Established in 1852, Studebaker manufactured wagons, carriages, and harnesses until it entered the automotive business in 1902. It started with electric vehicles and began making gasoline vehicles in 1904. By the time World War II broke, Studebaker had built a reputation for quality, durability, and reliability.
The Indiana-based carmaker was among the first to introduce brand-new designs after WWII. 1947 saw the arrival of the Starlight coupe. This automobile influenced the entire industry through its flat trunk lid and wraparound rear window. The Starlight was designed by Virgil Exner. In 1950, Studebaker debuted the “bullet nose” styling language that made its cars look futuristic compared to products from other companies.
Unfortunately, the Ford-GM price war of the early 1950s pushed Studebaker on the verge of bankruptcy and into an unsuccessful merger with Packard. The company closed shop in 1967.
More than 50 years later, models like the Avanti and the Golden Hawk are enjoying a cult following, and some examples are changing hands for big bucks. On the other hand, most Studebaker nameplates don’t get the attention they deserve. In short, junkyards are littered with Commanders, Presidents, Champions, and Larks.
That’s a sad sight for a Studebaker enthusiast like me, and that’s why I get all hyped up when someone saves a less desirable car. Just like YouTube’s “Vice Grip Garage” just did with a 1948 Champion.
Found somewhere in Illinois, this third-generation Studebaker was retired in 1976. It sat for a whopping 45 years in an old garage until it was purchased by our host. He parked it in a field for a couple of years, which means this Champion spent 47 years off the road. And without a single sip of gasoline since the hood has been stuck ever since.
Although vehicles like this usually get parted out, our host decided to give it a second chance and get it running again. It was quite the challenge after almost five decades, but the old inline-six engine eventually agreed to fire up. And the even better news is that the Champion still has its original mill.
If you’re unfamiliar with the third-gen full-size, it was sold with 170-cubic-inch (2.8-liter) straight-six engines from 1947 through 1952. The lump produced 80 horsepower at its introduction and was upgraded to 85 horses in 1950. Not much oomph by modern standards, but more than sufficient at the time.