View Full Version : Newbie considering Studebaker purchase (post inspection update)

10-14-2010, 01:25 PM
First thing I should say is I have never owned a Studebaker or any car more than about 20 years old. My wife however has and recently saw a 1950 Commander 4 door for sale that we are considering.

The car is all original with 97k miles. It was repainted and reupholstered about 20 years ago and rarely driven the last 15 or so. It was stored in a garage and the interior looks to be in excellent condition including all upholstery and carpet. The body is clean and straight and appears to be in very good shape. Owner says it runs strong and does not think it has ever had any major engine work done.

I'm hoping to find out more about this model as well as the pluses and minuses of owning a 60 year old Studebaker. I am an avid motorcyclists and maintain both of my bikes, one of which is 24 years old and ridden regularly. I have never restored a car or done any kind of major engine overhaul or that sort of thing. How hard is it to find parts? Is it a problem running modern gasoline? engine oil?

Would be interested in your opinion on the value of this car and what kind of things I should be looking for when I go to see it in person.


10-14-2010, 01:58 PM
Hard to say without pictures, but in the 5-8k range if the interior was done correctly. Other than trim and sheet metal, most parts are a few days away from the many Studebaker vendors. No real issues with modern gas and oil other than replacing the old rubber fuel lines with neoprene to resist modern gas. Things to look for are rust or rust repairs at the back of the front fenders and in the floors. Pitted chrome can be a major factor too since it's expensive to replate.

10-14-2010, 02:24 PM
The Studebaker in general and the Commander 6-cyl in particular is brick-simple. It was engineered for farmers to work on with the stillson adjustable wrench they kept wired to the plow stock.


Take it for a highway drive on a warm day. Many wives change their mind quickly when that cute old car gets really, really hot and the noise level is so much higher than the daily driver Honda. Since you ride bikes, does your wife spend time on them with you?

You'll be coming at it fresh, so don't let we CASOs here scare you with our discussion of costs. The typical new car costs $600 per month every month to own and operate. If some of us puts $600 into our hobby car once or twice a year, the screams are akin to a pound of flesh is being cut off.

WE hope you buy it, like it, join SDC and have a ball.

jack vines

10-14-2010, 02:34 PM
LOL. I agree with all the above and welcome to the forum. I was on a mission and spent way too much to restore my car, nut and bolt. No regrets. I have the car I always wanted. Just because it's raining today, and I lifted the hood and water soaked the coil and it needs to be put inside to dry out over night....is just another bump in the road. Every little improvement you make to the car's drive-ability or even appearance, will be a thrill and that never seems to stop. By all means join the club, buy all the back issues of Turning Wheels you can find (eBay?) and find out more about that car. 1950 was the highest production year for Studebaker and the bullet nose is the most memorable car they built. Like JDP said, most parts are only a day or two away.

10-14-2010, 04:28 PM
I agree with all the above but will add just a couple of things for consideration. If the car has overdrive--which it likely has as a Commander big 6 model--it will made driving in a 60 year old car quieter, cooler, and much more enjoyable, even at modern speeds. 1950 was the last year for the Commander big six in cars, although it continued in trucks- in 1951 they introduced the OHV V8 for the Commander to replace the big 6 flathead. Both 50 and 51 engines 6 and V8 had roughly the same power, not a lot by modern standards but they could move out of their own way...regally and sedately. If the overdrive doesn't work, it is not difficult to get it sorted out, usually just a clean or small repair to the electrical portions and it isn't hard if you follow the checklist. I think the 50 Commander has different longer front sheet metal due to the length of a big 6 from a small 6 Champion, but if this car has good metal, no problem. 1950 had unique suspension bits, but if everything is intact and in good shape, refurbishing as required is not a big problem. Brakes are less effective in their design than more modern cars, or even later Studebakers and you should keep this in mind, of course. There are options for upgrading brakes to later versions, both Studebaker and other brakes. Lots of help and advice are available here and through your local Studebaker club(s) and vendors! Remember, for Studebakers, lots of parts are QUITE easy to find, more so than some other independents.

Another thing-oil has changed since Studebaker days. Modern oil is lacking zinc and phosphorus (to preserve catalytic converters) so many drivers of old flat tappet engines add ZDDP to 'regular' oil. It will likely all cost less than buying synthetic oil. There is a lot of information via the home page links to the technical information pages, and searching forum posts and topic history up in the top right corner.

10-14-2010, 05:18 PM
You have already received a lot of good advice, but I'll put in my two cents worth, anyway. I love my 1950 Champion (same year, but smaller model and different engine than Commander). I also love to drive it. Every trip to the grocery store is like riding in a parade. You WILL be noticed. If you drive it a lot, you will likely also gain a reputation as "the Studebaker guy" and people will come up to you with questions, stories and reminiscences. It seems like everyone in my little town had an aunt, uncle or grandparent that owned a "bullet nose", or some Studebaker. They are also relatively simple and easy to work on, especially if you shell out $30-$50 bucks for the service manual, body manual and chassis parts manual.
The downside? In their stock configuration, these cars have the handling characteristics and power-to-weight ratio of a cast iron bathtub mounted on a go-kart. With overdrive, they can get up to 65-70 mph, but thats about the top end. Furthermore, 1950 Champions and Commanders have unique (not necessarily bad, just different) suspension and steering components that don't interchange with anything else, Studebaker or otherwise. Replacement parts for those components can be difficult to find and relatively expensive to acquire. On the other hand, as Warrlaw1 said, 1950 was Studebaker's "high water mark", so several hundred thousand cars were built. Therefore, there are quite a few parts cars still around, especially out there in California.
Studebakers, like all older cars, require more regular maintenance than new cars, especially in terms of greasing. I think that there are at least 17 grease zerks on my Champion. If you have the time to take care of them, however, they can be almost as dependable as a modern vehicle. Fuel, especially E-10 blends, can be a problem, because the modern fuels are more volatile, and more likely to cause vaporlock. There are fixes, both mechanical and chemical, for that problem, though.
Bottom line: if you like to tinker, you like old stuff and you don't mind standing out in the herd of Hondas and Chevys, try it, buy it and drive the Hell out of it! Good Luck and happy motoring!

10-14-2010, 05:41 PM
First thing I should say is I have never owned a Studebaker or any car more than about 20 years old. My wife however has and recently saw a 1950 Commander 4 door for sale that we are considering.<<<Thanks

WELCOME …to the SDC Forum!!!

You have come to the right place for advice and information about Studebakers! If you don’t mind, please share with us what your “primary purpose” of purchasing that 1950 Studebaker is. I.E.; everyday driving for you and/or your wife, to restore to (???) condition …or what? TIA

10-14-2010, 06:40 PM
Thanks to everyone for your considerate advice. It's quite helpful. Since my motorcycles are Moto Guzzis, I am used to having people come up and ask me "what is that?" and "who makes it?", etc, and it's part of the fun of owning them. As far as what my motivation is, it's hard to say really. My wife had a Studebaker in college and used to do her own tune-ups and that sort of thing so she has a fondness for them. I have a fondness for just about anything made back when there was so much variety in terms of styling, engineering, etc. I'm hoping it will be something that we can enjoy together, going for occasional rides in the country, going to vintage car events, etc. Maybe an occasional car trip in the spring or fall.

I don't see myself restoring it to concourse condition. It wouldn't be a commuter for either of us, but would expect it to be driven regularly. I believe in using vehicles and don't have the garage space for something to look at. My 87 bike is in good functional condition and I wouldn't hesitate to take it cross country tomorrow if I had the time. I also have no problems making modifications to it to make it more fun to ride and more reliable. I would not radically change the car, but would not hesitate to do things like improve the brakes if I felt they were lacking.

Thanks again for the advice. I may be back for more after I see the car this weekend.

10-14-2010, 06:56 PM
I had a 50 Commander Land Cruiser in the mid 80's and it drove as well as other cars on the road. A Champion will have a hard time keeping up with traffic and will not stop as well either.
However, a Commander is not a Champion and will be a suprise to those that think it is cut of the same cloth just because it is of the same year of manufacture.
My Land Cruiser was the largest and heaviest of all 50 Studebakers and would still manage 105 with overdrive on level ground.
Brakes were larger than Champions too with 11" drums on all four corners.
Just as with any old car proper maintence is of utmost importence. Brakes should be the first thing on the list.
Electricals and wiring the second. Maybe tied with second is fuel system....rust or deposits in the tank will plague you if not properly addressed.
Once these systems are in tip top shape then you will enjoy one of Studebakers best and most solid cars that they made.

10-14-2010, 07:12 PM
Bezhawk said: My Land Cruiser was the largest and heaviest of all 50 Studebakers and would still manage 105 with overdrive on level ground.
Brakes were larger than Champions too with 11" drums on all four corners.

My oh my! 105! I think I'd keep mine, if I had one, down to 95 or so <GGG>
I knew that there was some reason that I always wanted a 50 Land Cruiser, in spite of not having the V8. Saw both a 50 and a 51 LC side by side at the Lancaster PA International Meet, and adored both (very excellent shape they were), but the 50 just a bit more. A Commander should be very similar to the Land Cruiser, just a bit shorter? and lighter? with the same horsepower. Lovely large brake drums; I must have had the Champions in mind for the brakes.

10-14-2010, 09:32 PM
My Land Cruiser was the largest and heaviest of all 50 Studebakers and would still manage 105 with overdrive on level ground.

Far be it from me to question whether you could get a 1950 Commander going 105 (you do mean miles per hour, not kilometers per hour, don't you?), but it must have been a wild ride! You must have felt like Chuck Yeager pushing the sound barrier in the X-1! My Champion would only reach 105 if it were dropped out of a B-29 like the X-1!!

10-15-2010, 11:47 AM
Don't Buy a 4 Dr! If you really want to impress your wife. There is a real nice little lark convertible on ebay rigth now. That is well worth the money they are asking. Lot to be said for instant gratification!!!
Good Roads

10-15-2010, 08:13 PM
I don't know if that was actual or just indicated by the speedo....It wasn't any worse than driving a lark that fast<g>.
Commander 6's are smooth and lots of torque.....quite unlike a Champion. But, they dont rev like a champ either:(.

10-16-2010, 09:47 AM
....keep downing the 4drs so CASO's like me can continue to buy them at "real" Stude prices.....!...:-)

10-16-2010, 09:36 PM
That nice convetible still has no bids with two days left. Could be yours! This a steal at the asking price!! Can't even build an ugly 4 dr for this price.

10-18-2010, 11:23 AM
Funny how when you start getting serious about something you see a whole lot more work than you did originally. That was the case with this Commander. Overall I think it would make a nice resto candidate but the asking price is pretty high and we'll be doing some more research before jumping in.

Originally I was thinking we could maybe just drive the car as is for a while and then decide if we wanted to do a major restoration. After seeing it first hand and driving it, I think it needs a lot of work just to be a safe runner. Doors are all loose and hard to open. All body and window rubber is dried out and windows don't close properly. The underside of the car did not appear to have any serious rust and definitely not rusted through any where I could see. The area behind the front wheels inside the fender appeared to be rust free. Of course this is all coming from someone who has never restored an old car.

Engine seems to have a hard time starting but runs smooth once it does. No visible smoke or any other sign of motor problems. Trans shifts smooth but was not able to try overdrive and the owner doesn't know if it works or not since they have not driven it on the highway. Here are a bunch of pictures I took of various things.


10-18-2010, 11:36 AM
Nice enough car for say 4-5K, but has some issues. I think it'll need a wiring harness, paint and interior and I hate the sheet metal screws through the stainlless trim on the bottom.

10-18-2010, 12:05 PM
Can't even build an ugly 4 dr for this price.

Ugly????? I think NOT!!!!


10-18-2010, 01:48 PM
A bullet-nose with no rust is a rarity. The door rubber, window tracks, wiring harness, are all relatively easy driveway projects. Rust repair and paint are the great project killers. Buy it, fix the one thing each year which bothers you the most, never, ever start anything which is going to take the car out of service and just enjoy a good old car until you don't enjoy it any more.

jack vines

10-18-2010, 03:00 PM
Hard starting is a function of the 12 volt battery cables. Put some 00 cables in and it'll start right up. It's like trying to blow out a candle through a pin hole with those tiny cables.