Live Auctions

1953 Studebaker Commander Starliner Survivor

This 1953 Studebaker Commander Starliner has led a sheltered life, and its overall condition has seen it do a star turn as the centerfold in a motoring magazine. It is a tidy and clean survivor that wouldn’t need a lot of work to take it to the next level. However, there is no reason why it couldn’t be driven and enjoyed as it currently stands. The Studebaker is located in Elgin, Illinois, and has been listed for sale here on eBay. Bidding is sitting at $24,100, but the reserve hasn’t been met.

The Studebaker presents beautifully in Velvet Black, and I have to take my hat off to the owner for his honesty. He states that he believes that the paint is probably original but that he can’t be entirely sure about that. He also admits that it has all of the chips, minor scratches, and the crow’s feet that you might expect to find in paint of this age. That’s pretty bold because none of these issues are visible in the supplied photos. He does talk about the vehicle’s rust-free status, and that is one point where it is impossible to argue with him. There are no visible signs of rust in any of the panels, and the photos of the Starliner’s underside reveal floors and a frame that is clean enough to eat off. Topping this whole dish off are trim, chrome, and glass, that present superbly.

This photo reveals one of the few visible flaws in this classic. There are a couple of substantial seam separations here, and I’ve been debating whether they could be repaired. I would be discussing that with a good upholsterer because it would be a shame to change the cover if this could be avoided. The rest of the seats look good, as do the door trims, the headliner, and dash. Even the wheel has managed to avoid any apparent wear. The carpet shows some minor wear and dirtiness, but I would expect that sort of thing in a classic of this age. The owner is, once again, very candid in this area. He suggests that new carpet would make the interior really stand out and that he would replace the kick panels at the same time. The interior isn’t loaded with luxury appointments, although it does feature a clock and an AM radio.

The Studebaker is a numbers-matching classic and features a 232ci V8 engine, which is backed by a 3-speed automatic transmission. That sweet little V8 produces 120hp, and that is enough to see the Starliner cover the ¼ mile in 20.4 seconds. The engine is said to run like a sewing machine, with the car driving perfectly. The original carburetor was rebuilt last year, which will have helped its cause. The vehicle retains its 6-volt electrical system and recently received a new battery. The only potential issue that the owner indicates is that the insulation has become dry and cracked on some of the wiring. There are no electrical problems, but this is something to keep in mind. A new wiring harness could be on the shopping list in the near future.

So, there it is. The owner of this Studebaker states that while the car isn’t quite as nice as it was when it appeared in this 1986 edition of Motortrend Magazine, it is still in better than average condition for a survivor. He believes that it would take little to bring the interior up to scratch, and I don’t see any significant problem’s with the rest of this vehicle’s presentation. The reserve hasn’t been met at this point, and I would expect that the bidding could go up to, or beyond, $28,000. This looks like a clean and tidy survivor, and in a different world, I would love to have it parked in my driveway. Would you?


  1. RayT Member

    The bidding’s already ahead of my pile, but I’d love to buy this, care for it and drive it.

    I’d get the seam splits in the seat repaired. I’ve seen old vinyl get brittle and start cracking, so yes, it would need to be done carefully. But if the car needs new carpets, I see nothing wrong with replacing the material on the cushions if necessary….

    Like 8
  2. Andy

    What a beautiful car! It’s years ahead in styling and just a joy to look at. When you see what some “desirable” cars are bid to at auction when they are merely rolling wrecks this is a bargain. Lack of money is a real bummer.

    Like 23
  3. Ian McLennan

    Light years ahead in styling, grace and elegance of any American and lots of European cars available in 1953. Still looks modern and pleasing to the eye today.

    Like 28
  4. Jeff DeWitt

    Beautiful example of a gorgeous car, one of the, if not the most beautiful postwar cars.

    And it makes any other 1953 American car look like a boring lump.

    Like 21
    • FarmerBoy

      I agree completely. A 1953 Ford or Chevy (besides the then new Corvette) would look boring and dated beside this car. Never understood why these didn’t sell like hotcakes. Weird.

      Wish I had the coin or storage space to buy this :(

      Like 12
      • Ed P

        This car came out during the “Ford Blitz”. Ford started a price war with Chevrolet. Neither won the war, but the independents were devastated.

        Like 2
      • Chuck Dickinson

        You have to keep in mind that Studebakers were not low-priced cars. They were priced with the Pontiac Chieftains, Olds 88 and Buick Special of the day. A step above the low-priced three. There were apparently production and quality problems with the early ones which also hampered sales. Studebakers, as good as they were, just couldn’t sell enough cars to make enough money to compete with Detroit. Same with Nash, Hudson and Packard (let alone Willys and K-F).

        Like 1
  5. S_W

    If this car came out of the factory in black, then why is the inside of the trunk lid and the inside of the trunk very definitely NOT black? Lovely looking car otherwise.

    • vince H

      All car were grey in the trunk. Studebaker did that for many years.

      Like 3
      • Chuck Dickinson

        So did Chrysler.

    • Poppy

      Like vince H said, however I believe they started painting the trunks and inside the deck lids lower body color starting in 1955. Vince, do you know if that gray in ’53-’54 was just the primer they shot the bare bodies with?

  6. Bill Pressler

    Someone, somewhere, said “The ’53 Studebaker coupe is Rita Hayworth next to the Chevy’s Kate Smith”.

    Like 14

    As gorgeous as this classic babe is…why do I wanna rip the top off and make it a roadster? C’mon people…you KNOW it would rock with that look as well.

    Like 4
    • CS

      Per the Wikis…
      No convertible was offered in 1953. However, in late 1952 Studebaker produced one prototype of a 1953 Commander convertible to determine if the model could be profitably mass-produced. The car was based on the 1953 2-door Starliner hardtop. The car was later modified to 1954-model specifications, and was occasionally driven around South Bend by engineers. Additional structural reinforcements were needed to reduce body flexure. Even though the car was equipped with the 232 cu. in. V-8, the added structural weight increased the car’s 0-60 mph acceleration time to an unacceptable level. In addition, the company did not have the financial resources to add another body type to the model line. The company’s leadership mistakenly thought the 2-door sedans, 4-door sedans, and 1954 Conestoga wagon (described below) would sell better than the 2-door coupes, so the company’s resources were focused on production of the sedans and the wagon. When the prototype convertible was no longer needed, engineer E. T. Reynolds ordered the car to be stripped and the body sent to the secret graveyard at the company’s proving grounds west of South Bend. A non-engineering employee requested permission to purchase the complete car, rather than see it rot away at the proving grounds with other, earlier prototypes of other cars and trucks. Chief engineer Gene Hardig discussed the request with E. T. Reynolds. They agreed to let the employee purchase the car on the condition that the employee never sell it. In the 1970s, the car was re-discovered behind a South Bend gas station and no longer owned by the former employee. After eventually passing through several owners, the car is now in a private collection of Studebaker automobiles.

      Like 13
      • Vince H

        E T Reynolds son now owns that car. It is still in Indiana.

        Like 5
    • Poppy

      A few people have made convertibles from these, but the original one made at the factory is in the hands of another E. Reynolds in Indiana. I saw the car in person a few years ago. I’ve never thought to ask him if he was related to the E.T Reynolds at Studebaker, but someone on here may know.

      Like 7
    • wcshook

      Why mess up a solid car? There are other examples of this car in much worse condition, that you can get for a song. Then make it what you want. But a pristine car like this, why butcher it up?

      Like 5
  8. Rick Robbins

    Absolutely gorgeous car. I wish I had the coin for it at this moment. I hope it finds the perfect owner to help preserve this classic rolling piece of art for decades to come.

    Like 7
  9. William Spiegel

    That may be the most beautiful car I’ve ever seen.

    Like 12
  10. Bill Pressler

    The ’54 and ’55 may have been improved–extra frame crossmember, better assembly quality, better brakes–but the simplicity of the ’53’s styling can’t be beat IMHO. Simpler grille, smaller bumper guards, the hooded instruments inside…ahhh, so very nice.

    Like 13
  11. piston poney

    i love the look of this car

    Like 4
  12. Fred W

    I became infatuated with this particular car in high school (early 70’s). Somewhere I have a photo of me sanding away on a project Starliner I bought back then. Wish I had been focused and kept working on it!

    Like 4
  13. Jay

    The evolution in styling between the more famous 1950-51 “bulletnose” through the awkward (to me) 1952 to this is incredible. This car is as beautiful as the 1958 Studebaker/Packard Hawk is ugly (IMNSHO).

    A ’53 Commander Starliner Coupe was also my first exposure a classic car project, When I first met my father-out-law (sounds so much cooler than my “ex-father-in-law”) he was working on restoring one of these. Before that, I’m ashamed to say, I had no idea what a column shifter was, much less a hill holder … (the horror).

    Like 4
  14. mainlymuscle

    One of the most beautiful,and timeless cars ever built .
    On my list but I’m a “restomod” guy,and this one is way to nice to mess with.

    Like 10
  15. Poppy

    Restoring a ’54 Commander Starliner as we speak. Original V-8 and 3speed manual with OD. The original carpet and woven trunk mat in this car are super rare and not easily replicated. The interior is exceptional for its age. Knowing that I can’t restore my car for what this one will sell for has me thinking….

    Like 8
  16. Drew

    Grade school librarian, and later, a neighbor due to a family move – drove a yellow and black 1954 version.

    I wish I had the funds and space. A future dream, for sure!

    Like 2
  17. Vince H

    My first car was a 53 Starlight coupe. The wheel covers on this car were a $125 option in 53. My father had one of the first starliners in 53. It had these wheel covers.

    Like 3
  18. Doug

    Wow, absolutely beautiful! My bank account isn’t backing up my desire to own this car but I sure can dream

    Like 2
  19. KKW

    I’ve never heard of a 232 V8, sure it’s not the 289?

    • Poppy

      Yes, the 232 was bored to 259 in ’55 then stroked to 289 in ’56

      Like 1
      • Vince H

        There was also a 224 in 55

        Like 2
      • KKW

        Yeah I just discovered that. I always thought the 259 came first, and then the 289. Learn something new everyday.

  20. Jim

    Beautiful car, but wish it was a ’54 as there were notable improvements with the same styling.

    Like 1
  21. Maestro1 Member

    Absolutely the design for the Fifties and onward to now and the future. If I had the room I would buy it if for no other reason than to look at it and preserve it.

    Like 2
  22. Arby

    Clean, elegant styling.
    So good that Mercedes Benz stole the roofline for their 1956 220S Coupe.

    Like 2
    • Poppy

      Lots of ’53 Studebaker in the ’77-’78 Firebird too.

      Like 1
  23. lbpa18

    About the only thing I’d consider doing that isnt factory, after fixing what needs fixing, is add some wire wheels (real ones, not the BS ones that were common on kit cars) and it would become my (very) poor man’s Ferrari. The lines are close and the classiness is there.

    Like 1
  24. DavidL Member

    Love this car. My favorite for most of my life. Sat out front of the local cold storage place my parents had a locker. Dark maroon w/ red upholstery. Said to have run on ‘the salt flats’. Engine was supposed to be supercharged. It had a continental kit on the back w/ extended fenders. Totally cool.

    • Poppy

      Must have stored the drag chute in the continental kit!

      Like 1
  25. Russ Ashley

    These cars were far ahead of any other car in 1953 in the style department. My brother had a black and white one with a continental kit and his good friend had a red one. I had his hand-me-down 51 Plymouth convertible. Both of the Stude’s had dual exhaust with loud pipes. I thought they were the coolest things going and I dreamed of having one eventually. This was in 1957 when I was 16. Please excuse my reminiscing but seeing that black beauty brought it all back.

    Like 5
    • CVPanther Member

      No need to excuse the reminiscing, Russ, that is the main reason I come here, it’s a big part of what makes BF so great.

      Like 4
  26. willowen

    In 1956 I was a sophomore, and close enough to my 16th birthday to take Driver Training. In Illinois at that time you had to learn the stick-shift first (and if you took your test in an automatic car your license was restricted to those). Our manual car was a ’55 Pontiac 4-door, and the automatic was one of these in blue. LOVE at first sight … but I had to clear that fence first. Well, any stick-shift GM car at that time, especially a heavy pig like a 6-cylinder Pontiac, was just awful, and I could seldom take off from a stop without the car going into jerky-jerky convulsions. I could do one out of three starts smoothly, but that was not enough to get me into that Car Of My Dreams … and I’ve still never driven one. Still whimpering after all these years …

    Like 3
  27. Al Loncto

    Back in the day, I had a ‘52 Commander convertible, a ‘53 Commander coupe, a ‘54 Starlight coupe and a ‘54 Commander. All V-8’s except the Starlight coupe 6 cyl. Couldn’t kill those V-8’s or the Borg-Warner automatics. My ‘53 was totaled by an Imperial with a huge bumper as he hit me in the right front wheel, door, quarter panel and rear wheel. The Starlight coupe sat too long in our yard for my mother along with the 52 and I came home one day and they had gone to the junkyard. The ‘54 served me well and sold it for a ‘55 Buick Century. What I wouldn’t do to have those cars today!

    Like 1
  28. Phlathead Phil

    The ONLY ‘Stude’ I ever liked.

    Clean and classy.

    And yes, ahead of its peer group.

    Why did the engineers fall off the wagon??

  29. George Mattar

    Beautiful. Studebaker built far better looking cars than the ugly junk from the Big 3 morons in the 50s and probably still could today. The company paid their workers too much money and other problems led to its demise. Such a shame. GM still can’t design a good looking car.

    Like 1
  30. That Guy

    Oh man that’s gorgeous. These are beautiful in any color but black seems to suit them best. My knees are weak right now.

    Like 1
  31. Kenn

    Why is there always a statement about 1/4 mile performance here on BF? As a traveling salesman, rather than speed away from the stop light, I look for acceleration from 60 to 80 for passing slower traffic. Or from 50 to 70 for the old farts on this site. (I can write that ’cause I’m 84.) Unless you’re choosing to buy a drag racer, the quarter mile figures mean little, IMO.

    Like 5
    • Age A

      1/4 mile figures are listed for those who find it impossible to drive a vehicle without wearing a pair of lead boots and enjoy paying speeding fines, spending hours in court houses and having their drivers license’s revoked. Strange hobby but by the number of those who join this club it must be popular…

      Like 1
  32. Bengt

    I’m late at commenting this one, but what a nice car, so beautiful! And the best of all, I have an almost identical 1953 Commander Starliner, black with red interior, a low-mile, matching numbers brushed up ex barn find in very good condition with some patina. Yes, I’m very happy!

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