View Full Version : ID Number Information

04-19-2005, 01:01 PM
I just bought my first studebaker. I'm the proud papa of a 1953 Commander Starliner. It seems original with 92K miles (original paint, chrome, options, even the owner's manual, and registration cards back to 1968 when it lived in Spring Valley, CA). It has no accident damage and no rust spots larger than a nickel, but it's 50 years old and needs lots of tlc. I have a question about the VIN. The numbers are as follows: The data plate is 4H-K5 7818, which I assume means it's a Commander Hardtop. The engine number, and the number on the title, is V-252165 which I belive makes it a 53 v-8 (232ci). The serial number is 8833739, which I think means it was built in LA. They say there is a paper tag behind the glove box with more info, but that's long gone.

Is there anything more that can be determined from the numbers? The door panels are two tone gray, and the headliner is the original undamaged gray which I guess means that the upholstery should be Airway Gray nylon. The upholstery is actually a striped gray nylon, in fantastic shape, but doesn't look like any pictures I've seen. there is no chanelling at the driver's seat back, but if it's a replacement thay matched every seam, and used a gray vinyl back.

Is there a source for the original build sheet so that I can check the originality? I'll try to post photos, I saw a note about that in another discussion.


G. Howes

04-19-2005, 01:25 PM
It sounds like you have the original seat cloth if its striped. The original cloth has about 1/2" wide black stripes on grey. The material is kind of knappy or like terry cloth or a towel and tears easily. The back sides (where rear passengers knees hit) of the front seat are grey vinyl same as the headliner. There should be 3 tufting buttons on the front seat bottom cushion and one on each rear bottom cushion. The driver's side has a sort of insert with pleats in the back only. The other seat backs are plain. The trim covers on the sides of the front seat that hide the hinges are covered with the same cloth as the seats. Door panels are black ribbed vinyl on the bottom and grey above the chrome trim. The rear seat console is black vinyl. I think your car also would have come with carpet front and rear. Its a grey/brown with a short knap and not loops. If you can get a copy of the John Bridge's book on the '53 and '54's there are lots of good photos of the interior and upholstery. I have a picture of a original '53 rear seat with the airway grey that I will try posting.

My '53 champion starliner had the striped airway grey cloth interior and very little was left after 30yrs of mice.

What color is your car?

Jeff H

'53 Champion Hardtop

04-19-2005, 01:33 PM
Sounds like you've lucked upon a neat car!;) "Yes" to all your assumptions about the numbers.

A copy of the build sheet for YOUR Stude can be obtained from the Studebaker Museum. They'll need that serial# and $40 bucks to look it up in the archives and provide you with a copy. This'll tell you the exact build date and options the car had from the factory. Sometimes, it can show where the car was destined for or what dealership might have ordered it. But if it was simply built for stock (like my 53 was), there's gonna be no info to hint where it was originally sold from.

The upholstery sounds original. E-mail me a photo or two for confirmation. It's quite rare to find even simply intact examples of that striped Airway seat covering. Most of them have rotted with age.[V]

Miscreant at large.

04-19-2005, 02:47 PM
Here's some photo links. The seat fabric is installed with buttons like original, and I finally found the original uphostery hidden underneath. They did a great job making it look original, and it was difficult to find a spot to see the old fabric. I had to pull up a back seat and unstitch a corner.




The color is a faded but original Chippewa Green with Monterey Beige top. By the way, the red truck is my '41 chevy half-ton. The one I promised my wife would be the only old vehicle I would ever restore - but I just couldn't pass up the deal on the commander.

G. Howes

04-19-2005, 02:49 PM
Sorry, here's a better photo post.

G. Howes

04-19-2005, 04:16 PM
Computer picture colors can be deceiving, but from the last link the car looks like Tahoe Green (a little faded out) with an Olympic Gray top. The colors that you describe were not an available two tone combination for 1953. Vernon (LA) did have some unique features on cars they built, but I still say that your car is Tahoe Green and Olympic Gray. This is not only a valid combination for 1953, but also the color combination of a '53 Commander Starliner that I knew since it was new and I was the second owner of. A 1953 Commander Starliner is my favorite Studebaker and favorite overall design. The color tag was a paper tag glued to the bottom, not back, of the glove box. Most of them are now departed. I recommend ordering the build sheet from the Studebaker National Museum. This will give you the original color, factory equipment, build date and much more. You have an excellent find. Keep me in mind if you don't want to keep it <G>. There were only 2333 1953 Commander Starliners built in Vernon (LA). I see from the picture that you have an early 1953 model year production car. Your serial number is correct for a 1953 Commander assembled in Vernon (LA, CA) and the engine number is correct for a 1953 Commander. The build sheet will also verify that you have the original block. Yes, the 4H-K5 indicates that it is a 1953 Commander Regal hardtop (Starliner). Join SDC if you haven't yet (www.studebakerdriversclub.com) - the site that you are on.

04-19-2005, 04:30 PM
I just looked at the pictures and have a few more comments. I am not picking your car apart, but you seem to be trying to learn about your very nice car, so I will point out a few discrepancies.
1) The upholstery is nice and period, but the driver's seat back was done without the simulated bucket seat effect.
2) Unless the picture is flipped, the radio antenna is on the incorrect side. It should be on the driver's side.
3) The wheelcovers are incorrect. 1953s used covers similar to '54-'55, except for three small bars out from the center.
4) It has an "ugly" hood ornament. It is a correct option, but most people do away with them for a cleaner look. The designer, Bob Bourke, didn't like them either.
5) The dual exhausts are incorrect. They were a common aftermarket item.
If you come up with more questions about this car, ask away.

04-19-2005, 06:01 PM
Thanks for all the comments. I did join SDC in hopes of someday buying a 53, then stumbled upon this one. (dumb luck) I realize the items you mentioned. There is also a motorola AM radio that is mounted in a modified Stude cover plate. It's a clean job and looks like it's from the same time period. The seller threw in an additional blank radio hole cover plate if I want to remove the motorola. I will be removing the hood ornament, it's missing the oval loop near the front end.

You're probably right about the colors. I have a sheet of original color chips and time/dirt/age has made the colors very tough to decipher. All the hidden areas are closer to Chippewa than Tahoe. I'll have to get the build sheet.

The options appear to be turn signals, clock, and the Dual Powered Climatizer under the passenger seat. (they even saved the original 4"x9" instruction card for the climatizer.)

The question now is whether to plan on tearing it down to the frame and building it back up, or fixing and painting the body, fixing the mechanicals, and leaving the frame and underside in it's existing condition. There is no significant rust damage underneath, just age and crud. Any advice?

G. Howes

04-19-2005, 06:05 PM
Here are a couple pictures. One is of my car taken last summer. The other is a picture of a original airway grey nylon seat I found someplace. Mine was long gone but I know it looked like that from the bits left.


I've got the tri-bar wheelcovers although you can't see them in the photo. My '53 was built in May of '53 per the build sheet from the museum.

Jeff H

'53 Champion Hardtop

04-20-2005, 04:45 PM
Those Motorola radios that fit the Studebaker dash were common at that time. I have owned at least one '53 Starliner with that combination. The dealer installed it before original delivery. Many dealers ordered cars without radios at that time. Not everyone wanted a radio in their new car then. Some dealers installed the factory accessory radio and some installed the Motorola. The Motorola was probably cheaper. A Studebaker radio was net/list 58.18/81.25 for push button and 43.44/58.70 for manual tune. The factory installation charge was 5.14. This did not include your selection of antenna. IIRC, the Motorola radios were about $30-40. The post-factory Motorola radio probably explains the antenna being on the incorrect side of the car. A $100 radio was a lot in a $2K car. The same ratio would make a radio in a modern $30K car a $1500 item.