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Winter Studebaker Stories

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  • Winter Studebaker Stories

    December 1 st is upon us and many parts of the U.S. and Canada are already having "fun" with ice and snow already. Remembering back to the days when family Studebakers were relied upon for winter transportation, l have at least three stories to tell about Studes and winter. Does anyone else have other winter stories to add?

    1) My mother, driving our maroon '53 Champion Deluxe 4 door "back in the day", stops as directed by police, at the bottom of the long and fairly steep hill cut out of the limestone on Hwy 2 just east of Kingston Ontario by Old Fort Henry. The policeman (having been distracted by so many cars slithering in the late evening's very poor and slippery winter weather), asks mom what kind of car she is driving. She replies " A Studebaker!" and the policeman says "Oh - you'll make it ok. l haven't seen a Ford get to the top all afternoon!" When it's her turn to try the slippery slope, she does indeed make it home safely, thankful that we didn't buy a Ford (and probably a little proud of her own driving skill - as well as proud of our Stude)!!

    2) Our '62 Gran Turismo, automatic, black with red interior, also had the "extra" heater under the driver's side bucket seat. When the temps got below-zero COLD during a winter trip, turning on that heater made the car REALLY toasty warm inside! We were very pleased with that feature - and the whole car really. No problems with it in the 7 1/2 years we had it on the road (except that it got rather rusty).

    3) In the mid 1980's l worked at a Volkswagen dealership - and owned nothing but Studebakers! My Golden Sand '64 Commander 4 door automatic with 259 had just Shell-branded summer bias-belted tires, even during the winter. The other employees, most of whom drove Rabbits, expected my car to get stuck in the parking lot every time it snowed substantially. But that didn't happen - 'cause it was a STUDEBAKER! The only time it was pushed was the time when we were ALL stuck during an especially big snow event!

    What winter adventures did you guys have?
    Roger Hill

    60 Lark Vlll, hardtop, black/red, Power Kit, 3 spd. - "Juliette"
    61 Champ Deluxe, 6, black/red, o/d, long box. - "Jeri"
    Junior Wagon - "Junior"

    "In the end, dear undertaker,
    Ride me in a Studebaker"

  • #2
    1967 Blizzard in Chicago.
    Didn't go anywhere for a few days.

    HTIH (Hope The Info Helps)


    Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please. Mark Twain

    Note: SDC# 070190 (and earlier...)


    • #3
      Mine would be the same story as yours about competency on ice covered hills. In the 1970's when I drove Studebakers on a regular, daily basis, there was this one hill with a bend in the middle where one had to slow down to make the curve, and was where lots always lost their traction. I was able to continue to the top in my '64 Daytona four door sedan.



      • #4
        My story starts with my first Studebaker back in 1958 it was a 48 Commander and cheap $25.00 it was in the fall but as winter came on in Minnesota, the twin cities the winters can be either hard or milled and this one was not to bad. first off the commander had no driver side window and every morning I would need to clean the snow from the front driver seat and it would start right off but burned oil like a train but ran pretty good and got me to school and to hockey practice . One night while driving down a 2 lane back road the hood flew up and over the car I never did stop to pick it up as it was in bad shape. Now with no hood every morning there would be an engine bay full of snow where the hood use to be but she still fired right up and cleared the snow on it's own and that is the way I drove it until the starter took a dump and me not really knowing much about cars sent it to the junk yard......... Rip old commander.
        Castro Valley,


        • #5
          Just yesterday, with impending snow, I mentioned to Cathy how everyone now feels that they must have an SUV to get through the Winter (we have never owned one). Many years, I drove daily (not just commuted) through the winters with bias ply tires and rear wheel drive. My full time Winter cars included Studebakers from a 1957 President Classic to a 1960 Lark VIII convertible.

          EDIT: Cathy commuted to work through the Winters in a variety of cars including a 1958 Packard Hardtop and a 1961 Lark Regal VIII sedan.

          EDIT II: Cathy and I both commuted to college, through the Winter. Cathy had a 1953 Champion sedan and I had a 1957 President Classic. (That is how we met.)
          Gary L.
          Wappinger, NY

          SDC member since 1968
          Studebaker enthusiast much longer


          • #6
            I remember a '53 Commander coupe I had in Chicago (my first Studebaker). One very cold morning it refused to start, so I primed the carburetor by pouring a a little gas into it. Shivering as I was, I splashed gas all over the top of the engine. I got in, started it up and it backfired, promptly lighting the gas on fire. It continued to idle while I jumped out and grabbed a handful of snow which I threw on the engine. The fire went out, I closed the hood and drove off to work.
            Howard - Los Angeles chapter SDC
            '53 Commander Starliner (Finally running and driving, but still in process)
            '56 Golden Hawk (3 speed/overdrive, Power steering - Running, but not yet driving)
            '62 GT Hawk (4 speed, A/C, Power steering - running and DRIVING!)


            • #7
              A few stories:

              1. My dad’s red 1963 GT with twin traction was often the first car out of the subdivision. With 2-3 kids sitting in the trunk for weight, we didn’t get stuck. Didn’t think about the fact it could have been dangerous.

              2. My grandmother lived in Guelph a few doors down from the big Catholic Church on the hill. As I was going up the hill in a maroon 1962 GT, a car came sliding backwards towards me. I backed into a driveway very quickly, watched the car slide past, then eased out of the driveway and up the rest of the hill to my grandmothers.

              3. Police spot check. 1964 blue Commander. Middle of icy snow storm. I was asked by police to put on the parking brake. (Automatic car, parking brake rarely used). I suggested that was a bad idea given the icy conditions. He insisted. Put it on, it held, but stayed on. Back in the warm police car, the officer and his police buddy laughed as I went under the car and freed the brakes. Could have been worse, it took only a few minutes.

              4. Same 64 Commander. Got stuck at bottom of driveway. My date in passenger seat. I was rocking the car trying to back out of the driveway because of the snow plow snow ridge, door slightly open. Suddenly I was moving backwards, snowbank caught drivers door and bent it backwards. I looked at my date, who was looking a little horrified, went out and got a small 2x4, put it in the door jam, and wrenched the door back. It actually closed and latched and worked enough for me to use it to the spring when I replaced it.

              5, The re: under seat passenger heaters 1962 GT. My long legged passengers unfortunately kicked the under seat heater with their feet twice, and this would result in steam pouring into the car. I had enough ice scrapers for everyone. My dad replaced the heater once and was able to use stop leak the other time. I don’t remember him yelling at me once.


              • #8
                I have an even MORE incredible Snow Story.

                My eldest Son (of 3) Ron, was Driving home from Cascade High School in Everett, WA in one of our Family Studebaker's, a '63 Lark Wagonaire, 289, Flight-O-Matic, 3.31 Twin Traction.
                He had pulled a few stuck Cars out of Snow before in that particularly Snowy Winter, so he had a Tow Rope in the Car.

                He came upon a Large Beverage Truck full of Soda Pop, mostly 7 UP Products, in a shallow ditch off the side of the Road.

                He stopped to help, and the driver said: "it's badly stuck, I don't think you can help".
                Ron said, let me see what the Wagonaire can do, and he proceeded to pull that 1 1/2- 2 Ton heavily loaded rig right outta there with All Season Radials, NO Snow Tires! This was much to the surprise of the Driver, who gave him a 6 Pack ... of 7 UP!
                Second Generation Stude Driver,
                Proud '54 Starliner Owner


                • #9
                  My daily drivers were always Studebakers from the time I was a college sophomore until decades after graduation, when I was forced to use a company car. After retirement the Studebakers became integral again.

                  During one period from September 1974 until August 1978 I lived as a caretaker in a stone cabin in Rothrock State Forest just south of State College, PA., I had electricity, but no indoor plumbing, and three massive stone fireplaces.
                  Was driving my '53 Commander Starlight with nylon bias summer tires.

                  The dirt road to the cabin was a mile pretty straight up the north side of Tussey Mountain, and well shaded by trees on both sides, so the road itself seldom got any sunlight; virtually none over the winter, and only occasionally got plowed by the water authority to access a spring that emerged just below the cabin.
                  Needless to say, every new snow got pressed under my tires, building a pretty thick solid frozen base that wouldn't disappear until well in to March.

                  I also worked in town every morning at 6am, and bought a set of tire chains to make the daily trek.
                  I actually found I only needed the chains when I reached the main road, as the trees also limited the snow deposit on the dirt road.
                  Every morning when I hit the pavement, I would stop and install the chains and head to town. And, when I got back, I would take the chains off and drive up the ice-covered road on those bias summer tires. As long as I didn't break traction it was the most dependable. Running the chains only dug holes in the ice.

                  That was over forty years ago; decades later I restored that '53, drove it to Dover Downs and scored a 394 in Division 8.

                  As it was forty years ago.
                  Click image for larger version  Name:	ddc714b7.jpg Views:	0 Size:	12.2 KB ID:	1812380
                  "All attempts to 'rise above the issue' are simply an excuse to avoid it profitably." --Dick Gregory

                  Brad Johnson, SDC since 1975, ASC since 1990
                  Pine Grove Mills, Pa.
                  '33 Rockne 10,
                  '51 Commander Starlight,
                  '53 Commander Starlight "Désirée",
                  '56 Sky Hawk


                  • #10
                    I loved reading the stories, thanks to all of you. I have no Studebaker stories to add as I had not acquired my first Studebaker until I was 53; now at 68 I have my 64r2 Avanti; won best in class 4 years ago at Greenwich, my 63 GT Hawk; bought from original owner/club member when he was 96. And 2 years ago my 64 Hawk R1 full package; now concours quality. I will not drive in the NJ snow events as now they are as nice as they were in the dealership 5 minutes before paid for.


                    • #11
                      My wife drove a '64 Cruiser, and me a '64 Wagonaire (both with TT) through several St. Louis winters.
                      Worst of the Wagonaire was having the sliding roof gutters soak the driver & RF passenger when you hit the brakes.
                      Worst of the Cruiser was once when we & kids drove to Sunday church in a hail storm. Hail/sleet filled the vent-wipers trough far enough to freeze rock solid around the wiper linkages whilst we were inside. Drove home through the slop, & spent over an hour with a hair dryer to melt/drain it so she could have wipers on Monday morning.
                      My kids eventually drove the Cruiser daily during highschool, and after 30 winters it was one RUSTY baby when my friends and I finally cut it up for scrap.


                      • #12
                        We had a nasty, brutally cold January in the late 1970s, lows were consistently below -20, and high temps never exceeded 10 degrees for most of the month. The only two cars in our apartment complex that would reliably start and
                        run through the whole month were my 1962 Lark and my friend's 1961 Lark.

                        I also remember putting a 200 lb. die set in the trunk of a 1959 Lark and driving through hood high drifted snow.
                        Snow would come through the air vents and blow around inside with each impact.

                        Also, no snow involved though, that same 1962 Lark had panel-puf seat covers from JC Whitney. They were a one piece concern, and you would put little cardboard tubes between the seat back and bottom cushion to hold them in place.
                        This made a perfect cavity for petrified french fries and other detritus. One typical Michigan March, with a permacloud
                        in the sky, it rained, drooled, misted, drizzled, and spat most of the time with temps in the mid 30s.

                        The Lark lived outside. It leaked, like most well worn Studes do, precisely over the left side of the driver's seat.
                        A lake thus formed in the aforementioned cavity, waiting. Waiting for me to hop in one early Monday morning,
                        late for work. The resulting tidal wave was somewhere between d**n cold and ice. After that , a bucket was strategically placed on the seat to prevent a re-occurrence.

                        That particular Lark was eventually killed by winter, not slowly by rust, but dramatically in a 55 mph rollover
                        due to black ice. I walked away, free to perform more stupid deeds in the future.

                        Jim Maxey will know the yellow and copper car I am talking about. Parts of it still live on in other cars today.


                        • #13
                          In fall of 1974 I bought a '64 Cruiser out of a field. After new brakes I started driving it regularly and decided to take it up skiing. It had snow tires and the heater worked, the fuel gauge didn't so I just kept track of the mileage. We drove the 120 miles up to the ski area and put in a good day skiing. We headed home and the car started running a little rough but was not having any issues climbing hills or anything so we continued on. We made it about 90 miles before the 289 shut down and we coasted into a farm driveway. I opened the hood and found that the hood liner had been sucked into the air filter and had choked the car. There must have been lots of black smoke but I never saw it in the dark. We hiked up to the farmhouse and asked if they could sell us some gas. We got 5 gallons and were very happy to get it even at the atrocious price of FIVE dollars. I tore out all the rest of the insulation and to this day it hasn't been replaced.


                          • #14
                            My dad told me he was a pilot car for some logging equipment going up the North Umpqua Hwy in the late 60's, in our 61 Champ pickup. He said there was about a foot snow, and the truck hauling the equipment was only able to do about 5 miles per hour up some steep pitches. My dad was getting bored...... and sleepy....... going so slow, and eventually drifted off into the ditch.... which did have the advantage of waking him back up. He said the ditch wasn't to bad there, and he was able to get out and continue on with out help, though the truck driver got a laugh out of it.
                            Mike and Dawn

                            '61 Champ


                            • #15
                              In March of 1970 I bought a 63 Lark 4 dr Regal with 259 and 3 speed OD. It was a 23,000 mile car. The trans did not have a good first gear and the Dana 27 rear end made noise. I fixed the trans with a first gear and cluster gear. The rear end was changed to a 3.73TT Dana 44. I drove it until going in the Army in June of that year. I gave it to my girlfriend (now my wife) as she had just got her drivers license. I came home on leave in December of 70. We drove the Lark up to Green Bay from Milwaukee just after Christmas to see some guys from basic training. They were going to Vietnam and I was going to Korea. As we left Green Bay it was snowing. By half way home there was 6" on the ground. Milwaukee got 12" from that storm. I had Gillette G70-15 belted studded snow tires on the car. That car did not get stuck even when I was pushing snow with the piece of grill panel below the bumper. It handled great in the snow and always started in the cold.
                              james r pepper