Sunday, May 09, 2021

Automotif CCXIV...

I'd seen it go flashing by before. Last autumn, I was out in front of Yat's, locking up my bike so I could go in and pick up dinner when it came rolling southbound on College Avenue. I barely fumbled the Sony RX100 out of my pocket and got it powered up in time to get a half-fast snapshot...

The downside of even a good pocket camera is that it takes a second for it to turn on and extrude its lens into the ready position. There's also generally more shutter lag than with a "real" camera.

Yesterday I was sitting out on the patio at Twenty Tap, enjoying a late lunch, when I spotted it again. This time I had the D700 wearing the 24-120mm f/4 sitting on the table in front of me.

I think it's a Studebaker Commander DeLuxe Starlight Coupe. Someone on the Bookface said it's a '53; I don't know enough to tell a '53 from a '55 and it's hard to find info on the 'nets.

The model designators on these coupes can be confusing. Basically it's something like this:
  • Champion or Commander? Champions have flathead inline sixes, Commanders have the new 232cid overhead valve V8. This one's dual exhausts suggest V8.

  • Custom, Regal, or DeLuxe? Custom was the base trim level. DeLuxe was, paradoxically, the lower optional trim level and was only available on Starlights. Regal had more bling and plushness and could be had on either the Starlight or Starliner. This one's been altered enough that it's hard to tell, especially without a look at the interior, so "DeLuxe" is basically just spitballing.

  • Starlight or Starliner? The Starlight was the conventional coupe, with framed door glass and a B-pillar. The Starliner was the hardtop coupe, with frameless door glass and no B-pillar.
This is hard-to-find info, as the typical Studebaker enthusiast site is still very... let's just say they tend to be quite "dial-up friendly".

The restyle of the coupes for the '53 model year is absolutely a classic design and way ahead of its time. While the design did come out of Raymond Loewy's studio* in South Bend, the actual lines were the work of Robert Bourke. 

Loewy poached lots of design talent for Studebaker, and while I knew Buehrig and Exner (what car buff or industrial design aficionado doesn't?), Bourke was a name with which I was not familiar. There's a 1985 interview with him at the University of Michigan-Dearborn site, if you click here.

*If there's a book I wish would come out in Kindle format, it's Loewy's Never Leave Well Enough Alone. I kind of keep an eye out for it at used book stores, but copies tend to be stupid expensive.