View Full Version : Shocking Studebaker Production Reality

01-13-2012, 08:01 AM
OK, admittedly: Our first cold, frosty, snowy morning here in central Indiana may lead to aimless mind-wandering, but you be the judge: If this doesn't get your attention as to what Studebaker was up against after World War II, nothing will.

It all started innocently enough with Tex Grier's Stove-Huggers post about an elderly gent possibly driving his 1953 Chevrolet for the last time:


I posted what a contrast it would be if a 1953 Studebaker Starliner was parked right next to it.

Then I got to thinking: If the Chevrolet was a 2-door hardtop ('prolly not, from the photo), I wonder if Chevrolet made more 2-door hardtops in 1953 alone than Studebakler made "K-body" hardtops in the entire postwar period.

And I was right; they did.

Consider: Chevrolet had two 2-door hardtops in 1953: The popular Bel-Air and the rare 210. (Yes, there was a 1953 210 hardtop. They just didn't sell many of them.) The two series/models combined sold 113,092 units. (Of those, only 14,045 were 210s, to preempt an obvious question.)

Keep that 1953 Chevrolet hardtop total in mind: 113,092

Then, I totaled all the K-Body Studebaker 2-door hardtops produced, beginning with the 1953 Starliner through the 1964 Gran Turismo Hawk: All series, all models, all years, even the rare, export Silver Hawk and Flight Hawk hardtops, and the export 6-cylinder Gran Turismo Hawks. If it was a 1953-1964 "K" body, it went in the total, which was: 82,103.

Even if we include the popular 1952 Starliners, both Champion and Commander, and all the 1958 "J" bodies (Champion export, Commander, and President), we still can't get that Studebaker number (now 112,616) up to Chevrolet's 1953-only 113,092.

Finally, if we add in all the 1959-1964 "Lark" J-body hardtops for a grand Studebaker 2-door hardtop postwar total of 153,274, can we exceed Chevrolet's 1953-only 113,092; whew!

(But two years later, in 1955, Chevrolet would build 185,562 Bel-Air 2-door hardtops -plus 11,675 210s- so we'd better quit while we're ahead with the postwar Studebaker hardtop total versus the 1953-only Chevrolet total.)

It's all but impossible to comprehend the production advantages The Big Three, especially General Motors, had over Studebaker after World War II. In retrospect, Studebaker and the other independents are fortunate to have lasted as long as they did. BP

01-13-2012, 09:37 AM
Good grief, Bob. The sun is bright here and I was prepared to “make hay while the sun shines.” However, now I am ensnared in your “snow day” long enough to post my two cents into this topic. I think this thread comes to the “what if…” discussions that have abounded since the end of Studebaker production.

I too have pondered this many times and think the ultimate answer falls under the unquantifiable subject of “intangibles.” The “measurable” records of investments, real property, profit, loss, sales, etc. are all there for examination. However, the “intangible assets” of people, personalities, vision, passion, talents, attitude, and desire are not so easily quantified and therefore people avoid serious discussions because of the potential “landmines” encountered.

As in any large corporation, Studebaker had all the physical requirements in place. Except for the “intangibles”…they too had every opportunity to aggressively invest, market, risk, expand, compete and win. They did all these things, but apparently not well enough. Somewhere, somehow, somebody lacked enough of the intangibles to win against others more talented. Somewhere, at critical moments, Studebaker lacked that person (or persons) to give it the competitive edge. The Westinghouse, Edison, Trump, Ford, Jobs, Gates…didn’t come by and linger long enough to provide the leadership, vision, and success to keep it running.

You are right…it is remarkable that it lasted as long as it did.

01-13-2012, 10:18 AM
Hey Bob, Ford sold about 679,000 Mustangs in 1965. Dan

Pat Dilling
01-13-2012, 10:38 AM
Just goes to show how special our Studebakers are! Seems like just about anybody could have a Chevy hard top

01-13-2012, 10:53 AM

Speaking of "automobile manufacturing" where as even with the assembly line, the quanity of vehicles mass-produced, has become astronomical. The automated production process of many of the compoents yet further makes the "numbers" unbelieveable. Just a related topic....Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia Inc. has announced the completion of a $100 Million expansion of its West Point Georgia plant. This is in addition to the $1 Billion already invested in the plant. This plant opened in November 2009. It employs more than 3000 workers. Now for the unbelieveable....The production capacity is now 360,000 vehicles a year!! NOW you do the math.....month, week, day. Hard to believe, compared to the 50's.

Dan Miller
Auburn, GA

01-13-2012, 12:46 PM
I had a car club buddy talk about the rare padded dash featureon his '56 BelAir, my reply was there is nothing rare about a '56 chevy. My thought was there were probably more padded dash BelAir than there were total production of Studebaker in '56

01-13-2012, 01:37 PM
No matter how production figures are sliced & diced; simply stated: You can’t sell more cars than you have production capacity to build!!!

Studebaker did have plans for a "new beginning " on the drawing board in 1949. It was the plan for Studebaker’s future as a competitive and profitable automaker. The vast new, modern and efficient manufacturing complex was to be built south of South Bend. It could have put Studebaker’s operations on par with the Big 3’s ...or possibly even given Studebaker the advantage!!!
Instead, the heads of Studebaker Corporation chose a different course. That course was to hang around the industry with their limited capacity, high cost/low efficiency manufacturing operations for as long as they could ...then one day makes an "announcement" ...a very predictable one at that!!!

01-13-2012, 10:46 PM
As sad and disheartening as it is that Studebaker just missed that opportunity and ended up going belly up, It does make our cars and trucks very special imho. Not neccesarily any more valuable from a financial standpoint, but definately more valuable to us who love them.