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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

1948 Studebaker in the US Market

"First in style--first in vision--first by far with a postwar car" was Studebaker's catchy advertising for the 1948 models.
 Bombs were dropping day and night on the Axis-held territories and our soldiers were laying down their lives for freedom when the folks at Studebaker began to plan their post-war automobiles. President Roosevelt had asked the manufacturers to suspend design in the early, dark days of the war. Now, early in 1943 he and his advisors knew the tide had turned in favour of the Allies Forces. Victory was coming and FDR gave the automakers a “thumbs up” to begin designing cars again. Millions would be needed when victory came.

            Strikes at suppliers’ factories severely crippled production in South Bend, Indiana until December 1945. When workers did have the material to build cars, they dribbled off the line, far and few between. Even then, vehicles were often missing parts. Studebakers with wood in place of the bumpers were commonly shipped because chromium and hardened steel were in such short supply. 

Father and son teams were common at Studebaker a company in the transportation business for 94 years in 1947.

There might be few cars but there was advertising by the bushel basket and that focused almost exclusively on the father and son heritage of Studebaker employees. The actual cars and trucks were downplayed. The reason was that the company would announce an all-new 1947 passenger car line in April of 1946. 

The 1947 Studebaker Commander.

            As the largest of the independent North American automakers, Studebaker’s officials wanted a car that would be the absolute latest word in modern styling. They intended to startle the world with a vehicle that was long, lithe, low and lovely. To that end one of the most famous teams of designers ever assembled in one place created this car. Every name is a automotive legend, and all had a hand in giving birth to the 1947 Studebaker: Raymond Loewy, Virgil Exner, Gordon Beuhrig, Holden Koto, Robert Bourke and John Reinhart.

The resulting automobile was stunning. There was nothing like it on the road. Jokes abounded about the radical departure from tradition; Comedian Bob Hope told millions of listeners tuned into his popular radio show that one couldn’t tell the front of a Studebaker from the back, that it was impossible to determine if the Studebaker was coming or going. The humour was priceless publicity.

            It wasn’t easy to get a new car of any kind with shortages of materials and strikes everywhere. Studebaker finally got production up to 1,000 cars a month in October and declared a total of 161,498 units built when the long model year ended.

Interior of the 1947 Studebaker Land Cruiser offered comfort for six passengers.

            After quick changeover, the new 1948 Studes began rolling down the assembly line on November 27, 1948. Little changed from last year, Champions boasted now a Strat-O-Line hood ornament with a gun sight added to it and a larger Studebaker emblem on the hood. There were only four grille bars this year. The instrument panel was tweaked to make it more functional and interiors were much the same as previously.

            The larger, more luxurious Commander line was kissed an extra chrome strip atop the grille and given an interior upgrade; otherwise they were very similar to the 1947 cars.

Only the 1948 Studebaker Commander Regal DeLuxe Coupe could be ordered in any of five metallic colours.

            This year’s offerings could be had in Alleghany Gray, Iroquois Blue, Peacock Green, Rodeo Tan, Shenandoah Green, Tulip Cream, Velvet Black and Winetone Maroon. Five metallic paint jobs were available, but only for the trend-setting ragtops: Balsam Green, Cumberland Blue, Gala Brown, Silver Gray and Varsity Maroon Metallic.

            Under the hood loafed the faithful, gas-sipping 2.8-litre (170-cubic inch), six-cylinder mill first introduced in 1939. This economy-minded engine generated a good 80 horsepower while delivering 9.4 litres/100 kilometres  (25 miles to the US gallon).

There were enough options to fill a corncrib and enough left over to fill up a silo. Owners could order the famed Hill Holder and electric turn signals.  Wheels could be dressed up with whitewall tires and plastic or stainless steel wheel trim rings. Front fenders could be gussied up with some slick chrome ornaments. Bumper extensions, bumper guards and a trunk guard were on the list. For a formal look, there were fender skirts for the rear, an external sun visor and side window “awnings.”

Visit my old car website at: The Oilspot Eh!
Entertainment, news and weather could be had with the Skyway eight-tube push button radio or the Starline six-tube version. There was a cowl-mounted radio antenna that could be controlled from inside the cabin. One could ride out the winter months all toasty warm with the Climatizer heater and defroster or the less expensive Quad-Duty heater. There were two types of rear view mirrors.  Ashtrays, three kinds of seat covers, arm rest covers, the Auto-Serv tissue dispenser, fancy steering wheels and horn rings were all extra cost goodies.

Them there were fog lights, back-up lights, an under-the-hood light and a trunk light to boot. With the trunk light, one could easily spot the factory optional Studebaker luggage. An automatic windshield washer, a windshield wiper booster, a hydraulic jack, undercoating, tire chains and overdrive and more were on the list.

            Studebaker’s roots were Midwestern and they went down deep, almost a hundred years. Marketing wisely reflected that heritage. Large advertisements showcasing farms, farmers and their Studebakers were taken out in agricultural magazines, like the Farm Journal.

            Advertising painted the 1948 Studebaker with a rich brush, claiming that the cars were amazing in performance, comfort and handling, that they were engineered to give exceptional mileage and that the brakes are automatically adjusting.  There was much talk about the aircraft-inspired black light dash dials and how they contributed to safer night driving along with the oversized windows that enormously expanded the range of vision.

The 1949 Studebaker truck lineup was handsome, indeed.

            The advert ended with an inducement to see Studebaker’s far-advanced new postwar Champion and Commander cars—and to see the sensational new 1949 super line of Studebaker trucks already in dealerships.

            Despite a substantial price hike, sales for the model year hit a record: 166,069 units built. Studebaker was riding high; it was the ninth most popular selling car in America.


 Visit my old car website at: The Oilspot Eh!
Copyright James C. Mays 2007
 All rights reserved.

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