1951 StudeƄɑker Commander Stɑte V-8 ConvertiƄle

1951 Studebaker Commander State Convertible | St. John's 2011 | RM Sotheby's

Studebaker entered the 1950s riding high. The one-time wagonmaker had been “first by far with a postwar car,” the dramatic and dashing 1947 models that attracted customers in numbers unheard of in South Bend, but the next-generation 1950-1951 Studebaker Commander would be the end of the line for the good times.

1951 Studebaker Commander State convertible | Richard Spiegelman | Flickr

Despite labor troubles, material shortages, and the drain of heavy investments for new-model development and new facilities, Studebaker built more than 191,000 cars and trucks in 1947, earning more than $9 million in profits.

The following year, volume swelled to nearly a quarter-million units, profits to a record $19 million. Things looked even better in 1949 as sales jumped 30 percent, to about 305,000 vehicles, and profits leaped above $27.5 million.

1951 Studebaker Commander Regal | Hagerty Valuation Tools

But troubles were brewing. Though still popular, Studebaker’s “New Look” 1947 styling hadn’t changed much, and by 1950 it no longer looked so new. Not so the competition, whose first postwar models had arrived in force, mostly for 1949.

South Bend again hoped to move out front with brand-new styling that year, but it was delayed by internal dissension between the Raymond Loewy consultant team and an in-house faction led by designer Virgil Exner, engineer Roy Cole, and production manager Ralph Vail. Studebaker also needed to respond to Big Three initiatives like high-compression V-8s, automatic transmissions, and “hardtop convertibles.”

1951 Studebaker Commander interior with automatic trans | Studebaker, Retro interior, Convertible

Ultimately, Exner departed for Chrysler, Cole and Vail were diffused, and engineers continued working overtime on the aforementioned innovations. Meanwhile, Loewy staffer Bob Bourke, who’d helped shaped the 1947, came up with one of history’s most bizarre face-lifts: the infamous “bullet nose” 1950-1951 Studebaker. It resulted from a personal directive by the French-born Loewy: “Now, Bob, eet has to look like zee aeroplane.”

It did, but the record shows it might have turned out better. And though Studebaker called it the “Next Look,” nobody rushed to copy it. Still, the new bullet-nose styling helped Studebaker ride the crest of the postwar seller’s market to another volume record: over 343,000 cars. Alas, it would never again do so well.

1952 Studebaker Commander Convertible | F99 | Monterey 2019

Besides that outrageous front, the 1950 Studebakers boasted an extra inch in wheelbase, reshaped rear fenders, and redesigned instrument panels. More significant was a switch to front coil springs, ousting an antiquated single transverse leaf.

The broad range of Champion and Commander coupes, sedans, and convertibles offered since 1947 gained four closed Champion Customs; starting at $1,419, they returned Studebaker to the low-price field for the first time since 1939.

HD wallpaper: 1951, commander, convertible, h s2, retro, state, studebaker | Wallpaper Flare

A half-point compression boost added five horsepower to the old Champ six; Commander’s larger six gained 2 horsepower to 102. As befit its higher station, Commander rode a 120-inch wheelbase, seven inches longer than the Champ, and prices ranged from $1,871 to $2,328 for a Regal DeLuxe convertible.

Spring 1950 brought Studebaker’s most important postwar engineering advance yet: “Automatic Drive.” A line-wide option developed in concert with Borg-Warner’s Detroit Gear Division, it was the only automatic transmission designed and built by an independent other than Packard.

1951 Studebaker Commander Convertible | T251 | Kissimmee 2013

And several features made it one of the best anywhere: no-slip torque-converter; a safety that prevented in-gear starting and damage should reverse be accidentally selected on the move; no-creep operation; and a “hill-holder” that kept the car from rolling backward down an incline. Ford wanted to buy Automatic Drive for its cars, but Studebaker refused to sell — in retrospect, a serious mistake.

1948 Studebaker Commander Convertible | F64 | Portland 2017

Number Fifty-One With a Bullet: Studebaker Champion Convertible | Barn Finds

Related Posts

Beholding the Mesmerizing ‘Eye of the Earth’: A Surreal Beauty of Water Lake

The deep emerald water lake emerges amidst a beautifully surreal, untouched landscape. Known as The Eye of the Earth, or the Cetina Lake, it is a magnificent natural wonder gifted…

Read more


Artificial Intelligence is the current fad affecting virtually all walks of life, and how one can employ it to do things smartly, determines how productive one will be. While there are…

Read more

Revving Up: Pontiаc Gгаnd Pгix Retuгns аs а Muscle Cаг Icon foг 2023

Pontiаc’s GTO wаs tҺe fiгst muscle cаг, but tҺe 400-Һp Gгаnd Pгix beаt it by 2 yeагs – Һeгe it гetuгns witҺ new looks аnd new poweг in а fгesҺ…

Read more

1954 Chevy Pick Up – Making the magic happen…

Lee and his partner (soon to be wife) Elenor came to us for some work on their Chevy truck. Lee initially met us at a car show, and followed us…

Read more

FLYBYARTIST’s Stunning AI-Generated Imagery of Bugatti Automobiles

Bugatti automobiles stand out for their exceptional design, captivating proportions, curves, and edgy lines. Yet to date, the brand has only ventured into hypercar territory. How incredible would it be if…

Read more

Supercar Blondie Takes The Fastest Accelerating Production Car Out For A Spin

Alex Hirschi shows us the McMurtry Spéirling and explains how it can go froм 0-60 мph in an insanely fast 1.4 seconds. It’s Ƅeen oʋer 4 decades since Gordon Murray’s BT46…

Read more

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *