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Original and Unrestored: 1953 Studebaker Champion

040316 Barn Finds- 1953 Studebaker Champion - 3

This “all original unrestored” (believe it or not) 1953 Studebaker Champion Custom is found on Craigslist in El Cajon, CA for an asking price of $6,500. This is quite a car if that claim is true; it looks great from the photos in the ad.

040316 Barn Finds- 1953 Studebaker Champion - 1

1953 is the first year for the fourth-generation Studebaker Champion and they made them until 1956. This is a Custom, the lowest-level trim level for the Champion, below the Regal and the Deluxe trim levels. There will be some chrome work to do here if a person wanted to make the car look like new again, but original cars are all the rage; not to mention that they’re an honest representation of what actually came from the factory; other than having a few decades of wear.

040316 Barn Finds- 1953 Studebaker Champion - 2

Of course, I can’t imagine that those wide white wall tires are original, could they be? But, for a car to look this good after 63 years is pretty amazing. Even the trunk looks good; could it possibly have been painted black like this one is?

040316 Barn Finds- 1953 Studebaker Champion - 4

The interior has some wear as you can see from the photos in the ad, but it’s got a great-looking dash! This car doesn’t appear to have either of the two radio options available and this car would have had a rubber mat in the front, at least, and maybe in front and back; or possibly would have had carpet in the back.

040316 Barn Finds- 1953 Studebaker Champion - 5

Here is the original battery; just kidding! There are obviously a few things under the hood that aren’t original, and anytime that someone makes a statement such as “100% original” there will be those folks who will just look for things to pick apart. The seller mentions that it has a new battery and new starter. In any case, this is the flathead-6, 170 cubic-inch engine with 85 hp. This car has the optional overdrive with the 3-speed manual transmission; a fine option to have for when you take this to Studebaker events around the country. As with any classic car, you’ll want to join the club.

This is an impressive survivor car, the dry climate certainly helped keep it well-preserved and the although there is no mention of how many owners have had this beauty, they have all taken great care of it. Would you keep this Champion original or would you restore those things that it needs to look like new again?


  1. Walt

    What a Beauty ! I can’t believe the paint condition ? ?
    I would restore what is needed seats, bumpers etc. Or ?

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  2. Leon

    Too bad it’s not wearing original plates

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  3. Dolphin Member

    CL listing has expired.

    Looks like it’s riding high at the front. I don’t know if the photography makes it look that way, or if it actually is. Otherwise very nice.

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    • Peter L.

      I noticed that too. My ’56 Sky Hawk does too, but not to that extent. The car leaned and the shop put in shims to make it level, and the higher front end was the result.

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  4. HoA Howard A Member

    I’d have to think this is a re-paint at some point. The bumper wear doesn’t match the paint. ( if the chrome wears, the paint usually does too) Still, an amazing find. Nothing really fancy, even when new, but what a deal. Ready to enjoy. Can one of our Studebaker folks tell me what the “dimmer-type” switch under the clutch pedal did, and the 2 levers to the left of the steering column do? (OD and vent?) Did all Studebakers have the “hill-holder” feature? If I was looking for a new car in 1953, I probably would have bought this. Neat car.

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    • GOPAR

      I have a ’51 Champion. On my car, the switch under the clutch pedal is the starter button, the two levers on the left of the steering column are for overdrive and hood release. Not sure if it’s the same on a ’53, but it may be. Also, hill-holder was an option.

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  5. Dave at OldSchool Restorations

    Wanted one since they were introduced….if it was a 2dr, it would be on it’s way to Alabama…..

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  6. Ed P

    I would restore the upholstery then drive and enjoy. The other stuff, maybe when I get a round tuit.

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  7. Jon

    The button under the clutch was the starter, IIRC. Or maybe it was the hill-holder. Had a Champion HT in college. It was 7 yrs old and rusting. Beautiful car, though.

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    • Ed P

      Jon, I would agree with you about the starter button. I believe Nash placed the button under the clutch on some cars. The Hill Holder (aka Bendix NoRol) did not have an electrical component. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hill-holder

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  8. Matt Tritt

    Great looking car! Seems like a fair price – but how could that paint be original? I owned a 53 Connestoga for a few years in the mid-70’s, but it had the 8 with overdrive. That car would cruise effortlessly @ 70 and get around 20 MPG in the process – plus, it was absolutely the most stable vehicle I’ve ever owned in heavy crosswinds. The paint on mine was still in good shape back then, but that was over 40 years ago, and I just can’t see how ANY paint that old could look like that.

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  9. John

    Its a repainted car! Look at the pic of the back seat! The door striker has blue paint on it!

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  10. Bob C.

    This breed of studes always seemed to sit high in the front. Probably because of the small flathead six. They say the v8 studes felt noticeably front end heavy because their v8 engines were a lot heavier than say a chevy v8 about the same displacement?

    Like 0

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