jerry K. Love said: “I’ve owned three Studebakers years and years ago. And they were excellent cars. They had self-adjusting brakes, and the V-8 in the Studebaker would really go.”
Also: Robert Barker and Raymond Richards
APPLING: Connie Renew said: “I think it is a Studebaker.”
AUGUSTA: Lowell Fritsche said: “Everybody knows Studebaker made covered wagons. Starting back in the 1800s, for the army. Anybody who had a Studebaker wagon had a really good one. In 1956, Studebaker started getting more into the commercial car market, went in big on police and taxis. The body was built big, with big doors, big seats and a lot of room. They made good taxis and police cars. The 289 V-8 in the Marshal was used for police work. They were built really well, did well in commercial market, but of course in the end that wasn’t good enough. Studebaker merged with Packard and that was it.”
Walker Mobley Jr. said: “The picture is of a 1947 Studebaker Champion Regal De Luxe. The Commander for this year had three small medallions on the front fender vent door. I don’t see them in this picture. I don’t remember seeing very many of these on the streets but I was not that old at that time. The later models with the unusual wrap-around rear window always looked like a lighthouse going down the road. Keep these coming!”
Norman Lewis said: “This week’s car is the 1947 Studebaker four-door sedan with ‘suicide’ rear doors. My grandmother had a ’50-something Studebaker with the front end that looked like the propeller was missing.”
Tom Wall said it was a Studebaker Conestoga, “named after the covered wagons out west.”
Sheila Stahl said: “I love the 1950-51 Bullet Nose Starlight Coupe, with the CinemaScope view. The rear window wrapped around to meet the B-pillars, as the C-pillars were dispensed with entirely. I just missed buying one by a week. Someone fortunate got it first! Still looking.”
Gary Engen wrote: “It’s a 1947 Studebaker, probably the Champion Sedan model. I remember back in the late ’50s, I was a member of a Scout Explorer post whose project was the restoration of a 1950 Studebaker. We learned a lot trying to get it running and on the road. The Studebaker family was building horse-drawn wagons back in the 1800s and it is said that during the height of westward migration half of the wagons used were Studebakers.”
Dalton Brannen wrote: “The auto is a 1947 Studebaker. It is the lower-priced model because the higher-priced Commander had trim on the side vent. My father had a ’49 or ’50 Studebaker in battleship gray. It had the suicide doors as all Studebakers had of that era. It had what was for the time a rare overdrive three-speed manual transmission in which you did not have to use the clutch on the upshift.”
Hilton Turner said: “I had an uncle who had one when I was a little boy, and I could remember it.”
Sam Roney said it was perhaps the Champion model.
Carolyn Ogles wrote: “Fascinating history about a blacksmith shop opening in 1852 in South Bend, Ind. The company became the largest manufacturer of wagons and buggies. Your very well-informed readers will contribute more interesting history.”
John Wesley Stokes wrote: “It’s a Studebaker. My grandmother had one that often stuck in second gear. Hers had jump seats between the front and back seats.”
Glenn Sarver guessed it was the President model. He owned a two-door Champion in the 1940s, which he said got more than 30 miles per gallon, had lots of legroom and was a good car.
Butch Peebles said a woman next door to him bought one brand new in the 1950s.
Also: Art Thompson
BEECH ISLAND: Tony Tipton said: “We had one when I was growing up, and it had the suicide doors on the back. The fender popped out on the rear, the window looked just like it, and there was a little air vent on the fender, with a handle inside. You could push down and pop open the vent and catch air as you went down the road. Ours was kind of a drab green.”
BLYTHE: Joann Holbert said: “That would be a Studebaker.”
CANTON, GA.: David Anderson wrote: “Any devotee of What Is It? should immediately recognize this as a Studebaker, especially with that 95 years and wagon hint. In 1852, the Studebaker brothers, Henry and Clem, founded their blacksmith shop and produced their first wagon. They would go on to provide wagons to the Union army and later the White House before evolving into the South Bend, Ind.-based Studebaker Corp. producing automobiles.
“But then again, I could have an edge here because of the high school sweetheart that I fell head over heels in love with and eventually married. It is through this marriage that I came to know her ‘crazy’ uncle. It was the early ’70s, and this man was collecting Studebakers, of all things! He was also notoriously known, at least by the family, as the world’s worst driver and a not much better pilot. Despite this, he actually remained nearly accident-free. Makes you truly believe in guardian angels!
“First off, everyone in the family is quick to point out that he was an uncle by marriage only. He was an Air Force pilot (I do not remember if he was still active) as well as a private pilot and undoubtedly the largest Studebaker collector in Augusta – if not the Southeast. If it was a postwar Studebaker, he probably had at least one copy of it and most likely a dozen parts cars to go along with it. Every time I was over at my future wife’s house (which my father-in-law swears was every day!) this uncle was dragging yet another car home.
“From the bullet-nose cars of the ’50s, to the utilitarian Larks and even the beautiful Golden Hawks of the ’60s, he had them all. Any piece of land that he could beg, borrow, rent, lease or buy was covered with these cars, including the field behind his home. If you ever saw him leaving with one of these cars on a trailer, it was most likely because he had worked a trade and would return with at least two in its place.
“I believe that he had legitimately formed a Studebaker museum for tax purposes, but aside from one early-’50s truck that he had professionally and beautifully restored and one of those Golden Hawks, most everything else was just a rusting corpse in one of those fields and certainly not museum quality.
“He passed on suddenly several years ago and left his widow with a mess to contend with as he apparently mostly had gentlemanly handshake agreements for the storage of all those cars. Eventually everything was sold off to settle his estate, and I truly hope that everything that was worthy of being saved, rescued, resurrected or reused found its way into the hands of another ‘crazy’ Studebaker collector!”
CRAWFORDVILLE, GA.: Dorsey Cooper
EVANS: Jerry Paul wrote: “This week it is a Studebaker. Do not know which model, maybe a President, Champion or Commander?”
Jim Williamson said: “It is a Studebaker, which was an all new design for all three models: the Champion, Commander and Land Cruiser. It was introduced in May ’47, well ahead of the Big Three from Detroit, whose designs were out in 1949.”
Bill Harding wrote: “The reference to 95 years before 1947 was a dead giveaway because 1852 was the year when the five Studebaker brothers began making metal parts for wagons in South Bend, Ind. Later they produced entire wagons like the ones hauled around by Budweiser’s Clydesdales. The company made its last horse-drawn wagons in 1919. Its first battery-powered car debuted in 1902 and its first gas-powered car in 1904.
“The 1947 Studebakers were the first all-new post-World War II cars. The rest of the auto industry sold mildly restyled pre-war vehicles. Virgil Exner, who created the mid-1950s ‘Forward Look’ for Chrysler, was responsible for styling the 1947 Studebaker. Robert E. Bourke designed the Starlight coupe with a four-piece wrap-around rear window, which was quite an innovation. It prompted people to ask, ‘Which way is it going?’
“Ominously for Studebaker, the rest of the auto industry began to introduce newly styled cars and General Motors introduced the modern overhead-valve V-8 in 1949. Studebaker tried its best to stay in the game, producing its first OHV V-8 in 1951, which was the same year Chrysler introduced its new OHV V-8. It took four more years for Chevrolet, Packard, and Pontiac to finally bring out their OHV V-8s.
“Studebaker made styling history with its 1953 models, which are considered classics. That was not enough to keep the company alive. The South Bend unionized labor force was draining the company’s finances. Quality, followed by volume, kept slipping. Manufacturing in Indiana was eliminated on Dec. 20, 1963. All assembly was consolidated in Hamilton, Ontario. The Indiana engine foundry was kept open through the end of 1964 production. After that, Chevrolet engines were used. March 16, 1966, was the last day for Studebaker as the Hamilton plant was permanently closed.”
Pete Schiffbauer guessed the Champion sedan: “I went with it because of the vents in the fenders that sent air into the foot wells. In 1954 they came out with a Conestoga wagon.”
Glenn Frostholm said: “The car in this week’s contest is most likely a Studebaker Champion, but possibly a Studebaker Commander, which is larger than the Champion. I enjoy seeing the older model cars. They are more distinct in their styling and easier to tell one brand from another.”
Pam Harrison wrote: “The make of this week’s automobile is a Studebaker. The hint took me to Conestoga, which Studebaker made in 1954-1955.”
PJ Rodgers wrote: “Founded by five brothers who were taught how to make wagons and wheelbarrows and who were in the right place at the right time, the Studebaker Brothers Manufacturing Co. of South Bend, Ind., was founded in 1852 – 95 years before the 1947 Studebaker shown in the photo.
“They were advertised as ‘The Largest Wagon Factory in the World’ and made their initial fortune in producing wagons for those rushing West in prospects of finding gold. Studebaker also produced handsome sleighs that in the mid-1850s were listed at selling from $57.50 to $125.
“The brothers secured a large contract to build wagons for the U.S. Army. They produced myriad types of wagons from hearses, pumpers, farm sprinklers to mail delivery wagons. However, almost everyone is familiar with their most famous wagon, a 1903 Studebaker, red in color, used by Budweiser and is pulled by the matched set of Clydesdales at functions throughout the United States.
“I believe the depicted Studebaker to be a Champion De Luxe four-door sedan. My parents owned a later model, but in the two-door version. In 1963, in tribute to their beginnings, Studebaker made a Wagonaire, which was a multifunction station wagon that had a sliding rear roof.
“Studebakers were known for their quality, and it was unfortunate their auto-making came to an end in 1966.”
Wayne Wilke wrote: “The car is a 1947 Studebaker Champion. Designer Raymond Loewy’s distinctive ‘you weren’t sure whether it was coming or going’ designs debuted in the late ’40s, and the uber-distinctive bullet nose first appeared in the 1950 model. When Studebaker produced its last cars in 1966, it had been the oldest auto/wagon producer in business, having started out in the 1850s.
“In the mid-’50s into the ’60s, two-door hardtop models of the Commanders, Silver and Gold Hawks and Avanti were beauties, but their engines, reliability and cost just were not competitive with the Big Three.”
Larry Heath wrote: “1947 Studebaker Champion – a new design for 1947 with styling that carried over into the ’50s. The styling was actually aerodynamic by the standards of the time. This same basic styling caught on with the hot rod crowd in later years. The aerodynamic styling led to cars being used for speed records at Bonneville salt flats. Studebakers are still is use for this purpose, even today.”
Paul Perdue wrote: “This week’s automobile is a 1947 Studebaker, but 95 years ago the Studebaker Brothers Manufacturing Co. was founded in 1852 by Henry and Clement Studebaker. Their wagon-making began when their father, John Studebaker, taught them how to make wagons. As the demand for wagons grew throughout the country, the brothers (now blacksmiths in South Bend, Ind.) decided to start a wagon-making business.”
Also: Mike Iovino
GIRARD, GA.: Henry Glisson said that the 1947 Studebaker was the first car with self-adjusting brakes and that some models had a wrap-around back window.
GRANITEVILLE: Kyle Corley
GROVETOWN: Jack Williams said: “They used to make wagons, too, before they made cars.”
HEPHZIBAH: Johnny Williams said: “A Studebaker with the suicide doors.”
Also: Bill Wood
KEYSVILLE, GA.: Glenn Widner said: “The Studebaker Brothers Manufacturing Co. started building horse-drawn wagons in 1852 and started building automobiles in 1902 that were electric. They built gas cars till 1967, when they went out of business.”
LOUISVILLE, GA.: Bob Holbert said: “It is a 1947 Studebaker Champion. The pictured model is a sedan; the station wagon was called a Conestoga, a reference to the covered wagons of the 19th century. These model Studebakers were noted for looking like they were going both forward and backward at the same time, because the body design gave it almost a football shape: pointed at both ends.”
Jimmy Marsh guessed a Studebaker Wagonaire.
Johnnie Dekle said: “Before the days to automobiles, they built some heavy, strong freight wagons.”
MCBEAN: John Samuels said: “A Studebaker Champion with suicide doors.”
MARTINEZ: Joe Bert said: “That looks like a 1947 Studebaker Land Cruiser. Covered wagons were the original land cruisers. They made a De Luxe model and the top of the line was the Commander. In 1963 they came out with the Wagonaire until 1966. An awesome car.”
Hugh Scott said: “The make of the car is Studebaker.”
Jim Muraski said: “This week’s car is a 1947 Studebaker Commander. Studebaker started out as a wagon-builder in the 1800s.”
John Gasko said that when he was 16 in Florida, a friend had a late 1950s Studebaker Hawk: “It was built like a tank.”
Cheryl Cook said: “This week’s car is a Studebaker. My husband’s dad had a 1949 in the 1960s. In 1852, John Studebaker made the first covered wagon for his family. The covered wagon became a real status symbol for people who could afford one.”
Lloyd Schnuck wrote: “A 1947 Studebaker Commander four-door sedan. H&C Studebaker was founded in 1852 by Henry and Clement Studebaker in South Bend, Ind. They originally built wagons and all sorts of carriages, even built wheelbarrows for the California gold rush. Also built the Budweiser beer wagon in 1900 now pulled by the famous Clydesdales.
“Studebaker manufactured autos, bought other manufacturers, had one of the largest plants ever built, ultimately struggled financially, merged with Packard and finally out of the auto business (last vehicle produced December 20, 1963) with some of the last models, the Lark and Avanti.”
Perry Austin wrote: “I think it’s a Studebaker Champion sedan. It’s before my time, but I remember my dad calling them ‘stupidbakers’ (because that’s what the car line got nicknamed) and said that they looked like upside-down bathtubs.”
NEW ELLENTON: June Cofer said: Studebaker started out making wheelbarrows and things, and went on up to covered wagons and things.
NORTH AUGUSTA: Wayne Leslie said Studebaker Champion.
PERRY, FLA.: Larry Anderson wrote: “I think it’s a 1947 Studebaker Land Cruiser.
“The 1947 models were so revolutionary that it had other car-builders scurrying back to their drawing boards. While other manufacturers settled for rechroming their prewar models, the 1947 Studebaker, touted as ‘First by Far with a Postwar Car,” had a completely new body.
“The Land Cruiser exclusively rode the company’s longest wheelbase (124 inches), which provided additional legroom for rear-seat passengers. It featured center-opening rear doors called ‘suicide doors’ by some) and was powered by the larger of Studebaker’s two straight-six engines. The Land Cruiser’s suggested price of $2,043 included a one-piece curved windshield, an electric clock and carpeting front and rear.”
THOMSON: Ken Richards said: “When I saw the picture, I knew it was a Studebaker; then I read about the hint. That confirmed it to me that it was indeed a Studebaker.
“This was one of first body changes after World War II. The body style was streamlined with the fenders built into the body and no running boards. They had a six-cylinder engine that produced around 80 to 90 horsepower. I think they came out with a V-8 in 1950 or ’51. It’s a shame they went out of business; they had a good automobile.”
Also: Bill McCord
TIGNALL, GA.: Gene Wilson said: “They’re long gone now, but it was a body style you won’t forget. My daddy had a 1940 Studebaker that looked a lot different from this one.”
WAYNESBORO, GA.: Terry McClennon and Ray Keeper
NO CITY LISTED: Ruth Hendrick said: “My brother had one in the ’50s, and I kind of remember it looking like that.”
Terry Jones said: “It’s probably a Champion. I used to have one of those wonderful cars.”
Kevin de l’Aigle wrote: “The car looks like a 1947 Studebaker Dart. My dad said he had one similar, but a ’50s model. Amazing that Studebaker started making wagons in the 19th century before making cars!”
Also, Phil Verduce, Forrest Holler, Bill Agee, Elmer Singley, Booker T. Holmes, Geraldine Davis and Bill Thurmond.
– Glynn Moore, staff writer