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My special Starlight Coupe story.....

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  • My special Starlight Coupe story.....

    My father had polio when he was 4 and was paralyzed from the waste down. He lived his entire life wearing 25 pounds of steel braces on his legs. He refused to let that stop him and became a successful minister... not exactly the best paying job in the world. In 1946 Dad had a beat up, mid '30's Chevrolet that he drove by placing one foot on the brake and one on the clutch pedal and pushing on his knees to stop or shift. There was a stick to the accelerator as I remember for gas. I would have been 3 at the time.

    One of his parishioners happened to be the local Studebaker dealer, a gentleman who took extra special care of my father and treated him like a brother. Soon after the '47's came out I remember Clyde contacting dad and my folks having a discussion about whether they could or should or could afford a new car. With the war parts were scarce even the best cars on road were pretty well used up. I believe pent up demand made new cars hard to come by and there were waiting lists at most dealers.

    My next memory was of Clyde and Dad going to the bank together and my folks having a brand new Dark Maroon 1947 Starlight Coupe. Shortly after that the car went back to Clyde's garage and Ray, one of his mechanics, went to work installing a hand control kit.

    Thinking back, I'm sure that with returning soldiers missing limbs someone saw an opportunity/need and began building these kits. I'm also sure that knowing Clyde, he saw the kit first and would not sleep until he had dad in a new car with real hand controls!

    1947 was before power brakes and before automatic transmissions so the kit worked around these minor details. There was a lever between the gear shift and steering wheel that moved up and down, spring loaded to a central position. Accelerator springs were weakened and pushing the lever up was the accelerator. ( There was a thumb screw that you could tighten for a primitive cruse control )The middle position activated a solenoid that drove the clutch pedal. Pulling the lever down activated an air brake like on a tractor trailer that drove a second master cylinder in the trunk. You could drive either with hands or feet by simply throwing a switch under the dash that de-activated the clutch solenoid.

    That was the car I learned to drive on. At around age 7 I could, using the hand controls and a cushion on the seat, move it around the farmstead to fill it with gas bring it to the house from the garage or take it to the barn so that Dad could get a bag of feed for our one cow out of the trunk.

    Thank you Clyde... may you rest in peace.

  • #2
    What a heart-warming, unusual story about a particular Studebaker, a dealer and a family that remembers. I grew up during the war years and the 50's. I remember what polio did to kids back in those days.

    God bless you and your family!

    Frank Drumheller
    Locust Grove, VA
    M16-52 Boyer-bodied 1948 Studebaker fire truck


    • #3
      Very nice memory, indeed! Sometimes you do not have to say much to a youngster, just act! Sophocles: "The honor in life lies in deeds, not words" (paraphrase)
      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


      • #4
        Beautifully written story about two great men. Thanks for posting, these make my day.

        , ,


        • #5
          A man that don't feel a little humble after reading this, well, I just don't know.


          • #6
            Originally posted by Flashback View Post
            A man that don't feel a little humble after reading this, well, I just don't know.
            yep!!! with my "trials and tribulations", i'm thankful i can still walk. this made me recall a friend of mine, during my high school years, that was wheelchair bound due to polio. i had just got out of a "body cast" after my motorcycle accident, but still on crutches. we made money installing 8 track tape decks in other students' cars.

            may he rest in peace...
            Kerry. SDC Member #A012596W. ENCSDC member.

            '51 Champion Business Coupe - (Tom's Car). Purchased 11/2012.

            '40 Champion. sold 10/11. '63 Avanti R-1384. sold 12/10.


            • #7
              What a great story! My 1st recollection of a postwar Studebaker was also a '47 5-passenger coupe. Of course I was only 11, so it wasn't really mine. But I remember it as tho it were last week.

              That story was posted here a long time ago so don't want to bore anyone with re-posting it. If you'd like it, just e-mail me at the address in my profile. But I ended it with this:

              "In 1946, how could I, or anyone, have known that in just 8 more years, Henry Ford’s push to outsell Chevy would sound the death knell for most independents as we knew them. And in just 18 years, the magic of Studebaker cars would be gone from this country and in 2 more, from the world? All I knew at the time was that it was there and I truly loved it more than my Schwinn.

              Last time I was in Hamilton, the Studebaker “dealer” location was a Super Valu grocery store. Any idea that it had once been a place of youthful dreams, a heaven on earth for me, was gone, replaced by gherkins and Gravy Train. And tho I guess it could be said of ANY car, to my way of thinking, there is simply NO other car like a Studebaker—almost ANY Studebaker.

              But especially a mystically futuristic dark red 1947 5-passenger coupe in a dimly lit room at the Studebaker 'dealer'. I can still almost hear a faint, “Hey, kid, ya wanna look inside?”

              I know I'd do it again, even today."



              • #8
                John, you have a great way with words. Thanks a lot.


                • #9
                  "Shucks, 'twern't nuthin'" Was it Pluto or Goofy that said that

                  I won't say I was in love with that 1st 5-passenger coupe because it's kinda hard to love an inanimate object. But when I 1st saw it, I went home and drew pix of it and actually started a scrap book of all the Studebaker ads I could purloin.

                  Of course, that book is long gone. But I have managed to snag just about all the mag ads from that period again. Along with most ads from just about every other year until the end. Something about Studebaker ads that makes me want to buy another Studebaker.

                  Especially a NICE 5-passenger coupe. (Don't tell my wife!)