The 1955 Studebaker President Speedster
The 1955 Studebaker President Speedster was manufactured in South Bend Indiana. This was a good model name to pick in the 1950's as many cars were designed with jet aviation in mind. Fins were coming into vogue and several popular models had rocket themes to their designs. The 1955 Studebaker President Speedster represented the company's first sports car type model.
The year 1954 was a significant for Studebaker in as much as it merged with the Packard Motor Company. The 1950's saw increased competition from the Big Three in Detroit and companies like Studebaker and Packard were feeling the heat. Essentially the Big Three automakers could build cars for less. Out of the two, Studebaker was in poorer financial shape. Their sales were deteriorating since 1950. The newly merged company was named the Studebaker-Packard Corporation.
The 1955 Studebaker President Speedster was one of the first products put out by the company after it's merger. The newly merged company put a lot of hope in this model that it might be the design that would increase sales. The President model was the premiere car sold by Studebaker between 1926 and 1942 and then reintroduced for the 1955 model year. Production would continue through 1958 when the model was discontinued in favor of the more economical Studebaker Lark.
The fourth generation 1955 Studebaker President is truly a classic automobile although many car clubs regard only the models built between 1929 and 1933 as actual classics. The photo at the bottom of this article of the 1932 Studebaker President Coupe gives you a good idea of what the early President models look like.
The Story of Two Classic Auto Companies
Interestingly enough, both automaker's had a history many decades old. Packard built it's first automobile in 1899. Studebaker built it's first car in 1902 although the company had been manufacturing wagons since the mid 1800's. Another interesting fact is that both of these automakers survived the rough Great Depression years of the 1930's when several other auto companies had to merge or shut down. Packard it's been said benefited during these tough years by having a single production line. Studebaker however experienced a very unusual and bizarre occurrence.
Studebaker had been making good profits until the depression hit. Sales plummeted and it's president Albert Erskine switched production to a smaller more economical model. That switch didn't work and the company was bleeding money badly. In addition to that, Erskine made some unwise financial moves. Studebaker owed the banks just a bit under what the company was worth. Albert Erskine committed suicide and the company was then managed by Harold Vance and Paul Hoffman. The new management turned things around and were earning a profit by 1933 and had their debts refinanced by 1935.
The Challenging 1950's
The troubles both Studebaker and Packard experienced in the 1950's was nothing less than a trend toward consolidation. Mergers were not uncommon and the Big Thee automakers were able to take advantage of scale both in manufacturing savings and in marketing expenditures.
The following two links on our AutoMusuemOnline site will give you an idea of some of Studebaker's competition during the late 1950's.
1955 Studebaker President Speedster Specs
The car was built with a standard small-block V-8 engine delivering 185 HP. The wheelbase is 120.5 inches and the length 204.4 inches. Vehicle weight came in at 3,300 lbs.
1955 production came in at a bit over 2,200 units. Another distinguishing characteristic of the Studebaker Speedster was that they came in either two or three tone paint schemes.
(Photo of 1932 Studebaker from the public domain. Remaining photos from author's collection)