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50 & 51 Bullet Nose Champions

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  • Other: 50 & 51 Bullet Nose Champions

    I'm wanting my next car to be a 50' or 51' four door champion automatic, so I have a few questions about their reliability and problems often associated with them. Most all cars have some problems that are common with each particular model. Like one particular motor may be bad about oil leaks or dropping valves. Some car models are notorious about overheating or failing brakes. The Pinto's problem was blowing up when rear ended. What are some of the common problems associated with the 50-51 Studebaker i6 automatic Champions? I am wanting a stock Champion or as close as i can get to restored to factory specs. I know many of you will cuss me, but I'm wanting to use it as a daily driver and need to know what kind of problems I can expect. Should I blow off thoughts of original and find one with newer/better engine and or drive train? What are the most common problems? Are they dependable automobiles?

    New to Studebaker
    Last edited by Rollinsb; 08-16-2017, 08:26 PM.

  • #2
    If your sure about staying fairly stock, try to find a 51 with the V8. The little 6's and automatic are pretty doggy, to say the least. 51's also have better suspension and brakes.
    sigpic1966 Daytona (The First One)
    1950 Champion Convertible
    1950 Champion 4Dr
    1955 President 2 Dr Hardtop
    1957 Thunderbird


    • #3
      "The little 6's and automatic are pretty doggy" ?? Do they not hold up or are they just wimpy with little get-up & go? Or are the cars too heavy for the little i6 & trans, which overworks and strains it to death? Thanks for helping.


      • #4
        I put a lot of miles on both a 50 champ coupe and a 51 V8 land cruiser. 50 was under powered and not friendly on open road at higher speeds,51 did fine,better brakes, open road capable and comfy. both secondary road comfy but champ a bit busy under hood until OD was engaged. Different Strokes For Different Folks, Pick Your Poison. A V8 will last longer at today's speeds.Confused? as a work car the 50 won out, it had a FM conversion radio and 12 volt system. made the 35 mile ride home from work much nicer.Imagine it, a different Studebaker to drive 70 miles a day 5 or 6 days a week to work on other Studes! Heaven! Luck Doofus


        • #5
          Originally posted by Rollinsb View Post
          "The little 6's and automatic are pretty doggy" ?? Do they not hold up or are they just wimpy with little get-up & go? Or are the cars too heavy for the little i6 & trans, which overworks and strains it to death? Thanks for helping.
          The 169" Champion engine debuted in 1939, in a pretty lightweight car. By the time the 50s came around, the cars were heavier and the little six had a tough time moving out of their own way, moreso with the automatic than the standard. Today it's a different world.

          I spent a lot of time behind the wheel of a '51 Champion with automatic a few years ago. Around a small town without many hills, it would be fine. If you've got any traffic to speak of, there's no way you can keep up. I lived in the Atlanta suburbs at the time, and it was almost dangerous in that area. 60 mph was as fast as I wanted to go without straining the engine, and it took a long time to get there.

          Both the engine and trans are tough as nails. But certainly underpowered by today's standards. If you're set on having a bulletnose with an automatic, most guys would be a lot happier with a Commander. The 50 had a pretty stout 245" six and the 51 a 232" V8. Both were available with the automatic trans and would be a lot more drivable in the real world.

          In any case, I'd drive one before you buy one. Welcome to the forum and good luck!


          • #6
            Rollinsb, are you dead-set on having a Champion?
            Winston-Salem, NC
            Visit The Studebaker Skytop Registry website at:


            • #7
              I am fortunate to live in a rural area so most of my driving in my 50 Champion is just like the kind of driving it was designed for. It does that very well and is a whale of a lot of fun; comfortable, reliable, and economical. With overdrive it will take on the interstate and she will trundle along at 70 but really no more than that. That is 2900 rpm. With the automatic you will not have as favorable a final drive ratio and the little darling will be turning over 3000 rpm at 60. Not suitable long term. You have to remember that high speed roads were rare in those days, and those who wished to drive fast regularly chose specific cars and equipment on that basis.

              All that said, if you are using it around town and not for commuting, a 50 or 51 Champion will be fine. The engines are quite reliable, easy to work on, and reliable starters even in cold weather. In my experience there are a lot of Champions that were worn and abused down to the nubbins back when they were the cheapest used cars. I have had several in the shop that were shiny but basicly clapped out and with mileage greatly in excess of what showed on the odometer. My champ had a real 79K on it when I got it and still had a lot of life left in all components except the wiring. Choose carefully.


              • #8
                I had a '50 Commander with the Big 6 and it was very nice on the highway. It did have the 3-speed with overdrive, not the automatic. It was very dependable and had sufficient power to pull a hill with no effort. She could run all day at 65-70 mph with no complaint and never overheated. The Commander had bigger brakes but they could still fade if you did a lot of hill driving with the transmission in overdrive. I quickly learned to take it out of overdrive when driving around the hills of Portland, Oregon.
                I really liked that car. It was a joy to drive, was relatively trouble free, got decent gas mileage, and was very comfortable. I wish I had kept it. I miss it.
                Ed Sallia
                Dundee, OR

                Sol Lucet Omnibus


                • #9
                  I would have to agree with most of these comments. I had a 52 Champion (the same mechanically as a 51) for a long time. It was fine IF you respected the fact that it accelerated very slowly compared to today's cars. Mine had an overdrive so it performed better than an automatic would. If you drive locally, so that it doesn't require much merging in heavy traffic and the like, the Champion will be fine. If you drive in steep areas, expect to be in the slow lane or holding up traffic. I enjoy my current Commander much better overall on the road.
                  "In the heart of Arkansas."
                  Searcy, Arkansas
                  1952 Commander 2 door. Really fine 259.
                  1952 2R pickup


                  • #10
                    i now have the '51 Champion that i think Matthew was talking about in post #5 with the 6 and automatic drive. it is ok around town and i've had it up to around 60 mph on the interstate for about 50 miles. it's really slow but helps around town to start in Low then shift to drive (2nd & 3rd gear) on secondary roads.

                    if an automatic is a necessity, i'd suggest finding a '51 Commander or Land Cruiser with a V8.

                    and, if i recall correctly, the '50 was a one year only in regards to suspension/other parts. the '51 shares same with a few later models so more replacement parts are available.

                    good luck on your search!
                    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.


                    • #11
                      I've owned my 1950 Champion for ten years now. It is very original, but a 3-speed with overdrive rather than an automatic. I'm told that the Borg-Warner automatics are VERY tough trannies, but I've never owned one. I would echo the comments of others (Champion engines are almost indestructible, but underpowered for the 1950 car, brakes are inadequate by modern standards, if the wiring hasn't been replaced that needs to be a priority). That said, they are more affordable than most cars of the era, and cooler-looking as well. Ask yourself: how many 1950s cars STILL look futuristic? Most parts are also readily available from several Studebaker vendors, with the exception of some 1950-only steering components and trim parts. I would add that ALL 1940s-50s cars need more regular maintenance than modern vehicles, particularly oil and lube in dozens of locations. If you don't like tinkering, put a Champion body on an S-10 frame and enjoy it that way.
                      Finally, as already stated, it is NOT designed for interstates or really for driving above 60 mph, but its a lot of fun in town. Its an attention-getter. Every trip to the grocery store is like a parade.
                      1950 Champion
                      W-3 4 Dr. Sedan
                      Holdrege NE


                      • #12
                        The reason I was wanting a Champ as appose to the Commander is because it's smaller and lighter, and probably better mileage too. Although the Commander has prettier body lines. Yes, I'd need a 51 since it has better front suspension. It must be a 4 door/coach doors, must be automatic, must be able to cruise at 70 safely (not stressing it), and able to handle trips like RT-66.
                        With that being said What do I need:
                        -A '51 with higher gears in rear end?
                        - or one with a stock v8 & running gears?
                        -a stock i6 with more modern automatic w/OD trans?
                        - or at worst and last resort newer v6/8, newer trans and rear end?

                        Thanks for all the help! Your knowledge shared with me may prevent a costly mistake in the future!


                        • #13
                          Get an original V8 or even one with a 259 or 289 transplant and automatic. If the highway speeds seem to taxing, replace the trans with a modern GM AOD. There are several adapters available from several vendors. Keep it as simple as possible.
                          sigpic1966 Daytona (The First One)
                          1950 Champion Convertible
                          1950 Champion 4Dr
                          1955 President 2 Dr Hardtop
                          1957 Thunderbird


                          • #14
                            In 51, the Champions and the Commanders are identical in size and appearance. The "Commander is bigger than the Champion" ended with the 1950 models.
                            RadioRoy, specializing in AM/FM conversions with auxiliary inputs for iPod/satellite/CD player. In the old car radio business since 1985.

                            17A-S2 - 50 Commander convertible
                            10G-C1 - 51 Champion starlight coupe
                            10G-Q4 - 51 Champion business coupe
                            4H-K5 - 53 Commander starliner hardtop
                            5H-D5 - 54 Commander Conestoga wagon
                            56B-D4 - 56 Commander station wagon
                            60V-L6 - 60 Lark convertible


                            • #15
                              I think you are nuts to want this to be a daily driver. The 50's cars were pretty worn out at 100,000 miles although the Studebaker engines and transmissions were stronger than most. Having restored several 50's cars, they all turned out to be a complete rebuild because all the moving parts were worn out. Definitely your original wiring will be in bad shape. I have a 1950 Champion Starlight Coupe that we use as a Sunday driver. Get an Owner's manual and check out the amount of maintenance required every 10,000 miles. Ours is a 3-speed six cylinder with overdrive. Goes 0-60 in a day and a half, but loves to cruise at 70 mph. Very low power going up hills here in New Mexico. I like the suggestion of putting the body on another car if you really want a daily driver. However many of the bullet noses were lost to hot rodding so I hate to see another one go to a resto rod.