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'64 Stude & '54 Hudson: Was it Worth It?

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  • '64 Stude & '54 Hudson: Was it Worth It?

    This ought to generate some opinions...<GGG>

    While admiring Hudson friend Larry Kennedy's (his wife Sue's, actually) newly-restored 1954 Hudson Super Wasp convertible last week, a few adult beverages got the brain cells in reflective/speculative mode.

    Hudson spent a relatively enormous amount of money (for them) to update the 1948-1953 Hudson to "contemporize" its appearance for the 1954 model year. They did an admirable job IMHO; the cars looked sharp and competitive for the 1954 market.

    Ditto Studebaker for the 1964 model year; one final, extensive redo of the 1953 body / 1963 "greenhouse" to make a car that was genuinely fresh, crisp, and contemporary to do battle in the 1964 market.

    In each case, though, the effort was for naught; in effect, those respective model years (1954 and 1964) were the swan songs for each marque. Sure, they soldiered on in one form or another for a couple more years...but let's be honest with ourselves; for all practical purposes, it was over at the end of 1954 for Hudson and 1964 for Studebaker.

    Given market realties, it would appear obvious that the product itself was not to blame in 1954 or 1964...which is to say, the skids were greased so thoroughly by that time that the inevitable could not be avoided no matter what the companies did with the product.

    So a legitimate academic question is this: Would it have been better in the long run, preserving capital for whatever was to become of the company's (and shareholder's) financial bones, if they had simply rearranged a few piece of trim on the 1953 Hudson for 1954, and a few pieces of trim on the 1963 Studebaker for 1964? An enormous amount of money would have been saved in each case, yet the benefit of hindsight (let's not kid ourselves; we have that impossible advantage over the two company's product planners and marketers at this point) suggests the outcome would have been about the same.

    Could a good argument be made that each company would have been better off(!) as they exited the business had they not invested heavily in the nice remakes for their resepctive swan song year(s)? Not that I'm suggesting either should have done that, for there is "no way" they could have made such a call so far in advance of having to make product plans for 1954 and 1964.

    Besides, I'll admit I'm like most folks and genuinely enjoy Brooks Stevens' wonderful execution of the primary 1964 Studebaker product line! <GGG> BP
    Last edited by BobPalma; 03-24-2011, 05:20 PM.
    We've got to quit saying, "How stupid can you be?" Too many people are taking it as a challenge.

    Ayn Rand:
    "You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality."

    G. K. Chesterton: This triangle of truisms, of father, mother, and child, cannot be destroyed; it can only destroy those civilizations which disregard it.

  • #2
    Interesting comments BP! You have started my little gray cells working. Another aspect of the market changes in 1964, as far as Studebaker is concerned, was the onslaught of Lee Iacocca's pet project-the Mustang. He not only targeted young males but young females as well. He was able to sell a 'sports car' with essentially the Falcon's running gear. Thereby cashing in on the economies of scale for Ford. Studebaker never had that opportunity in '64. My uncle's first new car was a '64 Mustang. The attitude of former Studebaker owners would have to figure into the mix. After our 52 Champion bit the dust, my father went with a 63 Galaxie 500 XL. I tried to convince him to buy a Hawk or an Avanti. He was adamant: " I don't want an old man's car!" This perception by his generation, unfortunately, hampered Studebaker sales. I heard similar comments from men of my father's generation who had previously owned Studebakers.
    1957 Studebaker Champion 2 door. Staten Island, New York.

    "Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think." -Albert Einstein

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    • #3
      In Studebaker's case they did what was right at the time. They already had several non-automotive divisions that were making money for the corporation. The automotive division gambled on the 50/50 chance that the buying public would jump at the refreshed 1964 line of cars, and hoped for the best. We know the unfortunate outcome, but that totally redesigned car allowed the corporation to wind down the automotive division over a greater period of time and allowed the dealership organization to slowly dissolve without the liability of huges payouts if they ceased production before 1966.

      Hudson? They COULD have started buying a V8 from Studebaker for the 1954 model year to make up for their shortcoming.

      Craig

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      • #4
        Originally posted by 8E45E View Post
        In Studebaker's case they did what was right at the time. They already had several non-automotive divisions that were making money for the corporation. The automotive division gambled on the 50/50 chance that the buying public would jump at the refreshed 1964 line of cars, and hoped for the best. We know the unfortunate outcome, but that totally redesigned car allowed the corporation to wind down the automotive division over a greater period of time and allowed the dealership organization to slowly dissolve without the liability of huges payouts if they ceased production before 1966.

        Hudson? They COULD have started buying a V8 from Studebaker for the 1954 model year to make up for their shortcoming.

        Craig
        No argument, Craig; they were doin' what they thought they needed to do. We aren't second-guessing anyone's decision, here, for the decision-makers could hardly have predicted, much less known, the ultimate outcome when planning the 1954 Hudson and 1964 Studebaker.

        That's a good point about the 1964 Studebaker being fresh enough to wear as well as it needed to, to wind down the automotive division...little did they know when planning and designing the 1964 main line! <GGG> BP
        We've got to quit saying, "How stupid can you be?" Too many people are taking it as a challenge.

        Ayn Rand:
        "You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality."

        G. K. Chesterton: This triangle of truisms, of father, mother, and child, cannot be destroyed; it can only destroy those civilizations which disregard it.

        Comment


        • #5
          Very interesting. I remember back in the '50s & '60s how much people were afraid to buy almost any independent make. I also remember back in '61, I wanted to order a '61 Studebaker Hawk in black with red interior and 4-speed on the floor. But my dad talked me out of it saying that Studebaker would go out of business and I wouldn't be able to get parts. This was quite a statement, considering that my dad always bought cars built by the independent makes, including Studebaker. I only wish I could talk to my father now and tell him that we still can get parts for our beloved Studes. He was right, however, that Studebaker was on the brink of disaster. Of course, I also believe that Studebaker didn't go out of the auto business because of the products it was producing. There was that fear that Studebaker wouldn't last.
          Rog
          '59 Lark VI Regal Hardtop
          Smithtown,NY
          Recording Secretary, Long Island Studebaker Club

          Comment


          • #6
            We are certainly learning the real-world definition of self-fulfilling prophecy in this thread, eh? BP
            We've got to quit saying, "How stupid can you be?" Too many people are taking it as a challenge.

            Ayn Rand:
            "You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality."

            G. K. Chesterton: This triangle of truisms, of father, mother, and child, cannot be destroyed; it can only destroy those civilizations which disregard it.

            Comment


            • #7
              I've often wondered the same thing about the money spent on Studebaker's Bonneville efforts. Not much in terms of overall budget, but still a good sum for someone on the skids.
              Jim
              Often in error, never in doubt
              http://rabidsnailracing.blogspot.com/

              ____1966 Avanti II RQA 0088_______________1963 Avanti R2 63R3152____________http://rabidsnailracing.blogspot.com/

              Comment


              • #8
                Having observed how dedicated to supporting and boosting Studebaker ownership and sales my older family members and their favored dealers were circa 1963, I believe the '64 redo was for the best.
                The dealer organization and long-time loyal customers were virtually unanimous in support of Studebaker Corp updating their 'bread and butter' line to meet and beat the competition head on.
                I can recall how proud dad was when showing off of his new Bordeaux Red '64 Commander, and how in his estimation, it was a better car than anything else in its price range. I know that as a 'Studebaker' proud family we never once regretted that choice, and the vehicle served us most satisfactorily until dad traded it in on our '66 Commander.
                I can hardly imagine how upset the dealer organization, and hopeful, positive thinking loyal customers would have been had not the '64 redo been undertaken (especially in light of all the Corporate efforts and $ that were tossed into the Avanti program.)
                If my father and his brothers were yet around to offer their opinion, what Studebaker finally got around to offering as the 'new '64 sedan line' is what Studebaker should have brought to market in 1962.
                Although I have always loved and lusted after the Avanti's, I honestly believe Studebaker Corporation would made a much better decision to have allowed the Avanti to remain an exciting 'dream car', and spent the bulk of that time and effort on their 'bread and butter' line, to produce the profits that would have paid the way for a carefully planned and fully developed Avanti. As it was, the vehicles that 99.9% of their customer base were expected to be buying were passed over to produce a product which 99.9% of their actual buying customers (dealers as well as retail customers) had no interest. Not to say they weren't proud of presenting such an 'advanced ' vehicle, just that it did not represent a practical vehicle for their purchase, sales, or use. Chevy owners are proud of their Corvette, but few of them would desire one for everyday family transportation.
                If Studebaker had introduced the '64 'Lark types' in 1961, they would have been cutting edge, there wouldn't have been half as many complaints about their 'antiquated engineering', as it was 1964 was too late and allowed the competition too much time to bring similar sized, all new, fully developed products to the market, leaving Studebaker's 'new' 1964 models almost the dead last, least appreciated, least desired 1964 models offered by any manufacturer. They had their opportunity, and they blew it. badly. As they did on several previous occasions.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by jlmccuan View Post
                  I've often wondered the same thing about the money spent on Studebaker's Bonneville efforts. Not much in terms of overall budget, but still a good sum for someone on the skids.
                  That was probably the most bang they could get for the buck, Jim. "Bonneville" was well-recognized, as was the Granatelli name. And the Granatelli brothers would certainly have had a lot to say about where the performance splash was to take place.

                  One tactical error Egbert made, and we'll allow him a few as good a job as he was doing, was being coyly Rolls-Royce, not specifying horsepower figures for R-series engines. That silliness effectively blocked those cars from NHRA stock class drag racing, an important venue that must have been underestimated by Egbert and Granatelli as to youth "impressionability."

                  'Not sure what all that might have done for the bugaboo "don't buy one, they're going out of business" cloud that persisted, though.

                  'Back to the greased skids syndrome; tough, tough to fight.

                  But cheers to them for having fought it as long as they did, giving us the Avanti and R-series cars to enjoy. They could have just as easily died in the 1950s...and if so, maybe the Golden Hawk series would have been the highest-performance Studebakers we would have ever seen, which still would have been a helluva good statement. <GGG> BP
                  We've got to quit saying, "How stupid can you be?" Too many people are taking it as a challenge.

                  Ayn Rand:
                  "You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality."

                  G. K. Chesterton: This triangle of truisms, of father, mother, and child, cannot be destroyed; it can only destroy those civilizations which disregard it.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I think Studebaker did a great job of bring out the '64 Lark type line, and making it look so new, when, in reality, the changes were limited to the front clip, roof, and rear panel and trunk. When you think about it the '63s where actually more different than the prior year '62s then the '64s where compared to the '63s (I am starting to confuse myself!). The '63s eliminated the one piece doors on sedans with the complete upper door frame, elimiated the exposed "B" piller and wrap around windshield, and introduced an all new interior and wagon design, all changes which for the most part carried over to '64 model year. Where (in my opinion) they made a mistake was that the '63s LOOKED just like the '62s - Studebaker should have found a few extra bucks somewhere to at least change the front panel! My point to this is that the '64s, with there new front clip, looked like a new, fresh design, and a good one at that.
                    OK, enough rambling out of me!
                    Eric DeRosa

                    \'49 2R-5 (original Survivor)
                    \'63 R2 Lark (the money-pit-mobile)
                    \'60 Lark Convertible (project in waiting)

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I've owned both a '54 Hudson Wasp and a '64 Daytona (I still have the latter) and I think the money spent was realistic considering their financial situations, and they achieved great (re)design work! Maybe if both designs came out 2 years earlier they would have sold more cars????

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I have to agree with Eric in reply #10 with one modification. The 64 style should have been brought out in 63. Many of the changes that were made for the 63 were one year only. True those changes to the 64 were minor, but any change has to have costs & like it was said, the 63's looked like the 62 unless you really paid attention to details. Another thing that has always gotten under my skin was the introduction to the "Standard". Sorry Clark. If the base model was to be called the Challenger in 64, why did they plant such a bland name on the same basic car for the few months it was available in 63? I remember watching Mr Ed & hearing at the beginning of the program to "stay tuned for the introduction of an exciting new product from Studebaker". boy was I excited. After they knocked the socks off with the Avanti I was expecting something really great. When the introduction came & one realized what it was, disappointment set in. Even if the 63 model year was cut short (would have saved alot of the 63's to be in storage lots taking away 64 sales) and the 64 had been introduced in April 63 (as was the 65 Mustang in April 64) they could have had a tag line like "Too Great To Wait" or something like that. Something exciting.

                        Perhaps also, think of the money spent on the ill fated small car. All we really got out of that was the 64 style wheel covers. The money spent on that project for enginering the new engine, body, ect. Yes from the pictures we have seen of it, it was ungainly. I dont doubt the judgement that Egbert had is cancelling that project. But it was money that could have been spent better, just like the money spent on the 63 although by then that money was alot less. And less is what they got.
                        59 Lark wagon, now V-8, H.D. auto!
                        60 Lark convertible V-8 auto
                        61 Champ 1/2 ton 4 speed
                        62 Champ 3/4 ton 5 speed o/drive
                        62 Champ 3/4 ton auto
                        62 Daytona convertible V-8 4 speed & 62 Cruiser, auto.
                        63 G.T. Hawk R-2,4 speed
                        63 Avanti (2) R-1 auto
                        64 Zip Van
                        66 Daytona Sport Sedan(327)V-8 4 speed
                        66 Cruiser V-8 auto

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                        • #13
                          Sometimes I wonder what might have happened if everyone at Studebaker from, say, 1955 on would have been completely united and committed to competing and progressing the auto business, instead of a few car lovers here and there trying to save it with smoke and mirrors.

                          Walt and Roy Disney were stonewalled in every single effort, and were completely surrounded by people telling them they were nuts, that'll never sell, you'll never make that work, nobody wants to see full-length animated films, on and on. Walt never blinked and was never deterred in his enthusiasm one iota; and Roy was the guy who went to the banks and made it happen based on his unwavering belief in Walt and his ideas. They had a few failures but ultimately we know how it worked out...

                          I'm glad they soldiered on as long as they did. I shudder to think of a world without Larks
                          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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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Bob Andrews View Post
                            Sometimes I wonder what might have happened if everyone at Studebaker from, say, 1955 on would have been completely united and committed to competing and progressing the auto business, instead of a few car lovers here and there trying to save it with smoke and mirrors.

                            Walt and Roy Disney were stonewalled in every single effort, and were completely surrounded by people telling them they were nuts, that'll never sell, you'll never make that work, nobody wants to see full-length animated films, on and on. Walt never blinked and was never deterred in his enthusiasm one iota; and Roy was the guy who went to the banks and made it happen based on his unwavering belief in Walt and his ideas. They had a few failures but ultimately we know how it worked out...

                            I'm glad they soldiered on as long as they did. I shudder to think of a world without Larks
                            The direction of the discussion could have easily been titled, "WHAT IF."...and I think that fans of defunct manufacturers will be speculating forever. It is a subject of business schools and many text books.

                            In the early seventies, I was a veteran who had somehow managed to let the statute of limitations run out on my high school record and I sneaked by the gatekeepers and managed to get myself enrolled in a major university. A bunch of us married students would gather in the student center before classes, drink coffee and attempt to impress each other with our great ideas of how to solve the worlds problems.


                            I don't know what allowed me to be accepted by this crowd because as I struggled to maintain a 2.8 GPR, most of the group was business and finance majors with 3.5 and 4.0 grade point ratings. Me, being a liberal arts major, did most of the yawning during the conversations. I think I was, like, their "Pet Rock."


                            One morning, one of the "Brains" of the group pronounced that he had stayed up most of the night and developed a perfect formula for a capitalist economy. He launched into a very excited explanation. All of the group were on the edge of their seats with wide-eyed attention (with one notable exception).


                            Finally, when he stopped to take a breath, I proclaimed..."it won't work." Incredulous, he asked, "what do you mean?" I responded with a question. "What are the effects of Labor unions and organized crime?" His response was to explain that his theory was scientific and could only deal with quantifiable and measurable data. My response was that the real world is full of intangibles and that even if they can't be reduced to numbers, their existence greatly influence outcomes.


                            My opinion in this great "WHAT IF" debate is that the underlying intangible of "passion" for the trade was lacking. As "Bob Andrews" points out, what if Walt Disney had listened to his detractors and not carried the passion for his dream. Look at what Dolly Parton has done with some simi-flood plane and eroded hill property along the Pigeon Forge river in Tennessee. Without the intangible of a vision and the passion to see it through, it is easy to get discouraged and take your money to safer investments.


                            I have no doubt that each of the Auto manufacturers mentioned had their passionate employees and leaders. However, I just don't think they had enough of them in the right places at the right times. When this happens the "Bean Counters" take charge, usually panic, and scatter. I sincerely believe that in each case, if there had been enough passionate leadership in engineering, sales, production, and investment, these entities could have found room in a crowded market.
                            John Clary
                            Greer, SC

                            SDC member since 1975

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Bob Andrews View Post
                              Walt and Roy Disney were stonewalled in every single effort, and were completely surrounded by people telling them they were nuts, that'll never sell, you'll never make that work, nobody wants to see full-length animated films, on and on.
                              There is a factor in consumerism that's called unmet demand. Sometimes it s a gamble, as in Walt Disney's case, but he correctly perceived that everybody was flush with cash and kids in the mid-1950's needed a happy place to spend it. There was a homebuilder here who went on a vacation to California and saw all these bigger homes built around golf courses and artifical lakes. He took that same concept here, and there were LOTS of doubters who tried to tell him it wouldn't work where its winter 6 months of the year. He proved them wrong. In some cases, the unmet demand is so subtle, and when someone finds a solution, others will say "Hey! Why didn't I think of that!". Betty Nesmith comes to mind, who invented Liquid Paper. At first, she only invented it for her own use, and then once others in her workplace found out about it, she became the office hero, and got convinced to bottle it and sell it out of her garage. In the end, Gillette paid something like $45 million for the company. The first independent who went a different direction was George Mason of Nash, and found a limited market with smaller cars and priced accordingly. Hudson's Jet was too overpriced and was not 'value for the money', and the lack of a V8 which was in demand in the industry went unmet. A bad 'guess' that killed them. Studebaker's timing couldn't have been any more perfect when the Lark came out in 1959, hence the huge volume of production and profits. In 1964, there was already a flood of compact cars, and the new intermediate class of cars to compete with. While the design was excellent, as others have stated, GM's A body lines stole the thunder for that year. Even if Studebaker lasted a few years more and introduced the intermediate-sized, Avanti-inspired line with the 340 engine, it still would have had intense competition. Probably the last time the US automotive industry had a situation of unmet demand was Chrysler's mini-van.

                              Craig
                              Last edited by 8E45E; 03-25-2011, 09:20 AM.

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