Suicide Doors! 1952 Studebaker Commander

The year 1952 would be the 100th anniversary of when Studebaker built their first covered wagons. In just another 20 years, they would be the largest horse-drawn vehicle builder in the world. They began transitioning to the “new-fangled” automobile 30 years after that and it would become their primary business until the end came in 1966. This 1952 Studebaker Commander is said to be a barn find from Texas that’s in need of a total restoration. But it has “suicide doors”, something that Lincoln would become famous for a decade later. This car is in Apache Junction, Arizona and available here on craigslist for $2,200. Thanks to PaulG for bringing this old Stude to our attention!

After the end of World War II, the first new Studebakers would hit the scene in 1947. Although that platform was intended to be replaced in 1952, the cars would have to settle for a facelift until 1953. Most noticeable for ’52 was the low and toothy full-width grille that Raymond Loewy’s gang would dub “the clam digger” (just look at the photos and you’ll see why). Studebaker would pace the Indianapolis 500 that year and both the Commander and Champ models took home prizes in the annual Mobilgas Economy Run. Studebaker production would exceed 168,000 units, far shy of what GM, Ford and Chrysler would do. Various versions of the Commander would be about half of Studebaker sales that year. Thanks, How Stuff Works, for the Studebaker trip down memory lane.

The Commander nameplate would appear on various Studebaker models over the years starting in 1927. It would be in the sales literature every year until 1964, except for 1936 and 1959-63. If you were looking for a senior level Studebaker in 1952, the Commander was what you bought, like this one. It’s a two-tone edition, with black on the top and yellow on the bottom. The seller refers to this car as one of six made, but we can’t ascertain why. Is it because of the color combination?  It can’t be the 233 cubic-inch V-8 (one of the smallest we’ve seen) as it was a Commander staple. Perhaps some astute Barn Finds reader has the key to unlock this mystery.

Rust is present on this car, but it seems in patches, with the worst of it perhaps being the trunk lid. But since we can see the underbelly of the Commander, we really can’t attest as to whether this creates a make or break issue. There is no mention if the car runs, so we’ll assume it does not. The Studebaker Commander wasn’t a cheap car in 1952, nor was it crazy money at about $2,500 at its snazziest. While cars like this are rare nearly 70 years later, even superb examples don’t sell for more than $15-18,000 according to Hagerty. The seller has priced this one at half of what fair examples might command. So, if this car doesn’t have hidden troubles, this might be a good way to bring an old Studebaker back to life. And dig those suicide doors, even though on a sedan and not a hardtop.


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  1. Fred W

    This old girl deserves a rechroming- which by itself would run more than the price of the car. Hope someone with deep pockets gets her and restores her!

    Like 4
    • Phlathead Phil

      Shave the chrome off.


      Drop in a 383, four on dah phloor, 9” rear, Wilwood brakes, traction bars, (red or blue) headers w/twice pipes, cherry bombs, Anson Sprints and hit the road!

  2. Poppy

    What a difference a year makes…Compare a 1953 coupe to this. To be fair, the ’53 Sedans weren’t much to look at and the ’52 2-door hardtops were as good looking as other makes of similar vintage. I love Studebakers, but I just don’t see the value proposition here.

    Like 1
  3. Dan Bayne

    This would make a great sleeper hotrod!

    Like 1
  4. wayneC Member

    1966 was the last year for the Commander. The engine should be the 232 cubic inch engine.

    Like 2
  5. Bob C.

    Looks like a Studey V8 to me. The 232 was the only one available from 1951 to 54.

    Like 2
  6. Johnmloghry Johnmloghry Member

    It does have suicide rear doors, if that means anything. It will take a lot to bring this one back, but if you’re a Studebaker lover, this is a challenge to be conquered.
    God bless America

  7. Phlathead Phil

    Am I noticing an 8 volt battery???

    Like 2
    • John Manders

      Nope///// 6 volts

      • John Manders

        no one to help me out?

    • Poppy

      Looks like 4 cells to me. 8 volts – a common upgrade to compensate for poor wiring and grounds.

      Like 2
      • Ed P

        4 cells are definitely an 8 volt battery

        Like 2
      • John Manders

        right; was mixed up with 1.5V batteries; sorry

  8. John Manders

    First part of this message was not posted; any one to help me out with a 1952 V8 Hardtop ?

    • John Manders

      4x 1.5 makes…. 6 Volts – correct????

      • Ed P

        No, 3 cells times 2 volts each equals 6 volts.

        Like 1
  9. John Manders

    Okidoki; better repair 6 V connections & grounds….

    Like 1
  10. John Manders

    Mr. Ed;

    You are absolutely right, straight from the horses mouth !!!!
    So sorry for bothering you with something so simple – however it’s the first time I saw an 8 volt battery. didn’t know they were used to boost a 6 volt system.
    Might there be any damage to coil / instruments / radio ?
    Do you know/remember

  11. Gary Theurer

    Mopars used 8 volt batteries in that era

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