Cheap as Dirt: 1948 Studebaker Champion

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Marty WilkeBy Marty Wilke

Dirt cheap Studebaker here. This car appears for sale here on craigslist in St. Louis and the asking price is a pittance, a mere $500. Chump change really. But what to do with a car like this? Why buy it, or even look at it?

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Because it’s awesome, that’s why. Because it’s got a cool, early 50s look, and suicide doors. A low-stakes game of “will it run?” with a nearly irresistible price to get in. If the flathead six engine is seized, we remove the spark plugs and soak the cylinders with Aero Kroil, PBLaster, Liquid Wrench, pick your poison. As it soaks for a day, we head up to the parts store and purchase a 6-volt ignition condenser for less than $7, and a 6-volt battery, which is likely the most expensive part this car needs. Assuming it’s complete under the hood, that is!

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If I got it running, I would check out the vast array of serapes and blankets for sale on eBay for about $20. This car doesn’t need seat covers any more expensive than that, at least not for right now. Of course, one of my favorite parts, and definitely not to be missed with this one, is trunk, glovebox, and under-seat archaeology. Scrounging, the ultimate rust-sport. Fast becoming another great American pastime. Made especially good with this one, as the scrapper-seller tells us there are extra parts in the trunk. Bonus parts. I’ve said this before, but more than once I have recovered a substantial portion of a car’s purchase price by selling the often unrelated goodies recovered from the trunk. And a free car, or almost free car, well that’s just something I’m almost powerless to say no to.

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I’d love to preserve this car in a non-invasive way. It would be a great barn find for someone in the future, even though it isn’t worth a whole lot right now. The manifestation of the car-hoarding gene seems to skip a generation, at least in my family it does. We’ll talk more about that some other time. But for now, if I had a farm or a lot of acreage in an area with no restrictions, I’d own about a thousand cars like this. Putt-putting them around the edges of the fields and on the back country roads would never get old. Or is that just me?

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Comments

  1. Mike O'Handley

    There are members of the Studebaker Drivers’ Club that will climb all over each other to get to a complete ’48 Studebaker Champion in restorable condition at that price. Here’s an example of one 48 Stude that was restored and taken to the extreme in the form of a restomod.

    http://stilettoman.info/2015/07/1948-studebaker-restomod-skyline-drivetrain/

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    • jimbosidecar

      Wow! What a nice looking car. I have 2 bullet nosed coupes, One a regular coupe and one a Starlight Coupe. Neither look this nice.

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  2. KO

    That would NEVER get old. I’m with you Marty!

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  3. Mark S

    The restomod looks very well done and very cool. That would not be a bad way to go with the posted car.

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  4. Marty Wilke Marty Staff

    Mike,
    Thanks for the link to the great write-up. That’s one of the more impressive restomods I’ve ever seen. The guy did what he wanted, but yet was somehow still sympathetic to the car’s Studebaker heritage, with all the ornamentation, emblems and design work. He went way beyond the typical “small block, shaved trim and emblems, aftermarket wheels” of most garden-variety restomods. Beautiful, even the color, and exceptionally well done. Thanks.

    If this car is saved and ever becomes anything more than a back roads beater, I’d love to see something like that happen to it. As we know, being four door makes it unlikely, but not impossible!

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  5. AMX Brian

    He’s right about the trunk finds. I bought a parts car for my 71 AMX and the often cracked grill was missing on the car. Low and behold, its in the trunk with only two tabs missing. The grill is worth more than I paid for the car. I ended up taking the grill, armrest, and hood and still got my money back when I sold it. The real value was the body. This one barely had any rot in it. It may have needed a few small patches to the quarter panels which is crazy for a car stored outside on cinder blocks in New England.

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