Unfortunate Name: 1936 Studebaker Dictator

The Dictator was an entry-level automobile built by Studebaker from 1928-37. They began renaming all their cars in the late 1920s and the powers-that-be thought that Dictator would be a good name for a car (it replaced the Standard Six badging). The moniker chosen was supposed to connote that the car “dictated the standard” that other makes would have to follow. Fast forward to the 1930s and it came to mean something else. This 1936 edition as a 2-door business coupe is located in Harrington, Washington and available here on eBay due to a death in the family. The starting bid is $9,500 and, so far, the action has yet to begin.

During this era, Studebaker chose dominating names for its cars, such as the Commander, President and Chancellor. The choice of the Dictator name initially caused no problem in the U.S., but it had negative connotations in Europe where Studebaker decided to call it the Director there. The rise to power of Adolf Hitler in the mid-1930s began creating image problems worldwide for Studebaker’s lowest priced car, so the company abruptly discontinued the name Dictator in 1937 and brought back the Commander badging which had been dropped in 1935.

The seller of this 1935 Dictator admits knowing little about the car. The owner died leaving unanswered questions regarding the auto’s history and its condition. It does not run, nor does seller know what it will take to remedy the situation. The Studebaker should have been powered by a 218 cubic inch inline-six that was good for 90 hp with a 3-speed manual. Offered in multiple body styles, a total of some 26,000 Dictators were built for 1936.

Overall, the body looks good but there is indication of corrosion trying to break through at the bottom of the doors. It’s possible the car was repainted not that long ago as its quite shiny in many places. Chrome pieces including bumpers have been removed with no mention of their whereabouts. An interesting feature of the car is that both the windshield and back glass pop open a little at the bottom. The interior is an area of disappointment, with door panels and floor coverings missing and blankets posing as seat covers. Parts of the floorboards appear to have been removed leaving large holes. A pair of vice grips seems to be doubling as a windshield crank.

There are just a handful of these cars listed for sale online and they all look to have to been customized to one extent or another. So, it’s hard to get a feel as to what this car would be worth restored.  The cautious approach suggests the acquisition plus restoration cost may exceed resale value because these don’t seem to be highly sought-after cars. Add to the problem that the title is missing, and the car will have to change hands with a bill of sale.

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Comments

  1. Dave

    Wow what a cool looking car! Never seen one before, but the name is pretty cool too.

    Like 9
  2. Kurt Member

    The missing trim pieces are going to be the biggest problem with this car.

    Like 4
  3. Paul in Ma

    This was a great name. They also had the President and Commander. It was a different time back then. Look up the Hollywood movie “Gabriel Over The White House” which was a major film of 1933 that called on the president to take dictatorial powers in the United States. From wikipedia – “Gabriel Over the White House is a 1933 American pre-Code political fantasy film starring Walter Huston as a genial but politically corrupt President who has a near-fatal automobile accident and comes under divine influence—specifically the Archangel Gabriel and the spirit of Abraham Lincoln. Eventually he takes control of the government, solves the problems of the nation, from unemployment to racketeering, and arranges for worldwide peace, before dying of a heart attack. “

    Like 6
  4. Mike Adams

    What a cool-looking car.

    Like 1
  5. Jim in FL Member

    Cool looking car, exciting as a “20 footer”. Upon closer examination, gonna need a lot of time and money to get a higher respectability at a closer viewing range.

    Like 2
  6. Steve Douglas

    Does anyone know if the basic body and dimensions of this model were the same as those of the “President” model in the same year?

  7. Fireballr Member

    This is the coolest looking business man’s coupe I’ve seen! I love the style of these cars and know this kind will be my next project. Just need to land on the right make/model. Assume the studebaker parts are hard to come by?

    Like 1
  8. Sam61

    Another very cool looking car! How about a mechanical/interior resto mod with an Avanti v8/Paxton Supercharger OR BMW inline 6m?

    Good thing Chevy didn’t concock the “SS” designation in the “30’s.

    Like 5
    • Capt RD

      Sam61 — Standard Swallow car Company became Jaguar after the SS designation got the bad press from WW2 German troops.
      https://www.hemmings.com/stories/article/jaguar-cars-ltd

      I love the sleek look of this coupe!

      Like 1
    • Richard Kirschenbaum

      Bite your tongue Sam. This car has existed through more than eight decades without being butchered and having its legacy destroyed.

      Like 3
  9. Danny from oz

    Editor says, “but there is indication of corrosion trying to break through”. It’s not trying to break through, it’s well and truly arrived. It’s full of rust and been bogged up, before the respray.

    • Richard Kirschenbaum

      Danny, Never heard the term bogged up but It’s perfect if it means something like mudded. Reminds me of my first purchase in June of 1960. It was a ’29 Pontiac. Tape had been applied over the rusted out sections before a repaint. I was 14 and had no idea of what I was looking at. And funny thing: why did the front door drop when opened and was then impossible to close? Answer, every car made then could rightly be called “a woody.” and this one was a true “rotty.” Still have it though.

      Like 1
  10. Pwog Member

    Love the rear window that opens, bet its a leaker.

    Like 1
    • Mike

      Yup, the Bat Wing rear window is a touch of class. So few cars have these type of stylish oddities. The Cord hidaway headlights are a big hit too.

  11. Glenn C. Schwass Member

    That just nice with great lines. It’s also a blank canvas. If it isn’t frozen, it probably could run. I’d put simple door panels in of cloth tweed like material, match it on the seats and drive it as is…the headliner would be my problem so I’d have to pay for that to get done.
    Such a cool car.

    Like 2
    • Richard Kirschenbaum

      You’re spot on Glen!

  12. Stan Marks

    What’s wrong with DIC-tator?
    I’ve got one word, for this car…. “Style”.

  13. Mvivori

    How much does it weigh and how much are scrap prices these days? There’s your answer to value. Sorry

  14. bone

    Going from the Hemmings article , the owner of the restored one says there are only around 12 coupes known on the Studebaker site that aren’t customs or hot rods, so finding things like solid doors could really be an issue . It also says bumpers were an accessory on these cars, so it may not have had any ,and finding those could be very hard too !

  15. Jonathan Sands

    As a kid, in the fifties, my mother’s five brothers had a cavalcade of cars, one more interesting than the one before. Early 50’s Lincolns and Mercs. 54 Merc with Moon roof. 52 Chevys with fender skirts and continental kits w/tire. Nashes and Hornets, just everything you casn think of. But the ones that always knocked my socks off were the Studies, even the pick ups. Commaders, Hawks, you name it. The styling was beyond compare. I always felt special because I appreciated the styling when a lot of people didn’t.

    • Stan Marks

      Jon, I’ve always said, the 50’s had the best styled cars.

      As a kid, growing up in a row home in Philly, when a neighbor would bring home a new car, it was an event on our block.
      Neighbors would come out and look it over.

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