A Pair Of Projects! 1950’s Studebakers

What were they thinking? I still can’t get over the front-end styling on this 1955 Studebaker Champion Regal (the seller refers to it as a President but the hardtop body style says Champion). Its fish face, along with the tacked-on running lights, looks like something four-eyed that you could reel in from the depths of the North Atlantic – and something you’d likely return, quickly. But wait, there’s more, there’s a Studebaker Commander too and its kisser is a bit more restrained. It’s referenced as a ’56 model but I think it’s really a ’53. Price of entry? – $10,000 will get them both or $5,000 a piece if you prefer one over the other. They’re located in  Huntington Beach, California, and are available, here on craigslist. T.J. is responsible for the discovery of this project pair.

The seller states,” Ran when parked over 20 years ago. Minor rust. Would be great restoration candidates. Clean titles” – now you know as much as I do. There is surface rust, faded paint, and dents visible on both but they do seem to be solid – a thorough inspection would be essential of course.  Auto styling is subjective but I can’t keep my eyes off of that Champion – and not for good reasons. The one positive thing that I can say is that the elaborate front end doesn’t appear to be smooshed.

Nothing is said about power but it’s likely a 185 gross HP, 259 CI V8 engine hitched to a three-speed manual gearbox – there is a clutch pedal visible. Even though it “ran when parked” twenty years ago, I wouldn’t expect an operational miracle today.

The interior is filthy but it’s intact and doesn’t show evidence of splits in the seating upholstery though the dash pad reflects otherwise. The diamond stitched door panel is a surprise, original, or a custom redo?

While the ’53 Commander may be a demoted model in Studie’s hierarchy, I prefer the more restrained front-end styling and the two-door sedan lines, while not an open, airy hardtop, is iconic and instantly recognizable. Its body has suffered the same fate as the President – faded paint and surface rust but it’s in a similar condition. The pot metal (?) trim of the grille has degraded significantly but it looks like it’s all still there.

Again, mum’s the word regarding power but the likely engine room culprit is a 120 gross HP, 232 CI V8 engine that also appears to be manually shifted based on the clutch pedal evidence. The interior image isn’t too revealing though it’s finished in a hospital ward sea green. The instrument panel is an interesting arrangement with the switch gear positioned up above the gauge cluster – which is kind of cheesy looking in terms of material quality. The rubber floor mat is coming apart and the bare floor is visible in places – good for performing a closer look at the floor pan integrity.

So, the ’55 Champion Regal saw production numbers of 3,300, while its ’53 compadre, the Commander realized even fewer units with only 2,300 finding new owners. The Champ is probably the more valuable car, in spite of its more significant assembly volume – likely due to its model positioning and the fact that it’s a hardtop and not a sedan. The seller suggests, “Let’s make a deal” – an opening to a negotiation?  You bet! So, a show of hands, which do you prefer the Champion or the Commander, or trip the light fantastic and go for both?

Comments

  1. bobhess bobhess Member

    I’m sticking my memory bank into shaky territory here but that ’53 is a ’54. My ’53 Commander’s gauge cluster was more individual pods than a large cluster as shown here and it didn’t have the extra chrome do-dads all over it. Personally I wouldn’t touch the ’55 as it was an ugly lead in to the “catfish” Packard monstrosity.

    Like 6
    • Jim ODonnell Staff

      I debated a ’53 or a ’54, I thought the grille looked more like a ’53. This is the problem when sellers “find” stuff and don’t know what they’re selling.

      Thx,

      JO

      Like 3
      • Dave Bates

        The Commander is a 54. The grills are similar added the vertical bare shown here

    • David Henderson

      No it wasnt. From 53 on into the hawks they were beautiful

      Like 6
    • Will Fox

      I agree Bob. The `54 model has slightly different grill insert that the `53 doesn’t. And I don’t think the tacked-on reverse lamps were available in `53, but I could be wrong.

      • Mark Frost

        Back up lights were only optional, until 1957. Those are not them! The back up lights, used by Studebaker, were the same, from ’53 – ’55, and are shown on the Speedster, advertised with this Starlight Coupe.

        Like 2
      • Anthony

        The ’54 has the “ice cube tray” grill as the ’53 did not .

    • Mark Frost

      True, this Commander has the ’54 front bumper guards, ’54 Grill bars, ’54 Commander gage cluster, ’54 E brake handle, and ’54 trunk handle.

    • Anthony

      The green one is a ’54 Commander .and the ’55 is ALSO a Commander..the V8 emblem tells as well as the COMMANDER piece on trunk lid..A great buy for two Loewy coupe..One being a C- model and the other a K -model..Hardtop and pillared coupe..

      Like 2
  2. Bob_in_TN Bob_in_TN Member

    Those instrument panels are interesting and actually kind of cool.

    Like 3
    • Gus

      The ’55 is actually a very rare President Speedster, the forerunner to the Golden Hawk

      Like 9
      • Frank

        Yes, definitely a Speedster with that upholstery. The engine would be a 289. The tacked on fog lamps were likely standard equipment.
        The 2nd car looks like 1953 and was not the 2 door sedan.

        Like 2
  3. Rex Kahrs Rex Kahrs Member

    Kinda like the SP250, rather fishy.

    Like 3
    • Steve

      Love the SP250s; prefer them over the Studebaker.

      Like 1
  4. tiger66

    The ’55 appears to be a rare President Speedster, predecessor of the ’56 Hawk. Full dashboard instrumentation, diamond-pattern upholstery/door panel and the fake wire wheel cover are Speedster-correct. Also that chrome roof band forward of the rear window is a Speedster trim item. You can sort of make out “Studebaker President” on the decklid so it is not a Champion. Even the CL ad calls it a Speedster.

    Like 13
    • Jim ODonnell Staff

      You may be correct. The ’55 President, in two-door form, was a sedan, not a hardtop. The Speedster was in a class of its own and did have diamond-stiched door panels and upholstery.

      Thx,

      JO

      Like 3
      • Vincent H

        The President in 55 was available as a long wheelbase 4 door sedan, a 2 door coupe,2 door hardtop and the Speedster.

        Like 5
      • CCFisher

        The “butter knife” trim and the wide chrome trim that wraps over the roof are features of the President Speedster. That, and the trunk badge clearly reads “Studebaker President”

        Like 2
      • Eric_13cars Eric_13cars Member

        Having owned a 54 Champion COUPE, the grill bar had very prominent vertical bars on the main bar. The 53 did not…it only had the horizontal bar. This Commander coupe (the V8 model) is a 53 (unless my eyes deceive me about the grill).

        I don’t know about the 55 Speedster/President models, but the 54 and I believe the 53 both came as a 4 door sedan, a 2 door sedan, a 2 door coupe, and a 2 door hardtop. The instance 53 is a coupe, not a sedan and the instance 55 is a hardtop. The 2 door sedan had a much larger set of side windows than the coupe. I believe that they rolled down while the coupe’s windows were reverse vent windows.

        As to the instrumentation, my 54 had a similar dash to the 55 car, with a machine-turned metal flat face. I don’t recall seeing a 53 with instrumentation like this 53, but it does look like it came from the factory. I don’t believe that Studebaker created a different instrument panel for the Champion and the Commander. A such, I’m convinced this is a 53 Commander.

      • tiger66

        There was a ’55 President hardtop coupe, though. Check the brochure. The Speedster was based on that car.

  5. Don Sicura

    If those two weren’t 3000+ miles away from me, they’d be on their way to my shop.

    Like 1
  6. charlie Member

    The Speedster was the top of the line, some with the supercharger, were great performers.

    • Vincent H

      No superchargers from the factory on a Speedster.

      Like 4
  7. Pete Phillips

    Listing was deleted by the seller. Already sold! I’m not surprised.

  8. Angel_Cadillac_Diva Angel Cadillac Diva Member

    Good eye, CC
    I don’t know much about Studebakers, but I thought it was a President, also. To me, the yellow fog lights in the front and the backup lights in the rear was a dead giveaway.
    I always thought the early to mid 50s Studies were very unusual looking. Unusual cool, though. I love the “fishface” of the ’55 President.
    The instrument panel on the Champion is odd, with the speedometer so low. You really have to take your eyes off the road to read it. Maybe this is where Buick got their design idea for their ’65/’66 instrument panel?

    Like 1
  9. Jeff

    I dont know why you keep calling it a champion,,its an upgraded president to a speedster,,the extra chrome,,the leather diamond stitched interior, the wire wheels,,yep its a speedster

    Like 1
    • Mark Frost

      I believe, the total production number, of Studebaker Speedsters, was 2,215! Although they were available, with a manual Borg Warner T-85 3 speed, with OD. Extremely few were actually built that way

      Like 1
  10. Rien Doornenbal Member

    I would love to have a shot at both of these cars. However the posting has been deleted. Can anyone help me find the seller. Maybe he still has them.

  11. Guy Caldwell Member

    The red one was a President Speedster. I took the fog lights and bumper brackets off the front of mine and it cleans up the front end quite a bit, in my opinion.

    Like 1
  12. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    And gooooooone !!!!

  13. Anthony

    The ’55 is a Speedster having diamond pleat..and probably a ” Bearcat” 224ci.V8..the other is a ’54..if you close in on the grill you will see the “ice cube tray”.bar with the slats..the ’54 could have a 232 V8…

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