The Studebaker Champion was the economy offering in the marquee's line. Studebaker was the fastest to market during the post World War Two years. Their new post war Champion model was introduced in 1945 which in itself is pretty incredible. The first Champion hit the scene in 1939 and the first post war Studebaker Champion was essentially a partly disguised 1942 model.
Studebaker Military Production
Studebaker was also receiving orders from France and Holland for three ton trucks during 1039 as the clouds of war were moving over Europe. Studebaker later was awarded a U.S. military contract to build their M series trucks. It wasn't long after that Pearl Harbor was attacked and a few months after that all civilian automobile production was halted.
An interesting historical note about Studebaker and military production is that the company built vehicles (wagons or cars and trucks) from the American Civil War, through World War One and World War Two. This in itself is quite a historical feat.
The Popular Studebaker Champion
The persons responsible for the Studebaker Champions design were the legendary Virgil Exner and the Raymond Lowry Studios. The design was futuristic, and gave a tip to the rest of the American car industry that it was time to catch up. It took until 1949 for all the Big Three to introduce all of their new post war designs.
As far as success, the Studebaker Champion was a winner. This had a lot to do with the car's relatively low new car price. In 1939 the first Champions cost about $650. The Champion model really breathed new life into Studebaker which had a tough 1930's. It as a bright light for the company and the economy in general was starting to show real signs of improvement.
The automobile featured in this article is the 1953 Studebaker Champion. In 1953, Champions came in two- and four-door sedan models and you could also purchase a Champion in either a coupe or convertible model. In 1954 Studebaker came out with a two door Champion station wagon called the Conestoga. Here is a name that goes back to the pioneer wagons seen on the old Overland and Oregon Trails and the old wagons built by the Studebaker brothers.
1954 was also the year that Studebaker who had been experiencing financial problems and was in the midst of very tough labor negotiations merged with Packard. The new company was named the Studebaker-Packard Corporation.
1953 represented the start of the fourth generation Studebaker Champions. The 1953 models came out with an entirely different design. The two-door coupe was called the "Starlight." while the more expensive hardtop coupe was called the "Starliner."
Champions Long Run
The Studebaker Champion was in production from the 1939 model year through 1958. Beginning in 1959 it was replaced by the Studebaker Lark which took the place as Studebaker's economy offering. Just as the Champion first breathed new life into the company in 1939, the Lark did the same in 1959 although the effect didn't last long. The Big Three in Detroit put a lot of pressure on smaller Studebaker with their own new economy cars.
While the Lark helped the financial picture in 1959 everything with Studebaker-Packard started again to go downhill in the early 60's. Packard ceased production of their nameplate models in 1959 after severe losses and this left Studebaker going it alone again.
In 1962 the company name was changed back to the Studebaker Corporation. The Studebaker Lark, in it's third generation, was produced until 1966 when all Studebaker production in the U.S. came to a halt.
Studebaker will always be remembered as a company that started manufacturing horse drawn wagons in 1853, made a successful transition into a horseless wagon (automobile) company in the early 1900's, and continued in the automobile business through tough times and mergers until 1966. A terrific run for a company founded in the mid 1800's.
1953 Studebaker Champion Specifications
The 1953 Studebaker Champion was powered by Studebaker's own 170 cubic inch flathead straight-six engine. This engine could deliver 85 horsepower.
In 1953 the Studebaker Champion buyer had a choice of three different transmissions. The base transmission was a three-speed manual. Optional choices were a three-speed manual with overdrive and a Borg-Warner Automatic Drive.
The Champion's wheelbase was 120.5 inches. The car's overall length was 201.9 inches and a weight of about 2,800 lbs. The new car price for the 1953 Champion was about $2,100.
Studebaker Champion 1953 production totaled about 93,600 units.
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Studebakers Make Fine Collector Cars
Studebakers have remained quite popular with collectors. As mentioned above, the company's history is rich and the automobiles they produced are distinctive. For those restoring or maintaing old Studebakers, parts are not all that difficult to come by.
Plenty of Studebakers offered for sale today have been modified one way or the other, mostly with engine upgrades and customized body parts.
As far as today's asking prices go for 1953 Studebakers for sale, the range will be wide depending on modifications and overall restoration and whether the car has had a frame off restoration or not. You will likely come across 1953 Studebakers priced all over the place from $20,000 to six figures.
(Article and photos copyright 2014 AutoMuseumOnline)