Drive Or Restore? 1953 Studebaker Commander

It seems that the owner of this 1953 Commander has a soft spot for Studebaker products. When you look at the photos that he supplies in his listing, there are a few different examples visible in the background. He has decided to part with this one, which shows a lot of promise as a project car. It runs and drives, which means that the buyer can enjoy the classic car ownership experience while they decide how (or if) they will tackle any restoration work. The Studebaker is located in Lenexa, Kansas, and has been listed for sale here on eBay. Bidding has reached $9,100, and the reserve has been met.

The Studebaker is finished in Maui Blue with an Ivory Mist top. The owner believes that the vehicle has received a repaint at some point, but when this occurred is unknown. He claims that there is no rust in this classic, and the supplied photos seem to support this claim. The lower extremities of the quarter panels and fenders appear clean, while there are no apparent issues with the rockers. The owner has taken a good look around under the vehicle, and he states that the floors look to be sound. The paint is presentable, although the Commander would probably benefit from a repaint in the future. Having said that, I can’t see any reason why it couldn’t be driven and enjoyed for many years as a survivor-grade car. Some of the chrome and trim has minor damage, and some of this will require replacement if the vehicle is to be returned to its best. However, I can’t spot any problems with the glass.

Studebaker always managed to produce cars that were interesting and quirky, and the interior of the Commander is no exception. I’m not sure if it is just me, but I’ve generally felt that the dash looks like it was assembled upside-down. Normally you would expect to find all of the gauges in the upper half of the dash, with the switches below. In the Commander, it is the other way around, which just goes to show how the company marched to the beat of a different drummer. Leaving that aside, the interior is quite reasonable for a car of this age. There is some wear on the outer edges of the front seat, but there are no apparent rips or tears. The carpet looks tired, the wheel has a few cracks, and the remaining trim pieces look like they could use a good clean. However, I think that it would take more time and physical effort than money to have the interior presenting at its best once again.

Under the hood of the Commander, we find a 232.4ci V8, which is backed by a 3-speed manual transmission with overdrive. This little V8 should be capable of pumping out 120hp. That isn’t a massive amount of power, but it is respectable for a V8 from this era. It should mean that the Commander can cover the ¼ mile in around 20 seconds. For those potential buyers who want to slide behind the wheel and hit the road immediately, the news is all good. The owner states that the Studebaker runs and drives as well as it looks. That means that the wide-open road is beckoning for this beauty.

Studebaker was a company that managed to produce its share of interesting cars, and they always seemed to be doing it on a shoestring budget. The Commander was no exception, and this car looks like it is a real beauty. The next owner will have to decide whether to treat it to some restoration work, or whether to drive it proudly as a survivor. While I like the idea of seeing it sparkling as if it was new, I find the concept of it remaining as-is quite attractive. What would you do?

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  1. IkeyHeyman Member

    Drive now, restore later if you feel like it.

    Like 6
  2. bobhess bobhess Member

    Owned one of these. Still one of the best designs ever put on a car. Love it!

    Like 12
  3. BlondeUXB Member

    Raymond Loewy at his finest…

    Like 9
    • Vince H

      Actually Bob Bourke

      Like 5
      • BlondeUXB Member

        You just taught me something special…

  4. Michael Candee

    Stude’s were a pretty remarkable car- the only problem is they were way ahead of their time. I too have a soft spot for those crazy rides. Most people who worship the Avanti’s did not realize they were made by studebaker.

    Like 5
  5. john

    In 1953, the Museum of Modern Art held an exhibit called “Ten Automobiles”. This Stude and the Arnolt MG are the only one of those ten cars you can touch for under six figures, and the Arnolt just barely at that. But yeah get a copy of that exhibit catalogue and tell everyone it’s not a car, it’s art.

    Like 2
  6. Mike

    Would this be considered a “Loewy Coupe”?

    Like 1
    • Kenny

      Yes Mike— although these were available as a Hardtop (this one) or a pillared Coupe, they often are generically referred to as “Loewy Coupes”. Funny though— it was his employee Bob Bourke who designed it, not Raymond Loewy…

      Like 4
    • Kenny

      Ooops! This one IS a coupe, not a Hardtop…

  7. Madbrit

    I owned the exact same model in the UK many years ago. Installed a set of radial tires and it out cornered most British sports cars. Interesting Stude things such as needle roller kingpins and a “hill holder” attached to the clutch mechanism. I purchased the car and it was delivered to a friend’s garage but no instructions on how to start it, didn’t think I would need any until the time came to go home. I sat in the car, turned the key and nothing. Checked out the dash knobs which took some deciphering as there was a blank where it said start and the key had a start position which did not start it. Noticed the extra floor switch and the tab on the clutch pedal which was the starter. Found out later the key start position actually electronically disconnected the overdrive if you encountered slower moving traffic and to re-engage the overdrive, you dabbed the kick-down on the throttle pedal. Loved the car, was sad to see it at a wrecking yard some years later having sold it to a guy who was intending to do a complete restoration.

    Like 7

    Stude had quite good cars in the Lowey series: on the right of the steering column one could have a factory installed tachometer, the engine was very stout and Stude had a relationship with McCullagh superchargers and at length put them on the Golden hawks and Gran Turismo’s. They offered the then BIG 350 cuin PACKARD engine and the 374 for the Caribbean with 2 4bbls, could be had. They successfully raced in the drags and occasionally in road races, One trophied in the UK vintage sedan road races recently, of course they have been a favorite at Bonneville.

    • Vince H

      The 374 was not offered in a Studebaker. Some people have installed them.

      Like 2
  9. Mike

    Is this considered a “Loewy Coupe”?

  10. A.G.

    The ’66/67 Chevelles had a better looking upside down driver’s binnacle. Then again the Mustang extended the Stude’s style lines into the quarter panels

    If it were mine I’d be tempted to upgrade drivetrain, suspension, brakes,etc. and creature comforts. I’m thinking modern technology in a Lowey design.

  11. Steve Bush Member

    Have always thought these were beautiful high quality cars that were ahead of their time as were most Studebakers. Sad that they lacked the resources to compete with the Big Three, who while bringing us some great cars over the years, have also since Studebaker’s demise, produced more than their fair share of mediocre and downright awful cars.

    Like 5
  12. bobhess bobhess Member

    My ’53 had the b-pillar and was called a coupe. What I call a hard top without the b-pillar had a designation but I don’t remember what it was. Someone out there help us here? My car was fitted with a very potent Oldsmobile with it’s 4 speed hydromatic and stock rear behind it. Very fast , very good looking, and a lot of fun.

    Like 1
    • Poppy

      Studebaker called their ’53-’54 pillar-less coupes “Starliners” and their pillared coupes “Starlights.”

      Like 2
  13. Bob C.

    It is amazing that in 1953 these looked advanced for the time, but in the end Studebakers were pretty dated looking despite tweaks and upgrades. Hey, they were forced to do more with less. BTW, I agree that is a pretty crazy looking dash.

    Like 1
  14. Joe Machado

    Wife drove a Starliner to hi school. She said, lots of glass all around.
    Currently, I have a 57 Stude. Thats 1857, not 1957. Remember those. A museum in Nebraska told me about 100 made.
    I had no clue what company made them when I trailered it on Interstate 10 about 20 years ago behind my 69 Daytona.
    C B radio comments from truckers was hilarious.
    Still possibly the most common car at the Bonneville Salt Flats.
    Think the Avanti was drawn on a napkin in a cafe near me in Palm Springs.
    I have enough cars, but like this and its a nice two-tone.
    Todays cars need two-tone to wake up the samey-samey lookin gadget cars of today. Boring

    Like 2
  15. Miguel

    This car would get a lot of looks if driven today on the street and nobody would believe it is a 1953 model.

    Like 5
  16. luke arnott Member

    I know someone who has a Studebaker horse drawn wagon.

    Like 3
    • ken tillyUK

      Is his name Joe Machado by any chance?

      Like 2
      • luke arnott Member

        No,it’s a lady in Birmingham named Dawn.

  17. pwtiger

    Studebaker made the Conestoga covered wagons that headed west in the 1850’s, then made a Conestoga stationwagon in the 1950’s

    Like 2
    • luke arnott Member

      Never knew that!

      • Vince H

        They started out near Gettysburg PA. There is a monument marking the site of their shop.

        Like 2
  18. Vince H

    My 53 Commander coupe out ran many 55-56 Chevies. It had a 4:56 rear. Overdrive made it ok on the highway.

    Like 2
  19. Maestro1 Member

    Always loved this design. Yes, it is art on wheels. Somebody buy it, restore it and drive it.

    Like 4
  20. Joe Machado

    Cee, jes

  21. Derek

    I really like this; very stylish.

    I don’t get how a rotten ’57 Chevrolet can attract higher bids; both were mass-produced around the same time.

    Like 1
  22. Rj

    When I was a kid there was a Stude dealer less than a block from my Aunt and Uncles house. When ever we went to visit I took off to that dealership. They had such cool cars over there. Early on I was pearing through the windows and a guy told me to come in. From that day on I would go in to see what they had. I saw my first Packard up close there. Still it didn’t match the day I saw my first StudeStarLightStreamliner. Damn what a beautiful beautiful automobile it was in red and white inside and out. I always thought that should have been the cars name…….Streamliner.

    Like 2
  23. Bob McK Member

    Look how forward the styling was for 1953. I hope someone cleans it up and enjoys driving it just the way it is.

    Like 3
  24. 1st Gear

    I see a bad ass street/strip brawler here. Who’s old enough to remember the Revell plastic model car “Miss Deal”? I was maybe 7 or 8 yrs old,this was the body style I fell in love with. Ahhhhh,the first love.

  25. Ray Krause

    And the name “Stogie” ( 5 cent cigar?) came from Conestoga ’cause that’s how they were transported west.
    ’53, ’54 Starliners are easily one of the best looking/proportioned automobiles ever designed. Not so, the engineering. Too bad about the boat anchor front heavy which was about the same weight as the Caddy of the same year but without the power to steer yourself out of a problem when the paltry 9″ drums faded. Mine was a ’53 and coming down Waterman Canyon grade when the OD decided to disengage itself was an “E” ticket ride.

  26. Steve Bush Member

    Winning bid of $19,100.00 lodged shortly before the close of the auction. There were 34 bids.

  27. Dave

    Land speed racer material

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