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From the archives #82 Whats going on here?

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  • From the archives #82 Whats going on here?
    Richard Quinn
    Editor emeritus: Antique Studebaker Review

  • #2
    That was one of those early Datsun-powered trains. The owner of the Stude is pulled up to give it a jump start.

    I'm pretty sure.
    Proud NON-CASO

    I do not prize the word "cheap." It is not a badge of 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


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

    Illegitimi non carborundum


    • #3
      That is Ted Harbits Dad in the famous Sparrow Hawk nosing out the big block favorite of the day,Ole 99 out of Detroit.
      NEIL G.


      • #4
        Trying to 'one-up' Oldsmobile.



        • #5
          Just testing the "New! Planar Suspension."
          "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.
          sigpic'33 Rockne 10, '51 Commander Starlight, '53 Commander Starlight "Désirée"


          • #6
            Great period photo. My first thought was that Bonnie and Clyde were trying to rob a train.

            A closer examination of the photo makes me think that since this looks like a switch area where two tracks are converging...the car must be some type of railroad company maintenance vehicle and is there to deal with a problem with the switching mechanism. I am also wondering if a wider shot would show a place to the right where the road runs under the tracks.

            One other scenario I could think of is that to the right, there is a crossing, and the car could have swerved to the left in the nick of time to keep from getting hit by the oncoming train at the last moment.

            However, I am sticking to the car being a "service" car of some type due to the sign on the door and light on top.
            John Clary
            Greer, SC

            SDC member since 1975


            • #7
              Originally posted by rockne10 View Post
              Just testing the "New! Planar Suspension."
              I seem to remember seeing an old photo demonstrating that, but IIRC, but it was a head-on view. I bet its the same car, though.

              Last edited by 8E45E; 11-22-2011, 06:11 AM.


              • #8
                Yep, A photo finish. The winner by a nose.
                I sure enjoy all the old photos. Thanks for posting.

                Gordon S


                • #9
                  I'll bet it's Ab Jenkins racing the train.....
                  The only difference between death and taxes is that death does not grow worse every time Congress convenes. - Will Rogers


                  • #10
                    Is the panel truck, also a Studebaker?
                    55 Speedster/Street Machine
                    63 Avanti R2
                    64 Convertible R1


                    • #11
                      The drivers got two of his buddy's with him and he is playing "Chicken" trying to beat the train to the next crossing.


                      • #12
                        Not sure what's going on here, appears the train is not moving - the car IS moving (passing) the train - and the truck on the other side of the tracks is probably the official Studebaker Corp photo truck. What was really going on is known today only by R.Q. I'm sure he'll enlighten us, at some point. stupak


                        • #13
                          Studebaker's New for 1935 Miracle-Ride Suspension!


                          • #14

                            The short of it:

                            A "Miracle Ride" 1935 Studebaker Commander with the new Planar suspension races a locomotive on a stretch of Chicago and Eastern track between Momence, Illinois and Chicago on April 5, 1935. The car was driven by Luther Johnson of Studebaker's engineering dept. and veteran of the Indy 500. The Studebaker had no problem staying ahead and rode with boulevard smoothness along the ties of parallel tracks.
                            The "race" was covered by at least one professional film crew and newsreels have survived. That is the Kankakee river in the background of photo #1.

                            The long of it.... for the serious reader of Studebaker history!

                            Unique Road Test Proves Studebaker Can “Take It”

                            Rough Ties and Railroad Bed Are Used as Proving Ground by Studebaker Engineers

                            (Studebaker News April 17, 1935)

                            Studebaker’s Miracle Ride was recently subjected by the Studebaker engineers to two "third degree road tests" which were immeasurably more difficult than any ever before attempted.
                            In the first, a new 1935 Commander was driven for 106 miles over the ties of the Pennsylvania Railway between South Bend and Indianapolis, Ind. In the second, the same Commander staged a thrilling race with the Dixie Flier, crack train of the Chicago and Eastern Illinois Railroad, near Momence, Illinois.
                            Luther Johnson, veteran Indianapolis race driver and Studebaker test pilot, was the driver of the Commander on both occasions. The tests were conducted under the direction of H. E. Churchill, member of Studebaker's engineering staff, and were made with the definite objective of determining just how much punishment the mechanism of Studebaker's independent planar suspension would stand. Independent planar suspension successfully withstood every test!
                            In. the run to Indianapolis, the Commander was officially clocked out of South Bend
                            at exactly 9:00 o'clock in the morning by F. H. Smith, manager of South Bend's main Western Union office, The car sped out of South Bend with Johnson at the wheel and completed 106.5 miles over this rough railroad road bed - which included not only many trestles and crossing guards but also a half dozen or more places where the Pennsylvania right-of-way crossed other railroads. It was a terrific test, but the Commander completed the distance in a running time of three hours and fifteen minutes, or an average of 33.1 miles per hour-which would be considered a fairly average driving speed for most motorists over the same distance. Driver Johnson was almost as fresh at the finish as he was at the start.
                            Newsreel Men Interested
                            Paramount News heard of this remarkable run and showed decided interest.
                            "Why don't you find a stretch of double track and run that car against a fast train?" it was suggested.
                            A spot was selected within easy driving distance of Paramount headquarters in Chicago and arrangements were made with the C. & E. I. Railroad for a special train and use of their right of way.
                            The Dixie Flier is one of the fastest and most luxurious trains in the world. It operates on regular daily schedule between Chicago and Jacksonville, Florida, and on many stretches of track it travels at a speed which hangs around the ninety-mile-an-hour mark. Railroad officials provided Studebaker engineers with an exact duplicate of this train for their use on the day of the tests, April 5, 1935.

                            The Chicago & Eastern Illinois Railway boasts one of the finest roadbeds of the country-a roadbed which permits heavy trains to travel over it at high speed with absolute safety-but it was not designed for automobiles to travel between the rails at high speeds! The ties are approximately 18 inches apart and are heavily ballasted with rough gravel. The section near Momence. Illinois was chosen not only because it was close to Chicago, but also because there were two very long trestles over the Kankakee River at that point and because there are more than the average number of switch points located there.

                            Expected “Crack-Up”

                            While the camera clicked the Commander went through its paces and Paramount newsreel cameramen, constituted as they are, were bent on making it as spectacular as possible. In fact, they expected a "crack-up!” The action went this way:
                            Luther Johnson pulled his car up alongside the locomotive at the Momence station. Engineer F. W. Kay and Conductor James Hoffman climbed down out of the train and spoke to Johnson for the benefit of Paramount's microphone.
                            "That's mighty good roadbed, but I have never seen anyone try anything like this on it before," said Kay. "Well, let's see what happens," was Johnson's reply.

                            Kay climbed into the cab, the signal was given, and the run was on. Down over the trestles and out on to the rocky roadbed the pair went. The heavy locomotive steadily gained speed, and Johnson kept just a little bit ahead of it. A mile or so down the track there was an open switch, and here is where the only casualty occurred. The knife-like rail at the switch pierced the Commander's left front tire and a blowout ensued. But even with a flat tire, Johnson kept on and retained his position beside the locomotive until the tire flew off in shreds. He had perfect control of the car at all times.

                            Cameras Everywhere
                            Paramount had cameras alongside the right-of-way, a camera plane, cameras on the locomotive, and cameras on a specia1 flange-wheeled motorcar traveling ahead of the train. Time after time the run was repeated and then, for the especial benefit of the aerial cameramen, Johnson and the crack passenger train staged a thrilling race which lasted for about 10 miles. Both achieved speed in excess of fifty miles an hour.
                            "I could have beaten him easily," Johnson remarked. "But the cameramen instructed me to keep close to the locomotive so both of us would be in the picture at all times."

                            This thrill1ng performance was “duck soup” for the Commander. It could have gone on and on under the same conditions; and, as Johnson said, it could have achieved much higher speed with perfect safety and perfect comfort.

                            Engineers Make Careful Check
                            At the conclusion of the test, Studebaker engineers drove the car back to South Bend, where it was taken into the laboratory and subjected to a minute examination. There was no sign, no indication that any mechanical part had been subjected to this extraordinary
                            The newsreel men didn't get a "crack- up," but they got something far more thrilling - the picture of a Studebaker Champion successfully racing with a crack train-traveling in the train's own element.

                            Editor’s note:
                            The model year 1935 was the first year for Studebakers new Miracle Ride featuring the new “planar” suspension. In an effort to prove to the buying public the comfort, safety and sturdiness of this new system they staged some sensational public demonstrations the most thrilling of these being the race staged between the Commander and the Dixie Flyer.
                            The pilot in each of these exhilarating stunts was test driver Luther Johnson a veteran of three Indy 500 races and now in 1935 a full time employee of the Studebaker engineering department.
                            It was my pleasure to know Johnson and during an interview in the late 1970’s I ask him about this particular stunt. The taciturn veteran of thousands of competition miles as well thousands more test miles on the Studebaker Proving Ground track replied that it was not really a difficult assignment and downplayed any suggestion of danger. He said once he got the speed up to around 30 mph the car rode quite smoothly and he had no trouble staying ahead of the locomotive. He also said that locomotive was quite loud and the wheels were nearly as high as the Commander so from that point it was an experience different from any other that he had had.
                            The films from this event and another on an abandon railroad tracks in lower Michigan have survived and are available on tape.

                            Richard Quinn
                            Editor emeritus: Antique Studebaker Review


                            • #15
                              thanks, Mr. Quinn, for "the rest of the story".

                              i love the reading/seeing the history...
                              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.