Studebaker Commander

Last updated
Studebaker Commander
1953 Studebaker Commander Starlight (20404865376).jpg
1953 Studebaker Commander Starlight
Manufacturer Studebaker
Model years 1927–1942, 1947-1966
Assembly Studebaker Automotive Plant, South Bend, Indiana, United States
Body and chassis
Class mid-size
Layout Front-engine, rear-wheel-drive
Predecessor Studebaker Special Six

The Studebaker Commander is the model name of several automobiles produced by the Studebaker Corporation of South Bend, Indiana (United States) and Studebaker of Canada Ltd of Walkerville and, later, Hamilton, Ontario (Canada). Studebaker began using the Commander name in 1927 [1] :p258 and, with interruptions in 1936 and 1959-63, continued to use it until 1964. The name was applied to various products in the company's line-up from year to year. The Commander was the company's mainstream product, the Studebaker Champion was the junior model, and other models were short lived or renamed as market conditions required.




1928 Studebaker Commander GB Big Six Sedan 1928 Studebaker Commander GB Big Six (27790970074).jpg
1928 Studebaker Commander GB Big Six Sedan

Until the appearance of the inline eight President in January 1928, all Studebaker cars of the 1920s were inline sixes. There were three basic models — the Light Six, the Special Six and the Big Six, developing 40 bhp (30 kW; 41 PS), 50 bhp (37 kW; 51 PS), and 60 bhp (45 kW; 61 PS) respectively at 2000 rpm. The first Commander, in 1927, was a continuation of the mid-range Special Six, with a 226 cu in (3.7 L) engine. Their inbuilt durability and toughness gained them great renown under worldwide conditions. The 1928 GB Commander was a descendant of the Big Six, being powered with the proven 354 cu in (5.8 L) engine, modified to deliver 75 bhp (56 kW; 76 PS) at 2400 rpm. In October 1928, three Commander sixes lined up at the Atlantic City Speedway to challenge the 15,000 mi (24,000 km) speed record (64.25 mph (103.40 km/h)) held by the much higher-priced Auburn straight-eight Speedster.

They not only accomplished that but then went on to establish new records up to 25,000 miles (40,000 km). The two sports roadsters averaged better than 65 mph (105 km/h) and the sedan, which had flipped on the icy boards during one of the night runs and had been hurriedly repaired, averaged almost 62 mph. [1] :p259

After this, the three cars were closely scrutinised, part by part, and it was established that they were strictly stock automobiles, identical in every respect to those available at any Studebaker showroom. [1] :p259

In Australia, a crew of three drivers led by Norman "Wizard" Smith tackled overland records using a Commander roadster. On a 3,000-mile run from Fremantle to Sydney, they smashed the previous record by 12 hours 23 minutes despite traversing 450 miles through blinding rain, and having to ford a river when a bridge had been washed away. The team rested for a little over three hours before attempting another record on the 600-mile track to Brisbane. [2]

These sixes were the last descendants of rugged cars designed for poor roads in the early 20th century—loaded with torque and strong in construction. They were less well suited to the higher cruising speeds made possible by better roads in later years. [3] :p239

In 1929, Studebaker added an 8-cylinder Commander to the range. [4]


1935 Commander roadster Studebaker-commander-1935.jpg
1935 Commander roadster

In 1935, the Commander was dropped from Studebaker’s product line, only to be reinstated in 1937 when the name was applied to Studebaker’s least expensive model, formerly known as the Studebaker Dictator. Studebaker introduced the Champion in 1939, and the Commander line was again repositioned, now as the mid-range vehicle.


1942 Commander Custom Cruising Sedan 1942 Studebaker Commander Custom Cruising Sedan - black - fvl2 (4637671410).jpg
1942 Commander Custom Cruising Sedan

Immediately following World War II, Studebaker dropped its President models, and the Commander again was elevated in the lineup. Studebaker also again rolled out an extended wheelbase model of the Commander, the Land Cruiser.

1942 Commander Custom Cruising Sedan 1942 Studebaker Commander Custom Cruising Sedan - black - rvl (4637673066).jpg
1942 Commander Custom Cruising Sedan

Raymond Loewy's highly distinctive shape for the 1947 Commander and Champion, spectacular on their Starlight coupe, led if it did not create a boom in America's trunk space.

1947 Commander 2 Door, 3 Passenger Regal Deluxe Business Coupe (14A-Q2) 08-OL 051719A.jpg
1947 Commander 2 Door, 3 Passenger Regal Deluxe Business Coupe (14A-Q2)
Regal Deluxe Business Coupe 1947 Studebaker Commander business coupe side crop.jpg
Regal Deluxe Business Coupe
1950 Commander convertible 1950 Studebaker Commander cnv - green - rvl3 (4978994937).jpg
1950 Commander convertible


The 1950 Champion differed from the Commander, which had a distinctive bumper, carried over from 1949, longer front fenders and large headlight bezels, as well as a distinctive jet-style hood ornament and shared an appearance with the 1949 Ford Sedan. In 1953, the polarizing appearance was updated and shares some appearance features with the Citroen DS that appeared in 1955.

In a 1953 road test done by Popular Mechanics, the Commander got a 0-60 mph of 17.9 seconds and was rated as getting 26.1 mpg at 30 mph. [5]

No convertible was offered in 1953. However, in late 1952 Studebaker produced one prototype of a 1953 Commander convertible to determine if the model could be profitably mass-produced. The car was based on the 1953 2-door Starliner hardtop. The car was later modified to 1954-model specifications, and was occasionally driven around South Bend by engineers. Additional structural reinforcements were needed to reduce body flexure. Even though the car was equipped with the 232 cu. in. V-8, the added structural weight increased the car's 0-60 mph acceleration time to an unacceptable level. In addition, the company did not have the financial resources to add another body type to the model line.

The company's leadership mistakenly thought the 2-door sedans, 4-door sedans, and 1954 Conestoga wagon would sell better than the 2-door coupes, so the company's resources were focused on production of the sedans and the wagon. When the prototype convertible was no longer needed, engineer E. T. Reynolds ordered the car to be stripped and the body sent to the secret graveyard at the company's proving grounds west of South Bend. A non-engineering employee requested permission to purchase the complete car, rather than see it rot away at the proving grounds with other, earlier prototypes of other cars and trucks. Chief engineer Gene Hardig discussed the request with E. T. Reynolds. They agreed to let the employee purchase the car on the condition that the employee never sell it. In the 1970s, the car was re-discovered behind a South Bend gas station and no longer owned by the former employee. After eventually passing through several owners, the car is now in a private collection of Studebaker automobiles.

In 1955, Studebaker reintroduced the President name for its premium models and 'Commander' was applied to the mid-range products. The Commander line was extended with the introduction of a lower-priced Custom sub-series, being basically a Champion with a V8 engine. Studebaker placed the name on hiatus at the end of the 1958 model year.


1964 Studebaker Commander 2-Door Sedan 1964 Studebaker Commander (27686166302).jpg
1964 Studebaker Commander 2-Door Sedan

In 1963, Studebaker again resurrected the Commander name for the 1964 model year, applying it to the next-to-lowest-priced Lark model, the Challenger being below. 1964 Studebaker Commanders most commonly had a dual headlight arrangement which they shared with the Challenger though quad headlamps were optional. The 1965 Commander shared the quad-headlight system of the Daytona and Cruiser. Commanders reverted to single headlamps in the final model year of 1966. On March 17, 1966, Studebaker shut down production of all vehicles. [6] [7]


  1. 1 2 3 Betts, Charles (1972). "Studebaker as Gladiator: on the boards, the bricks & the salt". Automobile Quarterly. 10 (3): 258–265. OH 2265 (Battye).
  2. Motor Record: Fremantle to Sydney. Studebaker Performance. The Sydney Morning Herald , p. 16, 5 April 1928, at Trove
  3. Hendry, Maurice D. (1972). "Studebaker: One can do a lot of remembering at South Bend". Automobile Quarterly. 10 (3): 229–257. ...with roads improving, there was less need to overdesign for extreme conditions.
  4. Chilton Automotive Multi-Guide, Spring 1931, p. 193. In facsimile edition, 2nd printing by Thomas Nelson 1975
  5. Magazines, Hearst (1 September 1953). "Popular Mechanics". Hearst Magazines via Google Books.
  6. Reynolds, Ed (2003). Studebaker Lark 1959-1966 Photo Archive. Iconografix. ISBN   9781583881071.
  7. Studebaker History (timeline) at Studebaker National Museum

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Packard</span> Defunct luxury automobile company from Detroit, Michigan

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chevrolet Bel Air</span> American full-size automobile

The Chevrolet Bel Air is a full-size car produced by Chevrolet for the 1950–1981 model years. Initially, only the two-door hardtops in the Chevrolet model range were designated with the Bel Air name from 1950 to 1952. With the 1953 model year, the Bel Air name was changed from a designation for a unique body shape to a premium level of trim applied across a number of body styles. The Bel Air continued with various other trim level designations, and it had gone from a mid-level trim car to a budget fleet sedan when U.S. production ceased in 1975. Production continued in Canada, for its home market only, through the 1981 model year.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Audi 80</span> Motor vehicle

The Audi 80 is a compact executive car produced by the Audi subdivision of the Volkswagen Group across four generations from 1966 to 1996. It shared its platform with the Volkswagen Passat from 1973 to 1986 and was available as a saloon, and station wagon — the latter marketed by Audi as the Avant. The coupé and convertible models were not badged as members of the range but used a derivative of the same platforms.

The 1957 and 1958Packard lineup of automobiles were based on Studebaker models: restyled, rebadged, and given more luxurious interiors. After 1956 production, the Packard engine and transmission factory was leased to the Curtiss-Wright Corporation while the assembly plant on Detroit's East Grand Boulevard was sold, ending the line of Packard-built cars. However, Studebaker-Packard executives hoped to keep the Packard name alive until a fully restyled model could be funded, developed, and produced. These cars were built in hopes that enough would be sold to enable the company to design and build a completely new luxury Packard.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chrysler Imperial</span> Motor vehicle

The Chrysler Imperial, introduced in 1926, was Chrysler's top-of-the-line vehicle for much of its history. Models were produced with the Chrysler name until 1954, after which it became a standalone brand; and again from 1990 to 1993. The company positioned the cars as a prestige marque to rival Cadillac, Continental, Lincoln, Duesenberg, Pierce Arrow, Cord, and Packard. According to Antique Automobile, "The adjective ‘imperial’ according to Webster's Dictionary means sovereign, supreme, superior or of unusual size or excellence. The word imperial thus justly befits Chrysler's highest priced model."

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Peugeot 404</span> Motor vehicle

The Peugeot 404 is a large family car produced by French automobile manufacturer Peugeot from 1960 to 1975. A truck body style variant was marketed until 1988. Styled by Pininfarina, the 404 was offered initially as a saloon, estate, and pickup. A convertible was added in 1962, and a coupé in 1963. The 404 was fitted with a 1.6 litre petrol engine, with either a Solex carburetor or Kugelfischer mechanical fuel injection or a 1.9 litre diesel engine available as options. Introduced at the Paris Motor Show as an option was the inclusion of a 3-speed ZF automatic transmission, similar to the unit already offered on certain BMW models, as an alternative to the standard column-mounted manual unit.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Studebaker Land Cruiser</span> Motor vehicle

The Studebaker Land Cruiser is an automobile that was produced by the Studebaker Corporation of South Bend, Indiana from 1934–1954. The Land Cruiser debuted at the World's Fair alongside the Silver Arrow, a product of Studebaker's former premium make Pierce-Arrow. It was also manufactured in Vernon, California.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Studebaker Champion</span> Motor vehicle

The Studebaker Champion is an automobile which was produced by the Studebaker Corporation of South Bend, Indiana, from the beginning of the 1939 model year until 1958. It was a full-size car in its first three generations and a mid-size car in its fourth and fifth generation models, serving as the junior model to the Commander.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Studebaker Lark</span> Motor vehicle

The Studebaker Lark is a compact car that was produced by Studebaker from 1959 to 1966.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Studebaker Scotsman</span> Motor vehicle

The Scotsman is an automobile series that was produced by the Studebaker Packard Corporation of South Bend, Indiana, during model years 1957 and 1958, and a low-priced series of pickup trucks in 1958 and 1959. The name was based on the reputation of Scottish frugality, the cars being built for function and minimalism.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Plymouth Belvedere</span> Motor vehicle

Plymouth Belvedere is a series of American automobile models made by Plymouth from 1954 until 1970.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Studebaker Dictator</span> Motor vehicle

The Studebaker Dictator is an automobile produced by the Studebaker Corporation of South Bend, Indiana, United States from 1927 until 1937. Model year 1928 was the first full year of Dictator production.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Studebaker President</span> Motor vehicle

The Studebaker President was the premier automobile model manufactured by the Studebaker Corporation of South Bend, Indiana (US) from 1926 until 1942. The nameplate was reintroduced in 1955 and used until the end of the 1958 model when the name was retired.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Studebaker Starlight</span> Motor vehicle

The Starlight coupe is a unique 2-door body style that was offered by Studebaker Corporation of South Bend, Indiana from 1947 to 1955 on its Champion and Commander model series. It was designed by Virgil Exner, formerly of Raymond Loewy Associates along the lines of the ponton style that had just gone mainstream after the WWII.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ford Fairlane (Americas)</span> Motor vehicle

The Ford Fairlane is an automobile model that was sold between the 1955 and 1970 model years by Ford in North America. Taking its name from the Dearborn, Michigan estate of Henry Ford, the Fairlane nameplate was used for seven different generations of vehicles. Through its production, the model line would be marketed in a wide variety of body styles, including two-door and four-door sedans, two-door and four-door hardtops, station wagons, and both traditional and retractable-hardtop convertibles.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Studebaker Big Six</span> Motor vehicle

The Studebaker Big Six was an automobile produced by the Studebaker Corporation of South Bend, Indiana between 1918 and 1926, being designated the Model EG (1918–21), the EK (1922–24) and the EP (1925–26); its name was due to the 127" wheelbase in comparison to the Studebaker Special Six at 120". In 1927, it was renamed the President (ES) pending introduction of a smaller and smoother straight-eight engine for new top-of-the-range models after January 1928.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">1937 Ford</span> Motor vehicle

The Ford line of cars was updated in 1937 with one major change — the introduction of an entry-level 136 cu in (2.23 L) V8 in addition to the popular 221 cu in (3.62 L) flathead V8. The model was a refresh of its predecessor, the Model 48 and was the company's main product. It was redesigned more thoroughly in 1941. At the start of production, it cost US$850. The Ford Line bore several model numbers during this period, each related to their respective HP numbers. In 1937, 85 HP cars were known as Model 78 while 60 HP cars were known as Model 74. This changed to Model 81A and 82A respectively in 1938, and Models 91A and 92A in 1939.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Western Antique Aeroplane & Automobile Museum</span> Aviation and automobile museum in Oregon, United States

The Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum (WAAAM) is located in Hood River, Oregon, United States, adjacent to the Ken Jernstedt Memorial Airport. WAAAM is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization committed to the preservation of, and education about aviation, automobile, and other historic transportation-related relics.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chevrolet Impala (fifth generation)</span> Motor vehicle

The fifth generation of the Chevrolet Impala is a line of full-size cars produced by Chevrolet from the 1971 to 1976 model years. The largest generation of the model line, the fifth-generation Impala grew to a 121.5-inch wheelbase

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chrysler Six</span> Motor vehicle

The Chrysler Six was a series of cars that were all installed with the Chrysler Straight Six when the company assumed operations of the Maxwell Automobile Company in 1924, and Chalmers Automobile Company in 1926. The Chrysler Six initially consisted of several Models, then Series designations that originally declared the approximate top speed each vehicle was able to consistently maintain, then each series number was incrementally updated every new model year, and each series was offered in several body style choices. The engines were technically advanced for their time and were entered in the 24 Hours of Le Mans for 1925, 1928 and 1929.