Sliding Roof! 1964 Studebaker Wagonaire

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As Studebaker grasped for a survival strategy in the mid-1960s, it turned to its best-seller, the Lark, and the company’s star designer, Brooke Stevens. Stevens was given carte blanche to overhaul the Lark, and his answer was the Wagonaire. The new people-hauler had a trick sliding roof, so it could transport large-scale items, not just the neighborhood soccer team. Only about 20,000 Studebaker Wagonaires were built from 1963 into 1966, and of those, slightly more than half were sliding roof Wagonaires. Delicate roof tubes designed to drain the slider channels clogged, causing leaks, rust, and ruin – consequently, Wagonaires are rare today. Here on eBay is a 1964 Studebaker Wagonaire, brought out of storage to be sold. Bidding has reached $2375 in a no-reserve auction. The winning bidder will pick her up from Auburn, California.

Wagonaires were delivered with either of two in-line six-cylinders, Chevy’s 283 cu. in. V8 (made in Canada), or a variety of Studebaker’s own V8s including the supercharged R2 famously installed in the Avanti. This Wagonaire sports a supercharged engine, but it’s the earlier 1950s McCulloch unit rather than the Paxton (both made by Robert Paxton McCulloch) that Studebaker used in the 1960s. The seller indicates that the prior owner claimed the engine did run but blew smoke. The gearbox is a floor shift manual.

The Wagonaire came in three trim levels. By 1964 these were called Challenger, Commander, and Daytona. This is the top-shelf Daytona, with bucket seats, finer fabrics, and extra trim both inside and out. The new owner will be faced with renovating this interior – luckily all the parts seem to be present. The rear window motor has been rebuilt, and the seller says it works. He’s also tried the roof, and it does slide in its channel – a minor victory. The roof can be set open in three positions, held in place with metal pins.

Aside from the sliding roof – which is kitschy enough – a loop of metal forming a step unfolds from the tailgate, enabling easy access to the wagon’s bed. While today we might view the Wagonaire as a nifty curiosity and worth a berth in a collection, buyers in the 1960s were not enamored of the car. Production was strongest in its first year, but water ingress around the roofline gave the car a bad reputation, and sales fell steeply. Studebaker tried to fix the issue by shifting to a fixed roof, but it wasn’t enough. The Wagonaire faded like the company itself, both meeting a similar fate in 1966 when Studebaker closed its factory doors for good.

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  1. Aussie Dave Aussie DaveMember

    What’s not to like about this beauty? It’s a Studebaker, It’s a wagon (ok I like wagons, get over it). It’s a V8, and supercharged, and is a manual, with a floor mounted leave.
    I like the colour, and the sliding roof? Brilliant idea, and yes I’m aware of the problems with that.
    We got Studebakers over, new, but have never seen a sliding roof one.

    Like 32
  2. HoA HoAMember

    It should be noted, if the supercharger is original, and the 4 speed, I read only FIFTEEN of these cars were sold. The sliding roof was a novel idea, leaked like a sieve and didn’t like the cold. Once they stuck, many probably sealed them over. Can you imagine turning a guy like Brooks Stevens loose on a design? This was the result. Since the supercharger is the hot button, maybe gut the thing, and still have the belt turning, but it’s a gee-gaw that isn’t much use, and nobody will ever know. Always been a Studebaker fan, AMC/Rambler, you know, misery loves company, and we lost a great one here. Very cool find.

    Like 27
    • Tiger66

      Except the supercharger does not appear to be original. Like the write-up notes, it’s the earlier setup with the McCulloch, not Paxton, supercharger. Which means it was added later and this may not be a factory R2 car, which would have had the Paxton. Something to consider, anyway.

      Like 11
    • KevinJames77

      Everything about that engine is ’57-’58 Golden Hawk — supercharger, carburetor enclosure, air filter housing, valve covers, water manifold, oil filter location, even the radiator. Also, an original 4-speed car would have a “4SPD” tag on the cowl next to the body number tag indicating the hole and hump for the shifter. I don’t see such a tag.

      Like 7
      • stillrunners stillrunnersMember


        Like 0
  3. Harvey HarveyMember

    Who doesn’t like a car that has a vicegrips as part of the controls?

    Like 26
    • HoA HoAMember

      I saw that too, emergency brake release knob gone missing. When I was trucking, a vice grips( or more accurately, locking pliers) and a Swiss Army knife, was all that was needed in case of repair.

      Like 6
    • Johninva

      When I was young and really smart, I drove a 73 VW thing (with a portrait of Che Guevara on the hood) from New York to Florida and back. The accelerator cable snapped near the pedal in Jacksonville on the return trip, I pulled the cable
      as far as it would go, clamped some vice grips on it and ran it wide open the last 1100 miles or so.

      Like 2
      • Frank

        I hope you are not proud of having him on your hood today

        Like 1
  4. Mark

    Looks like a rare find that you don’t see to many of and everything is there and very few exist save this one for sure

    Like 10
  5. rudiger

    The Wagonaire was an answer to a question no one asked. All the faults came nowhere near justifying the very limited usefulness. I mean, really, unless someone was regularly delivering large kitchen appliances with their own car, how often was that sliding roof going to be used?

    The most amusing thing is, two decades later, GM would revive the concept with the GMC Envoy XUV, with the same lackluster sales result.

    Like 8
    • Yblocker

      At least Studebaker’s version was nice looking

      Like 19
  6. JustPassinThru

    Studebaker made three months of 1964 cars in South Bend, before the plant was closed. And I believe the sliding-roof Wagonaire didn’t make the trip to Canada…a fixed-roof wagon did, but not the sliding roof.

    So this unit is probably a South Bend unit, and built with Studebaker’s own six. The McKinnon/GM Canada engine was not used in year 1964, as Studebaker continued making engines for some months after closing the final-assembly plant in South Bend; but when the changeover happened, I hadn’t read. It was probably a running change, as Studebaker’s marketing plans for their diminished Canada operation was, to stress no model years – the Common-Sense Car that doesn’t obsolete itself.

    That one only lasted 18 months, until the 1966 facelift. Which as it turned out was wasted money.

    The other way, I had read, to know this was not a Canadian build, was, Hamilton Studebakers all had white Bakelite steering wheels. Color-coding went out with South Bend assembly.

    Like 6
  7. bone

    If the supercharger is from a 1950s unit, I guess there’s a good chance this wasn’t a supercharged car ? This car has a whole ” hillbilly hot rod” look to it with that louvered and hacked up hood with the Krylon custom black paint job , over what was originally and obviously a blue Stude , not red as the seller says. It definitely could be restored as there are plenty of Studebakers that junkyards saved all over the country , it just needs to find the right person that wants something pretty unique to drive

    Like 5
    • Rlunt

      I used to own this car in the 80’s, It was originally blue

      Like 1
  8. Yblocker

    I’ve always liked the final Studebakers, love that front end. As far as the sliding roof issues, there’s an old saying, “If a man made it, a man oughta be able to fix it” This wagon is well worth saving.

    Like 14
  9. Bultaco

    I’m sure Studebaker people have figured out how to make the roof slide and seal by now, and the rest of the car is just good old solid Lark. If it’s not too rusty, rebuild the mechanicals, do the paint and interior, add Vintage Air and some Magnum 500 wheels or Avanti hubcaps and you have a very unique and usable classic.

    Like 7
    • John E. Klintz

      “Solid Lark?” By the time the Lark became a half-way decent car, in the early sixties, it was too late. Yes, they had better styling than the original Larks but other than the engines suffered from obsolete underpinnings and engineering.

      Like 0
      • Anthony Gaby

        But yet the chassis parts (underpinnings) are the exact same ones under the Avanti….The Avanti chassis..same as Lark convertible..

        Like 1
  10. H Siegel

    I like this Studebaker but what’s not to love when it comes to a Stude. IMO these were good looking wagons. As for me I would get it running and if the engine smokes I would just rebuild it looks like it needs some freshing up anyway. As for the rest I like the color and the mods and would leave it like that. As for the roof of it leaks so what how often will it be driven in the rain on rainy days just leave it in the garage. Drive it on nice days and enjoy the open roof. Good thing this is all the way across the country from me or I would be a player in this auction. As of right now the price seams reasonable. GLWTA and to the buyer drive and enjoy it.

    Like 5
  11. KurtMember

    I love kitsch and this model has it! Restore it to stock please, somebody, and be the star of your cars and coffee!

    Like 3
  12. Yblocker


    Like 0
    • MisterLouMember

      From Mirriam-Webster: Kitsch is an early 20th-century borrowing from German, and it refers to things in the realm of popular culture that are tacky, like car mirror dice, plastic flamingos, and dashboard hula dancers.

      Like 1
  13. Derik Hackney

    Before SUVs were cool.

    Like 1
  14. Kirk Dobson

    That engine is not correct. Engine shown is from a late 57-58 Golden Hawk or other supercharged model. It has a 2 barrel Stromberg under that box behind the McCullough blower. 60’s supercharged R2 motor had an exposed pressure sealed Carter 4 barrel. They also had the Paxton SN 60 Supercharger driven by two belts without the variable pulley shown on this car. They also had alternators, not generators.

    Like 6
  15. Rlunt

    I believe I used to own this car in Modesto back in the 80’s. Originally blue 259 3sp OD car. Was not even a Daytona. I added the Daytona trim bucket seats and painted it black

    Like 1
  16. Loving Studies!

    I can’t understand why sellers can’t step back a few feet and get the entire car in the picture.

    Like 4

    The styling reminds me of the later Jeep Wagoneer which came later? Pretty cool car w/lots of potential.

    Like 2
  18. Rlunt

    This was my car in Modesto Ca back in the 80’s. Originally blue with a 259 3spd OD. I added all the Daytona trim bucket seats and louvered the hood

    Like 2
    • MisterLouMember

      …you’re ACTUAL car? Like this is your old car?

      Like 0
      • Rlunt

        Yes, this was my car. I added all the Daytona trim, buckets seats louvered the hood and painted it black in the early 80’s

        Like 1
  19. stillrunners stillrunnersMember

    Michelle Rand – if you want to talk gasping after 100 yrs in business – talk about GM. 1853 to 1953 and the only wagon maker to make it and yes they had electrics in the 1800’s – go look it up.

    Just get tired of all the comments from those that were there all those years and their take on what was the downfall of Studie’s.

    Like 0
  20. John Klintz

    Correct, Anthony Gaby, and that was the “weak link” of the Avanti along with the dreaded, rust-prone “hog troughs”.

    Like 0
  21. Bobert L

    As with a lot of rarish independent carmaker’s vehicles, I doubt that the lack of the original engine would mean much if at all as long as it would be an improvement in power. It should probably at least be an engine from that makeof vehicle. A well done mild custom with all Studebaker parts will be awesome in ths car!

    Like 0
  22. KurtMember


    Like 0

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