07 April 2014

Car Stuff: Fantasy Garage #5

I've been attempting to execute this feature in chronological order, and I started with 1960 because I've always had more affection for cars of the '60s and '70s than for older ones. But I knew that at some point I would come up with a car from the '50s that I wanted to include, and I finally remembered it so now my attempt at order it messed up, and that's just how the middle-aged brain works.

After the end of World War II, the car companies rushed to restart civilian auto production, but they had to make do with warmed-over versions of existing designs from before the war. The first American company to put a completely new design into production was Studebaker (a company whose heritage went back to making wagons in the mid-1800s but would end up not surviving the 1960s). Being smaller than the Big Three actually made them more nimble and, in this instance, better able to get a new design into production more quickly. That car went on sale for the 1947 model year, ahead of the competition by a year or more.
But the car I'm interested in is the version that came later, for 1953. Its design is extremely advanced for the time: it's remarkably low compared to other cars of the period, and has a fresh simplicity that mostly wouldn't find its way to offerings from other American car companies for another decade.

As beautiful as these cars were and are, they were plagued with production problems, and Studebaker seems to have done everything possible to sabotage its chances to succeed. This article from Curbside Classic has more photos and offers a good overview of what was going on within the company that would soon lead to an ill-fated merger with the dying Packard, and to the company's complete demise by 1966. But I still want one in my fantasy garage.

(Image from hemmings.com)

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