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  • Transition?

    I was wondering if Studebaker transitioned from being a luxury car maker in the '20s and '30s to an economy car maker in the '50s and '60s?
    1963 Champ "Stu Bludebaker"- sometimes driver
    1957 Silver Hawk "Josie"- picking up the pieces after an unreliable body man let it rot for 11 years from an almost driver to a basket case
    1951 Land Cruiser "Bunnie Ketcher" only 47M miles!
    1951 Commander Starlight "Dale"- basket case
    1947 Champion "Sally"- basket case
    1941 Commander Land Cruiser "Ursula"- basket case

  • #2
    The new Champion in 1939 was aimed at the low cost, mass production field.
    RadioRoy, specializing in AM/FM conversions with auxiliary inputs for iPod/satellite/CD player. In the old car radio business since 1985.


    10G-C1 - 51 Champion starlight coupe
    4H-K5 - 53 Commander starliner hardtop
    5H-D5 - 54 Commander Conestoga wagon

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    • #3
      I may be wrong, but as I have read the history of Studebaker, it seems like they got a little complacent and before they knew it they fell behind financially. It does seem like the 1939 champion was the first sign of this. From there forward to the end it was a series of trying to compete with the big three while being under funded. Over the years, Studebaker pioneered several innovative ideas, but by then they had locked themselves into a reputation of being for cheapskates and frugal people. And, that is not the ideal target market if you want to make money. One example- the C and K bodies of 1953 were revolutionary. They were considered beautiful and groundbreaking then, and now… But ultimately they were a sales failure, going to there by then established reputation as the bargain basement brand. And so it went as they struggled along for the next 13 years. The lark, the Wagonaire, and the Avanti, we’re all great Hail Mary passes; but in the end all were too little too late. Ultimately the company decided it was financially wisest for them to leave automotive production, anti-improved that it was the right decision, as the company continued on for decades after they left car production.

      It is something, though, to look at 30s Studebakers through the prism of the sad cars they produced at the end; the cars from that era, in my opinion, rivaled any other brand out there.

      it’s just another reminder that nothing is forever.

      Proud NON-CASO

      I do not prize the word "cheap." It is not a badge of honor...it is a symbol of despair. ~ William McKinley

      If it is decreed that I should go down, then let me go down linked with the truth - let me die in the advocacy of what is just and right.- Lincoln

      GOD BLESS AMERICA

      Ephesians 6:10-17
      Romans 15:13
      Deuteronomy 31:6
      Proverbs 28:1

      Illegitimi non carborundum

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      • #4
        How I wish I could edit some of the ridiculous typos in my above post. But, true to Studebaker tradition, our forum software is of the dollar store variety: it works, just not as good as quality ones
        Proud NON-CASO

        I do not prize the word "cheap." It is not a badge of honor...it is a symbol of despair. ~ William McKinley

        If it is decreed that I should go down, then let me go down linked with the truth - let me die in the advocacy of what is just and right.- Lincoln

        GOD BLESS AMERICA

        Ephesians 6:10-17
        Romans 15:13
        Deuteronomy 31:6
        Proverbs 28:1

        Illegitimi non carborundum

        Comment


        • Jessie J.
          Jessie J. commented
          Editing a comment
          Thanks for that information. I was going to ask, but thought it was a bug in my laptop.

      • #5
        The 1931 Rockne was a little more expensive then a chevrolet, and about half the price of a Dictator.

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        • #6
          Originally posted by doug View Post
          The 1931 Rockne was a little more expensive then a Chevrolet, and about half the price of a Dictator.
          You mean the '32 Rockne, as there was no '31. It replaced the Erskine in Studebaker's low price stable.
          From the Erskine in the '20s through the Pierce-Arrows, Studebaker had the entire market covered, from lowest to highest priced production vehicles.
          The Great Depression forced them, as well as others, to pare their offerings to three basic models: The Dictator or Champion, Commander and President.

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

          Comment


          • #7
            The Depression forced every auto maker to take a fresh look at their offerings. Studebaker like all the independents had to settle for a smaller piece of the pie. The market that Studebaker and the other independents had been competing in (high mid range-low high priced cars) suddenly were faced with competition with some very good new models from GM, Chrysler and Packard. The 1939 Champion struck a chord with the buying public. It bought them time which enabled them to survive until WWll. The wartime production did the rest. Going forward management saw the champion as their ticket to the future. The company had fundamentally changed.

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            • #8
              This post cannot be answered in a sentence or two. Studebaker's case involves many facets that made the transition of models from upper middle class to lower middle class in a period of years. Packard was a similar story that when faced with a defining moment and cross roads in 1940. The company with the model offerings lowered itself from an ultra luxury car to a middle class car. In 1948 you could buy a new Packard for $1,500. The seeds for this were planted earlier in 1935 when the 120 was introduced and further down the scale in 1937 with the 115C. JJ Nance was trying as he said to turn the thing around and bring back Packard as a Luxury car in 1953-55 when factors beyond his control happened.

              As to Studebaker, the severity of the Depression was misunderstood by Albert Erskine. In 1930, he declared a dividend of 7.8 Million dollars, which was 5 times the net profit of Studebaker that year. In 1932, he declared a dividend of $3.5 million, taken out of working capital. Working capital fell from $26 Million in 1926 to 3.5 Million in 1932, with banks having loans of 6 Million. The company was put in receivership with a company in South Bend that was owned money that the company could not pay. Vance and Hoffman worked to get the company on firm footing and started the development of the Champion in 1935 with a clean sheet on the design.

              Nash was able to merge with Kelvinator, an upmarket appliance company as a result of George Mason, who later became CEO. Hudson had the Essex and later the Terraplane to bracket the lower end market. With the post war Step Down Hudson, it was their post war car, but hard with the design to update. Nash Kelvinater and Hudson Merged in 1954, the same year that Studebaker Packard merged. Actually Packard bought Studebaker. The 1955 Hudson was called a Hash as it was a Nash with Hudson design ques, and did use the Hudson sixes and Packard's 320 V8 in both Nash and Hudson.

              In the year 1954, the Federal Reserve tightened interest rates. This was not a problem for GM and Ford as they had their in house finance operations, but banks make purchasing an independent a challenge. Also the famous 1954 Ford Chevrolet blitz was a factor. American Motors hopes were pinned on the Rambler and the Nash and Hudson were discontinued in 1957. 1958 recession had the Rambler as just about the only company to turn a profit. Packard was gone in 1956 but the Packardbakers were the 1957-8 with the distant hope that the nameplate could be revived.

              1958 had a severe recession. Not a good time to introduce a new middle class car, right Ford? The Desoto was not selling well at that time and was discontinued in 1961 in favor of the Chrysler Newport.

              Harold Churchill managed to get Studebaker through those rough years to bring out the Lark in 1959 that was highly successful until the big 3 came out with their compacts. Other factors were involved, so Studebaker Packard sought diversification and sought to be successful and with the plan to stop production automobiles. The last to try and pull a rabbit out of the hat was Sherwood Egbert, who fought to save the car division.

              This is just a cursory look at things that I have picked up from several books and magazines. Sorry this is so wordy and just a feeble attempt to answer the original posters question. Feel free to ad more historical facts as you see the need.

              Bob Miles
              Hope this snippet of history gives a better understanding

              Comment


              • #9
                Excellent post, Bob Miles.
                Proud NON-CASO

                I do not prize the word "cheap." It is not a badge of honor...it is a symbol of despair. ~ William McKinley

                If it is decreed that I should go down, then let me go down linked with the truth - let me die in the advocacy of what is just and right.- Lincoln

                GOD BLESS AMERICA

                Ephesians 6:10-17
                Romans 15:13
                Deuteronomy 31:6
                Proverbs 28:1

                Illegitimi non carborundum

                Comment


                • #10
                  Originally posted by Bob Andrews View Post
                  Excellent post, Bob Miles.
                  Me too. . . . . . .
                  Skip Lackie

                  Comment


                  • #11
                    Thanks Bob and Skip. I hope the point was made that the economic factors played a large role for many years in how companies had to cope with issues as well as other competition. Not to take this thread off topic, but Chrysler was severely effected by both the Ford-Chevy blitz in 54, but the styling was not what people wanted. Can you say that the 53-54 Plymouth well styled car? Quality control on the well styled 57 models with rust issues hurt as well. We all know about rust owning a Studebaker, even in the southwest if the car is not well taken care. They may not rust as bad, but they can be well baked. Packard was affected by quality control with the 1955 models that Nance under estimated the impact was such that sales fell of Packard models 67 percent in 1956.

                    Thank again.

                    Bob Miles
                    Circle keeps on spinning

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                    • #12
                      Studebaker was riding high when The Crash of '29 hit. Like a lot of other companies, they learned the hard way that "Prosperity was NOT just around the corner."
                      Believing rosy political pronouncements, they frittered away the Companies fortune in paying out huge dividends to stockholders while sales and the Company went into the pits.
                      They never did recover from their tarnished reputation or regain their position in the automotive industry. They had a few further sputtering successes, but it was never enough to stop the downward death spiral

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                      • #13
                        Studebaker’s lack of capital played out in numerous ways. From not having money for engineering, lack of advertising dollars, having to update existing products rather than creating new and not being able to update the physical plant to become more efficient and reduce costs.

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