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1955 Studebaker Commander: Almost Runs

The beautiful design of the 1953 Starliner 2-door hardtop would inspire more than a decade of other sleek Studebaker products, including the venerable Hawk. This ’55 Commander has a sound body and paint, needs some interior work, and is finicky under the hood. Passed along to the seller by their grandfather, a lack of interest on their part has prompted its sale. Located in Ellsworth, Minnesota, this interesting artifact from the 1950s is available here on craigslist for $15,000 OBO. Barn Finder T.J. keeps coming up with these cool tips!

Studebaker employed the Commander name on numerous occasions as early as 1927. And it would a part of the mix until nearly the demise of the company in the mid-1960s. During the 1950s, it was a step-up car from the baseline Champion, such as with the seller’s nice-looking ’55. It has a 259 cubic inch V8 under the hood that wants to run but doesn’t quite get there and the buyer will need to tinker some more.

Studebaker was never a volume automaker compared to the industry majors. In 1955, they built some 116,000 cars of which nearly 59,000 were Commanders. The Deluxe Coupe, which we believe applies to the seller’s edition, accounts for just shy of 7,000 copies. So, the surviving population today is likely to run somewhere in the hundreds, making this car a rare find except within hardcore Studebaker circles.

This car was handed down from one generation to a third. The body looks solid and the two-tone paint white over coral is a red-do from some time ago. The Studebaker spent much of its life in New Mexico, so the dry climate there has worked to the auto’s benefit. At 82,000 miles, the machine is numbers-matching and has a new battery and fuel pump, but that’s not been enough to get the car going. The seller suspects the carb is the issue and comes with a spare Edelbrock that the buyer could try out.

The biggest misses here might be in the interior. The front bench seat is upholstered in materials that don’t match the back seat at all, and the carpeting is either worn out or non-existent. You could try installing the Mustang bucket seats the seller is throwing in with the deal, or simply redo what’s there to be period-correct. These Raymond Lowey-styled cars carry some of the best styling ever deployed.


  1. Terrry

    It’s a nice-looking car, as Studebakers from back then were. But for $15k I would expect more than an engine that “won’t fire”. It would be an easy fix if it’s an ignition problem so why won’t the seller bother fixing it? Running, it would be a great car to drive as is, to the local Cafe N Cars!

    Like 0
    • Streets

      The car is now running like a top, traveling down the road without a single rattle, and handles perfectly.

      Like 0
  2. Robt

    Chopped top dry lakes speed trials anyone?

    Like 2
  3. Kurt Member

    Sounds like an electrical problem. Were these positive ground?

    Like 1
  4. TheOldRanger

    Now this is a Studebaker that I did like, the 53-55 series were especially a favorite of mine. These models always brought back good memories of the people I knew who had one.

    Like 6
  5. jwaltb

    Lots of work done 20 years ago. That’s certainly encouraging. Cool car but not for $15K, at least not to me.

    Like 6
  6. Don Sicura

    Great car in what seems to be in great condition, but I just can’t see $15K for it, maybe if it was a hardtop.

    Like 6
    • Erich

      Don, pardon my ignorance but that top looks pretty hard to me, as in, not a convertible. Or did they designate like coupe vs. hardtop? Just looking to learn here.

      Like 1
      • M Vickery

        Hardtop means there’s no B-pillar. As in the car has nothing but glass between the pillar for the windshield and the pillar for the back glass. The A pillar is the windshield pillar, the B pillar is the pillar between the side glasses, and the C pillar is the pillar between the back glass of the car and the rear side glass. Hardtops were sold by most automakers up until the seventies, and were available in both two and four door cars. They gave a more open feel to the car. The downside was poor sealing between the two side glasses, and poor side impact protection. I’m guessing the latter is the reason you don’t see them today.

        Like 3
  7. Vince H

    The lowest priced Comannder coupe with no side trim which appeals to me.55 was the start of loading trim on a great design. I can’t see it bringing 15k in not running condition.

    Like 7
    • Terrry

      The President for that year had way too much trim and the bumpers had unsightly guards.

      Like 1
  8. Chuck Simons

    How much time does it take to put the other carb on?

    Like 4
    • John H

      Might be more worthwhile to go through the carb that’s on the car. If it’s been sitting it’s likely that the carb is gunked up with varnish. It would also be worthwhile to go through the distributor before doing anything, unless the seller has already determined that there is spark. He just says he can’t get it to fire. Could be a simple job to get it running.

      Like 2
  9. Brian

    Half an hour to an hour tops. Simple job.

    Like 4
  10. Robert Levins

    Some cars just don’t get restored. Or even sold. Unless the price is just right, as with this car, they just collect dust. This car “ could be “ restored if the starting price is around $5,000.00 Not a penny more. If I were a buyer and I really wanted to restore this car I would probably be the last owner. By the time the car gets finished with the restoration, I would have done so just for my own satisfaction and eventually give it away – to a museum or family. Good luck!

    Like 5
    • Richard

      These “C” body Studebakers are getting scarce in any condition. They were notorious for rust, which this car, being from a dry state, doesn’t seem to have.
      It’s too mice to be chopped or rodded, and looks like a great restoration candidate. That color scheme is awesome, too.

      Like 4
  11. Timothy Brink

    Wrong grill 54 or 55 with that grill configuration.

    Like 3
  12. Clint Price

    My brother drove my Dads old 1966 Commander across Canada in the 70,s. The brakes squealed for a while and when he got them checked the brake guy found the drum completely gone and commented that he had not seen that much brake abuse since the dirty 30s😀

    Like 2
    • Poppy

      if the drum was “completely gone” wouldn’t the brake cylinders blow out and you’d lose all the fluid? That said, I’ve seen my share of front disc brakes in the junkyard where the disk is worn through to the cooling fins.

      Like 0

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