Second Time Around: 1937 Studebaker Dictator Coupe

UPDATE 7/23/2019 – This Studebaker got bid up to $13,600 the last go around, it’s now been relisted with an opening bid of $12k and a reserve. It will be interesting to see where bidding ends up this go around, but it seems unlikely that it will reach the seller’s previous BIN of $24,000. You can take another look at it here on eBay. So, how much do you think this one will go for? Special thanks to Reader Darrun for letting us know that it’s been relisted.

FROM  7/04/2019 – If this 1937 Studebaker Dictator Coupe looks familiar to our regular Barn Finds readers, then that probably isn’t surprising. It was featured as one of a collection of cars owned by a gentleman in Alaska that I wrote about in this article back in March of this year. When we featured the car it was still a mechanical project in progress. The owner (John) has spent the last 10-years tinkering with the car, but now he has decided that the time has come for someone to finish what he has started. With the mechanical work complete, the car only requires some extremely minor rust repairs, and then it will just be a matter of some cosmetic work, and the results should be a nice old car. The Dictator is located in Fairbanks, Alaska, and is listed for sale here on eBay. Bidding has now reached $12,100, but the reserve hasn’t been met. There is also a BIN option available at $24,000.

All of the tinkering and work that has been performed on the Dictator over the past 10-years has occurred under the skin, so there is a bit of cosmetic work required to make this old girl sparkle again. Rust is limited to a spot in the bottom corner of the driver’s door, and a small spot in the trunk. The rest of the car is solid, and it only has a few minor dings to address. The external chrome and trim all appear to be present, although some of it will require restoration. All of the glass is good with the exception of the passenger side window, which does have a crack in it.

The interior of the Dictator really isn’t bad, and once again, it will only take some detail work to really bring it back. The door trims actually look quite good, and in one shot we can see a bit of what lies beneath that blanket, and that seat potentially also looks good. The rubber floor mat is new, and the aftermarket gauges in the dash were installed by a previous owner. It really looks like it might only be a case of tidying up the details with the dash, and the interior would present very nicely.

As I said, John (the owner) has quite a collection of vehicles on his property, and he doesn’t tend to tie himself in knots about authenticity. He appears to be what would be referred to as a sensible “bush engineer,” which means that he has enough knowledge and common sense to be able to customize a car, and still extract decent reliability out of it. This is very evident with the Dictator. Forget the original 170ci straight-six that used to reside under the hood of this one, because in its place is a rebuilt 283ci V8, which is backed by a 3-speed Saginaw transmission that previously saw service in a pickup. The rear end is a 3.25 Ford 9″ unit, which is absolutely bullet-proof. I’ve heard this car running, and it does sound seriously tough. It only has 78,000 miles on it, and this is for a very unusual reason. The original owner hardly drove the car, because for some reason it was optioned with a 6.11 rear end. That meant that you were lucky to get 40mph out of it, and the engine would be revving its head off to achieve that. John has also fitted the Dictator with hydraulic brakes, so it should stop as well as it goes. If you follow the link above to the previous story, you can hear John talk about that, and you can hear that awesome engine running.

From what I’ve seen of John, he is a straight-shooter who does things properly. That would suggest that whatever work has been performed on the car has been done to a pretty high standard. A fresh coat of paint would do the Dictator wonders, and even as it stands, you’d have to think that it would be a pretty entertaining thing to drive.


  1. Bob C.

    The 170 six was the engine for the Champion, which wasn’t out at this time. This would have had the 217 six originally.

    Like 7
  2. Will Fox

    I have always loved the `37-`38 Studebakers, as they exude so much art deco style for the day! This one caught my eye big time. Then I saw what’s under the hood. That ruined it.
    I’m a purist, and when it comes to something as rare as these, I would want to restore it back to showroom new. It will attract a buyer I’m sure. Just not me.

    Like 22
  3. JimO

    Any guesstimates on how much it would cost to get this Stude to the east coast?

    Like 3
    • JOHN Member

      If you view this on ebay and have a registered account, there is a link for getting a shipping quote. It is a quick way to get a basic estimate. The fact it runs and drives is a huge plus, dragging dead cars onto or into raises the costs. Cool car, my Dad was a Studebaker fan, we had a 1950 Champion convertible, black, red leather, white top. I still have the original small glass rear window from that car.

      Like 4
      • canadainmarkseh

        Is it finished enough to drive reliably for so then just get the paper work handled with your dmv get a plate for it and then just drive it home. So is it up to a road trip John?

  4. WayneC Member

    I don’t understand about the hydraulic brake comment as the Dictator had hydraulic brakes from the get-go. And I would be willing to bet that behind that forerunner to the commander 6 had an overdrive transmission in it which was a true 30% overdrive which would have made the final drive about a 4.06. High but still driveable, but when these cars came out, paved roads were the exception and not the rule. I hope he saved the old parts and didn’t cut the frame where it couldn’t be put back as my feeling is it will be worth more stock rather than bastardized. Too many rare and valuable cars of all makes are in my opinion being lost due to “modernizing” them into customs.

    Like 12
    • Ken

      I didn’t understand the brake comment, either. Studebaker adopted hydraulic brake technology even before Ford did.

      Like 6
      • Ed P

        Just about everybody adopted hydraulic brakes before Ford.

        Like 4
      • luke arnott Member

        I think Franklin were first?

    • J Dee McD

      Some people don”t realize Studebaker had hydraulic brakes early on, That is why the Question was asked and to inform the watching public

      Like 4
    • JBP

      yea thats a shame. These customs are Maybe cool now, with expensive Upgrades, paintjop etc, but what in 20 years? so it must be redone, if left org, the car hold ist value. all These customs hot rod. is somebodys idear in head. a original car is the winner, imo…
      but this with Corvette engine, isnt bad. i think it can go. at least it look good what owner have made

  5. Del

    Man this would be great at shows.

    New yellow paint and some radials

    Like 2
    • AndyinMA

      Yes an old school yellow of some kind, not too bright.

      Like 4
  6. Fahrvergnugen Farhvergnugen Member

    Boba Fett’s been looking for his car.

    Like 2
  7. Johnmloghry Johnmloghry

    Anyone ever drive the al-can highway it can be brutal. I believe I would have this car shipped to Seattle via boat then make other arrangements to get it home. I like the 283 in there, in fact I like the entire drive train setup. A few things might have to be addressed such as A/C, Power steering etc.I couldn’t pay $24K and then have it brought to Houston to begin further upgrades though, and I’ll bet the reserve is at least $20k. Oh well, I really want a pickup and a convertible for my next two classics. I still haven’t even got my 64 Buick Riviera completely to my satisfaction.
    God bless America

    Like 7
    • John Burgh

      I drove my all-original 1946 Champion up the Al-Can from CA in 2007. Wonderful 6500 mile trip! That faithful 170 ci six has hauled me over 25k miles, many more yet to come. :)

      Like 3
  8. GAC Staff

    In his video about it, the Barn Find Hunter Tom Cotter talked about that car and the seller said that the gear were optioned for San Francisco driving. Also in that video he said 15k so with the new rear end he added he’d probably want a few thousand more. Cool car, made me jealous.

  9. pat gill

    My 1929 Dodge DA has hydraulic brakes and shock absorbers from new,

    Like 2
  10. bobhess bobhess Member

    John was featured on one of the weekend classic car shows last year. He’s a good technician and has an interesting collection of neat old cars, all in running condition.

    Like 2
  11. Anton

    Id like low-profile modern tires on this…

  12. Ron Bajorek

    Tremac 6 speed , a/c, p/s

    Like 1
  13. Bob McK Member

    I love this car, but do not believe it is worth more than $10K as it sits. Do hope someone saves it.

    Like 3
  14. JBP

    see that Video.. wow it Sound and look good, when it rides down the road. realy i nice build. i would only fix that Little rust, and what ells needed and DRIVE….

  15. Bern

    If this car were mine, I would name it either Adolph or Benito…..

  16. Rosco

    Maybe a little pricey, but what a cool and unique ride. Probably not too common, plus you gotta love the name Dictator.

    Like 2
  17. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    Chrysler first in 1924 ? Nice Stude but some will have to get ahold of the reality of our hobby…..just sayin’……….

    Like 1
  18. Bern

    Dig It!!!!

  19. Bob McK Member

    Cool car, but have you ever been to Fairbanks Alaska? I chuckled when I read a comment about driving it back to the lower 48. This car needs to be saved, however the cost to move it will be very high and it needs a lot of work if you desire a show car. After it is restored, you still have a $25K car tops. Good luck to the new owner. She is a beauty.

  20. Vern Neuscheler

    Sometime before 6th of august the Ebay ad was withdrawn. I an very interested to know if the car has sold and what the sale price was.

  21. Steve Douglas

    Do we know whether John sold his Dictator last time out on Ebay?

  22. John

    I sold that stude him .. it was a one owner

    I forget the year I sold it. .. it had been stored in sacramento since the 60’s.

    I have the original barn find pics.

    It was major dollars to ship it to Alaska.

    Like 2
    • Neil Gerrard

      Hi John, would love to see the pics you talked about. I just bought the car, Neil

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