The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

21 September 2002

Thoroughly Stude

Of course, I wasn't actually going to the mall, but there are some worthwhile shops around the periphery, and while I was getting back onto the service road, I took a sideways glance at the adjacent lot, and to my surprise, there were, not one, but two middle-Fifties Studebakers. This, I decided, called for further exploration.

And sure enough, once I'd turned the corner, I found dozens of Studes on exhibition: bullet-nose sedans from '50 and '51, classic coupes from '53 on, ferocious late-50s and early 60s Hawks, a couple of the legendary Avantis ('63-'64), a smattering of pickup trucks (this is Oklahoma, after all), a vintage-'48 school bus, and, perhaps the biggest surprise of all, a '66 Commander.

I had never before seen any '66 Studebakers. After the 1964 model year proved to be one bust too many, Studebaker shut down its production facilities in South Bend, Indiana; all subsequent Studes would be built in Hamilton, Ontario. A mere two years and not quite 30,000 cars later, it was all over. This particular '66 was a nice enough medium-sized sedan with a small-block Chevrolet V8. (Studebaker's own engine-production line had died with the South Bend plant.) It seems to me that it should have been at least reasonably competitive with Detroit products of that era; certainly it was more stylish than the '66 Chevy II Nova that I used to drive. But all the '66 Studebakers combined totaled fewer than 9,000 cars. Probably that many Chevys fell off the transporter en route to the dealerships.

Fall days around here are perfect for outdoor auto shows, and I couldn't have asked for a nicer one. I didn't even carp at the presence of a semi-imposing '54 Packard Clipper sedan; this was the year, after all, that Studebaker and Packard had merged. And, needless to say, the owners were happy to bend any and all ears with Stude lore, with the notable exception of one guy who went to sleep in the trunk of his (I assume it was his) Gran Turismo Hawk.

Posted at 2:03 PM to Driver's Seat