Deco Dictator: 1937 Studebaker

Brian BirknerBy Brian Birkner

Many things can be said about 1930’s America, but some of the automotive styling that was born during the Deco era really left a heavy impression upon American creativity and beauty. With a wide array of wonderful descriptive words to describe this Studebaker, “beauty” and “art in motion” come to mind when looking at this Art Deco machine. Found in a barn likely many moons ago, this Dictator has been in good company with other beautiful art deco machines, but it would seem the seller is looking to thin out his collection. Appearing very original other than “1” repaint in its lifetime, this sleek two door is itching to be a driver once again. 5 days remain in the auction with no takers for the opening bid of $20,000. Be sure to take a look at this beauty here on ebay out of Temperance, Michigan.

The Art Deco styling didn’t stop at the exterior, as the engine bay is adorned with these interesting horns that just look as if they would bellow all sorts of Deco sounds. Although this Dictator appears to be very complete and with a stern asking price, the seller has offered little information. I would assume the engine and all of the mechanicals have been at rest for quite a while. No telling what the state of the engine is, but we can certainly hope for the best, but expect the worst. There is some minor surface rust in the engine bay, and the wiring looks surprisingly decent. Hopefully a little oil in the cylinders, and some ground and terminal cleaning would get this ‘Baker on the road to recovery.

Inside this fine artwork you are greeted by a lovely “banjo” style steering wheel, and a wonderfully symmetric dash with Deco trim. The steering wheel is in excellent condition reflecting no major damage of any kind. With minor corrosion, and surface rust, the dash is nice as well, looking as if it would clean up nicely while maintaining its aged appearance.  Sadly the door panels haven’t weathered as well as one would hope, but they are still in place and the original pattern is quite easy to see if you decided to replace the current upholstery. With some possibility for rodent activity, the bench seat is mostly there, but tattered. There were certainly moisture issues at one point as the passenger side door panel shows obvious signs of staining. In fair condition for a 80 year old car, an upholstery job would do wonders for this classic.

Easily the most unique and iconic feature of this Dictator is the very unusual shaped Deco rear window. Split windows and oval window are buzz words in the classic car world, but what would you call this window? Easy to fall in love with, this Studebaker is a solid looking survivor, but there is a nasty little secret that needs to come to light. The trunk floor, and part of the rear roll pan area suffers from rot. Beyond this area of concern, there is no other rot or rust to be seen, but that’s not to say there couldn’t be other areas of concern underneath. There does appears to be a sheet metal rip on the passenger side rear fender, that has been realigned with the shape of the fender. One good thing about the roll pan rot is that it is well hidden by the rear bumper, so the survivor like appearance could likely be maintained with metal work, and some paint blending. A restoration would also be a no-brainer on this beauty as these Deco window coupes are rare to say the least. Have you ever seen one of these rare and unique beauties?

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Comments

  1. DonSladek

    Ebay ad says “runs and yard drives”, so the engine must spin…

    3+
  2. healeydays

    Love it, but not the price. Better at the 12-14K range.

    5+
    • Tommy

      10k

      0
  3. Howard A Member

    Can you imagine calling a car a “Dictator” today? Certainly had a different meaning in the 30’s. This has got to be the swoopiest(?) coolest car to come thru here in quite a spell. The 30’s, I feel, was the classiest era. You know, as well as I do, what’s going to happen to this ( some street rodder’s eyes just lit up) and that’s ok. It is such a cool style, no matter what someone does to this, it will still look nice.

    9+
    • Dolphin Dolphin Staff

      I had the same thought Howard….Dictator? Really??

      An amazing name, especially for the ’30s, considering the questionable actual dictators who were strutting around Europe.

      I’m no marketing genius but I notice that, as appealing as this Deco era car is, its maker isn’t around anymore.

      1+
      • Howard A Member

        Hi Dolphin, actually, that name has an interesting history. In European markets, that name clearly didn’t fly, and I read, Studebaker called those export models “Director”. Apparently, the only dictator at the time was Mussolini, and had an image of audacity and strength. The rise of Hitler caused Studebaker to end the Dictator name in 1937, and called it the Commander, so this must be one of the last Dictators. To be clear, around this time, ( and during and after the war) South Bend was a hummin’. Studebaker was one of the top car makers. I still don’t understand what happened.

        3+
      • Chuck

        The Studebaker nameplate merged with Packrd in 57. The 58’s were a combination of both Packard and Stude design. The S-P corp lasted until 66 rolling thir last model off the floor of the Canada plant that year.
        In the late 50’s to early 60’s Mercedes did not have a dealership network.
        S-P had a deal with them to Sell Mercedes Benz vehicles. S-P dropped the Packard name in 58 (Packard Hawk) and only marketed the Studebaker. The Lark, Champ PU, Hawk were the early 60’s models available. The Lark is featured on Mr. Ed tv show in 62 (I believe). THe DAytona, Commander (as in Taxi Cabs and Police cars), Daytona, Wagonaire (some of those design features were also found on the later Jeep Wagonaire), GT and Avanti were the models remaining in the waning years. THere were families of Auto designers that worked for different manufacturers (Notice the Dodge truck bed on the 60ff Champ trucks. There were also similar styling hints between Chryslr and S-P in 57-8. Raymond Loewry (1947-52 design team) worked on the Coke Bottle Design for BMW (58) and this was seen in the 63 Avanti. Studebaker, after 114 years of vehicle production (Conestoga Wagons) ceased to exist by direction of some of the same crooked attorneys that were in Nixon’s cabinet.

        5+
    • Milt

      How did they advertise this? “The Dictator, sweeping the nation! Um, sweeping all nations! Taking over the country! Setting the standard that ALL must follow! All hail the Dictator!!”

      7+
  4. Scott

    After the buyer cuts the check, then dumps approximately 30K more, you’ll be upside down. The lack of bids should be a clue.

    1+
  5. Nsuracer

    I am a Pre War Studebaker guy but $20K is waaayyyyy to much money by 2X plus. Maybe if it was a coupe express.

    2+
  6. dyno dan

    another reason i’ll never own something like this.
    at this price it should be hanging next to a Rembrandt
    or a Picasso! one classy chassi!

    0
  7. Todd Fitch Todd Fitch Staff

    One of my gear-head friends and I have made a number of head-scratching jokes over the years about the Studebaker “Dictator,” usually along the lines of them discussing but luckily scrapping the “Führer” trim package. All joking aside, though, this is an attractive car if I hold my hand over the rear roof-line. That grille trim extending back along the hood is top-shelf.

    2+
  8. Jose Cantu

    Howard, my guess as to what happened to Studebaker is the same thing that happened to Packard. Just priced themselves out of business. Great cars, though, but this one, like all the others, is still too high priced.

    We’ll see.

    3+
  9. Puhnto

    1937 Studebakers are some of the prettiest cars out there. Especially the four door and the pickup. I’ve always found the rear window treatment and roofline, to be a little awkward on the two door, but still, what a nice car!

    2+
  10. Zraider

    Great start for a unique gasser, just not @ 20K.

    0
  11. Danny

    I agree with Puhnto, beautiful up to the B pillar, then it all goes wrong.

    1+
  12. mark mishler

    Bad management, old factories, dated designs killed Studebaker. After WW2 the company was cash heavy, loaded. Early 50’s they were rockin it, by the early60’s the cars looked frumpish and 40’s round.The Avanti was too little too late.Its a shame.

    0
  13. Tim Skeene

    and the tiff with the union , out of production for a year , finally moved to Canada , but then was too little too late

    0
  14. Lee

    The car needs a complete restoration and then it woul d be just a little less than the asking price with proper colors the reveals would come alive Its not our fault the collector saved the low value cars, hard to thin out bad taste

    1+
  15. Vince H

    Dictator was said to dictate what cars of the future would be. Had nothing to do with Hitler but that is why the name was dropped.

    0
  16. jeff6599

    No takers because it is WAY overpriced at $20,000. A no. 4 car is valued at $4500 according to the old cars price guide and a no. 4 is a running driving car. A no. 5 is valued at $2700! So somewhere in between, perhaps at $3700 is where the real, maybe honest, price is at. There is a lot of greed in this one.

    2+
  17. Jay E.

    What a beautiful car, and worthy of restoration. The grill and trim as well as the interior are gorgeous. Seller looks like he could supply enough cars for a movie set.

    0
  18. charlie

    Some years in the 1950’s GM sold more than half the cars sold in the US. Because of anti-trust laws (which were being taken more seriously then, than now) they could have undercut the prices of Ford and Chrysler and taken over the whole car market. They did not, and, but could, with Ford and Chrysler, manufacture at a lower unit cost due to their size, and the independents could not compete price wise. The annual style changes, really beginning in 1955, which involved much new sheet metal, if not chassis and mechanicals, were really much too expensive for the independents, and helped kill them. And, there have always been stories about the Big 3 threatening suppliers of raw materials and specialty items, like copper (which reputedly killed Kaiser-Frasier, they could not manufacture radiators), and electrical components, none of which stories could be proven, which lead to difficulties in production. And, Studebaker, like Eastern Airlines, finally went down due to a strike.

    0
  19. Keith

    It tough to price something like this, as there are few comps. I am not a 30’s Studebaker expert, but I will say that while the ask price seems high to me, the “it should be about $4000” crowd seems off, too.
    Looking at sold listings on Ebay for 1930’s Studes, the only one I can find (that’s not a truck) is a 4 door 1939 Commander that sold for $8k. That’s a 4 door sedan, said to be running and driving and in “fair” condition. Certainly less desirable than the Dictator in question. So I would think this car should be around $10k-$12k.

    0
  20. Tommy

    that’s why I said 10K at the top! Happy Friday all Barnfinders!

    0
  21. dave brennan

    probably a couple in Lake George this wkend. Adirondack Nationals…Have seen a few beauties in past years. if I see one or more tmrw I”ll post

    0
  22. Alan Robbins

    Beautiful. But… having driven a 39 Buick with similar design, terrifying to drive, like being in a tank with a periscope. Can’t see the fenders in front, and backing up out of a parking space I’d open the door to see what was behind me.

    0
    • Duane Hayes Member

      The great visibility came with such cars as the 59 GM cars, wrap around glass galore. Today’s cars actually have terrible visibility.

      0
  23. Duane Hayes Member

    There should be a law against storing neat old cars in damp wet constant condensation in the air Michigan. Up set because I have a Michigan car here, and it’s so sad to see all the damage from that humidity. That said, I wanted to mention that the “art deco” horns are much more modern Delco Remy GM and poorly located by some previous owner on the firewall.

    0

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