Car Spot: Studebaker Lark and Pickup

One of the last of the independents that just ran out of cash

Being a big fan of the cars from American Motors, I can appreciate what Studebaker brought to market and how they tried to challenge the Big Three. Like AMC, at times they were brilliant, but other times, not so much. In 1939, the company entered the low-priced field with the popular Studebaker Champion, propelling it past the other independents and becoming a major automobile producer, passing Rambler at the time, and making Studebaker the No. 4 auto manufacturer.

In the ’50s Studebakers were considered to be among the most beautiful automobiles ever built. The 1953 Studebaker models were the automaker’s first new designs since 1947, and automotive historians have long agreed that they were great-looking designs. But a series of events led to the company’s downfall.

While the ’53s looked cool, they suffered from quality issues, then there was a sales blitz by Ford in 1954 that hit both Studebaker and Rambler hard, and then in 1960, the Big 3 found the compact car market. Finally, a change in leadership and a difficult union spelled the end for Studebaker, which had started as a carriage and wagon maker.

I’ve heard this story before because it’s almost the same sad ending that American Motors faced. Like AMC, Studebaker had some really cool-looking cars like the early Commander and later the Avanti. For all the issues the cars had, bland styling wasn’t one of them.

Car Trivia: Studebaker sponsored what comedy show? Click here and see if you got the answer correct. Bonus points if you can sing the opening theme song:)

This week’s car spot, a 1965 Commander I found at a Cars and Guitars sponsored by The Automobile Gallery in Green Bay this summer, is an example of how Studebaker didn’t go down swinging. This was Studebaker’s mainstream model and was most likely built in Canada since they stopped building cars in South Bend, Ind., in 1963.

This car has a great story too. It had 15,000 original miles on it when it was purchased by the current owner in 2019. And get this, it was purchased from some nuns in Green Bay who hadn’t driven it in a long time. I’m not making that up.

This is its original paint, It packs a Chevy-sourced 230-cubic-inch six-cylinder, and twin-traction. Like Corvairs and many AMC cars, a Studebaker is a great entry into the collector game. According to Hagerty, one in fair condition should run about $6,400. A cheap way of getting into the game and having a car that will almost always get noticed.

RELATED Spot: The other independent’s wagon, the Rambler Classic Cross Country wagon.

Did you know that Studebaker also made trucks?

From 1929 until 1963 from half-ton all the way up to two-ton. This one I found on a trip up to Appleton, Wis., where I was picking up a project motorcycle. This looks like a late ’40s, or early ’50s model that is up for restoration. The guy also had a Lark that he had plans for. Trucks are more valuable than passenger cars these days. One in good condition according to Hagerty is worth about $18,000. Again, a cheap entry into the collector market.

Thanks for stopping by and checking out our blog. Check back next Friday for another car spot along with some of the history with it. Have a great weekend.

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