Promo model: Studebakers
Let’s start with a bit of trivia first. What TV show did Studebaker sponsor? I’ll start singing the theme. Ooops, forgot you wouldn’t be able to hear me. By the way, I do know all the words. One clue. Alan Young f was the star, at least the two legged one. Give up? It was one of my favorite old shows, Mr. Ed. You know, a horse is a course of course of course. Ok, I’ll stop now. Do go and check out this commercial I found. I like Studebakers, maybe because like AMC, their cars are now orphans. Again like AMC, they had to compete against the Big 3 with limited assets. Also like AMC, their collectors are total geek about their cars as they should be. Their reputation was one of well-built cars but ran into trouble trying to go up against the Big 3 in a pricing war in the early 50’s. The independents only hope was seen as a merger of Studebaker, Packard, Hudson, and Nash into a third giant combine. This had been unsuccessfully attempted by George W. Mason. In this scheme, Studebaker had the disadvantage that its South Bend location would make centralization difficult and its labor costs were also the highest in the industry. What eventually happened was a merger with Packard but it made no difference. The last cars rolled out of the South Bend plant in 1964 and two years later at their Canadian operations.
They had one car in the hopper for 1964, this cool looking Spectre prototype was built in metal by Sibona-Bassano of Torino, Italy. It was a 2-door, 5- place coupe and destined to be the pattern for a 4 door family sedan and a 8-passenger station wagon. Brooks Stevens had been hired to do design work for Studebaker in its waning days and even though the company had few resources to devote to product development, Stevens managed to come up with some extremely innovative concepts. The Sceptre could have been Studebaker’s flagship car had it been introduced in 1966 as Stevens envisioned. It boasted a bevy of advanced features including full-width lighting in front using a system developed by Sylvania and fully adjustable instrumentation that could be configured almost any way the driver wished.
Some of the cars which did make it off the line were cool. My favorite is the Avanti, which is still being made by another company, the Gran Turismo Hawk, and the later Hawks which were designed by Brooks Stevens. I’ve seen 1963 Avantis going for $30,000. I found a Grand Turismo Hawk on eBay for $37,000 The sedan Larks are much more affordable, under $20,000, except for the convertibles.
Because of those prices, which are out of reach for a lot of us, there are the promo models. The ones that I found, a couple of Hawks, and a Lark Convertible, were all very affordable. You will find the later models have little or no warp so it’s going to be difficult finding an older one in perfect shape. These are great little gems from a time gone by. After you buy a promo model, all you need is a Mr. Ed model standing right next to it.