1950 STUDEBAKER COMMANDER Regal Deluxe Starlite Coupe - £29,500 OVNO
The Commander name was used by Studebaker in the 1920s and continued its use until the demise of the company in 1966, except 1936, and 1959-1963.
Just say the word "Studebaker," and the chances are good that the image that springs immediately to mind is of the 1950-1951 models, a.k.a. the "bullet nose" or "airplane" Studey. Although Studebaker was the first major manufacturer to put a totally new design on the market (using the slogan "First by far with a postwar car") for the '47 model year, it's the face-lifted version of that basic car, which came three years later, that was paradoxically radical and commercially successful. One of the most oft-heard Studebaker clichés - "they were so ahead of their time" - is exemplified by the bullet nose. Truly a Buck Rogers vision of the future, Studebaker's gamble with aircraft design vocabulary paid off for two glorious years starting in 1950.
Like their '47-'49 predecessors, the bullet-nose Studebakers featured a full-width, or "envelope," body with integral fenders as promoted by industrial design icon Raymond Loewy and executed by Virgil Exner. This pioneering three-box design that featured a rear deck almost as lengthy as the hood yielded yet another time-worn cliché: "Is it going or is it coming?" Har-de-har-har.
Studebaker's Starlight coupe - sold in both low-priced Champion and luxurious Commander model lines - was the most special iteration of all postwar Studebakers and tested one's credulity. The rear window wrapped around to meet the B-pillars, as the C-pillars were dispensed with entirely. Rear-seat passengers were treated to the equivalent of a Cinemascope-styled picture window. The body style was and is nothing short of sensational and continued to be offered when the freshened bullet-nose design debuted. If ever there were a Studebaker to, so to speak, out-Studebaker all others, it would be the '50-'51 Starlight.
After the launch of his postwar design, Exner left the South Bend fold, so the very talented, but largely unsung, Bob Bourke did the heavy lifting for Loewy on the redesign. With fighter-plane styling in the front and streamlined-railway-car "Vista Dome" treatment in the back, there've been few cars as stunning before or since. The design leadership was matched with comparatively up-to-the-minute engineering to make it more than worthy of contemporary consideration. Was there anything more modern on the road back then? Not really.
The 1950 bullet-nose lineup came in three sizes, Goldilocks-style. Baby Bear was the Champion, riding on a 113-inch wheelbase; the Commander was Mama Bear, with a 120-inch wheelbase; there were 124 inches between the wheels of Papa Bear, the Land Cruiser that could be ordered only as a four-door sedan. There was no wraparound, Starlight-like rear window on sedans and convertibles, but as a consolation, four-door sedans got rear-hinged suicide doors in the back. The next year saw some styling refinements in the front end with flush, rather than recessed, grillework, and there was also consolidation in that the Commander and the Champion shared the same 115-inch wheelbase and the Land Cruiser moved down to 119 inches, about the same as today's Bentley Continental Flying Spur.
Designer Robert E Bourke created a rounded roof with a wraparound window system that provided a panoramic effect. The curved window was achieved with four fixed panels of glass. The roof was supported by the B pillars immediately behind the doors and in front of the wraparound back window.
The 1950 Studebaker Commander was powered by a six-cylinder L-head engine that produced just over 100 horsepower. It sat on a 120 inch wheelbase which provided ample interior space for the 5/6 passengers.
1950 was a milestone year for Studebaker - it was the first year for the legendary 'bullet nose' front end that remained in production through 1952. The Commander Series was powered by a Studebaker-built L-head six that produced 102 horsepower from 245.6 cubic-inches. A long list of options were available, including Studebaker's 'Automatic Drive' (automatic transmission) which was included on this car. Another rare option on this car is the under seat heater.
It's important to understand that this car is super rare, not only because it's a coupe, but also because it's a Commander with an Auto transmission. The Commander has longer body and a more powerful engine. There were 7,375 Commander Coupes built compared with 29,966 Champion coupes.
The 1950 and '51 model years can be distinguished at a glance by the nose itself: In 1950, it's completely chromed, but in '51 the outer ring is painted in body colour. Commanders are visually larger than their lower-priced Champion siblings, thanks to larger and more visible front-end trim; and literally larger on much longer wheelbases.
The dashboard is adorned with gleaming chrome, but like the car overall it's somehow understated in a moderne way, especially considered the ostentatious designs of it's rivals.
This car was stripped back to bare-metal and resprayed in an original colour by a specialist classic car paint-shop. There was absolutely not a single spot of rust anywhere on the car there is no welding anywhere! All the chassis cavity and doors were waxoyled.
The interior was completely re-trimmed in leather and Wilton carpet.
Both the starter and dynamo were completely rebuilt by a specialist.
I managed to find a brand new old stock Carb.
I have fitted electronic ignition and converted the car to 12 volts, which has transformed the driving experience.
The car starts easily and has an automatic choke.
All the suspension and brakes were completely stripped replaced with new components.
The parts back-up for this car is superb with two excellent parts suppliers who can shop quickly if needed.
I swapped out the vacuum wiper motor for a custom-made electric wiper conversion.
I have fitted a 'secret' radio which is controlled by remote control and the speaker behind the grille is complimented with a large under-seat speaker.
The car stands me a lot more than the asking price. The paint job was £12,000 alone. The brake and suspension parts total more than £4,000. The re-chroming bill (triple chromed) was in excess of £4,000. I had to have the steering wheel custom-made in the States, which cost me almost £1,000. The interior is all leather. New rubbers all round.
On and off, I spent about 3 years restoring this car. I own over 25 classic cars and I have decided to downsize my collection.
The car comes complete with a lot of spares.
This is a very practical daily driver if you wanted it to be, or a show-queen if that's your thing.
I can't emphasise enough this is not the poorer cousin, Champion, but the far more desirable and rarer Commander.
It's the most futuristic car of the past - a dream car that you can drive on a regular basis. Styling sets it apart, and straightforward mechanicals make it relatively easy to live with. Spare and reproduction parts abound, and the Studebaker community is very supportive. Nothing says "postwar" more emphatically; the Muppets drove one to box-office glory. You get to admit that it is, in fact, both going and coming and was, yes, ahead of its time, which seems to still have not arrived.
- 50000 Miles
- RefCode: DIY1047714