Story of the Week

Posted: 07.21.2014
The 1949 Studebaker: Great Post War Styling
By: Robert Tate, Automotive Historian/Researcher.
Images: Courtesy of the National Automotive History Collection

The Studebaker Company had a long yet interesting history when it came to manufacturing automobiles and trucks. During their early years, the five Studebaker brothers took a $68 investment and started a blacksmith shop company. That same company would go on to become one of the largest wagon and carriage works of the early days of manufacturing.

On February 16, 1852, two of the five Studebaker brothers, pooled their capital of funds together and started the firm of H.& C. Studebaker in South Bend. After many successful years of manufacturing great products, popular automobiles, and truck models the Studebaker had established themselves has great leaders in the automotive and manufacturing business. One of the most popular automobile designs that came out of the post war era was the design of the 1947-49 Studebaker models. The post war designs came out of the creative department of Loewy Studios of which Mr. Virgil M. Exner, who had left Pontiac, was very involved with the first design process in the beginning.

The 1949 Studebaker model design offered a lower roomier body and a wider vision for its passengers. Mr. Raymond Loewy, who was recognized has a leader among industrial designers, had a talented group of designers/engineers that helped him with the process of the 1949 Studebaker models. They included Mr. George Matthews and Mr. Robert Bourke, manager and chief designer along with Mr. Eugene Hardig and Mr. Vince Gardner. This organization of a great team of artists and engineers located within the south Bend studio of Loewy Associates was brilliant.

In 1949, Studebaker produced a commander sedan, a Champion Regal DeLuxe Starlight coupe, a Champion three-passenger coupe, a Land Cruiser model, and a Commander Regal Deluxe convertible which all proved to become very popular among consumers at the time and generated huge sales increases for the company. After the war had ended, many Americans wanted new cars. Studebaker models led the way with sales, great engineering, and new design features.

Production also had been successful in the early postwar years. For example, in 1949, South Bend broke the 200,000 mark as they manufacturing great Studebaker models for the consumer market. Studebaker also introduced new “vogue” interiors which were called a flight-streamed new unique look that added comfort for its passengers.

The great reputation of Studebaker vehicles was also attributed to the men and women who helped build their great automobiles along with the engineers and designers who designed them. The Studebaker president described the postwar design of Studebaker's models as the first fully tested revolutionary automobiles in more than five years.

To conclude, the postwar Studebaker designs will always be a part of automotive history because the design was an innovative one that eliminated the bolt-on fenders of pre-war models.?” Mr. Harold S. Vance, who was the chairman of the Board and President of Studebaker once said “ The foundations on which the favorable public attitude toward our products rest give Studebaker people good reason for high confidence in the future.”


A special thanks to Robert Tate, Automotive Historian and Researcher, for donating the story to the MotorCities Story of the Week program. Photographs are courtesy of the National Automotive History Collection. (Bibliography: Hall E. Asa & Langworth M Richard. “The Studebaker Century A National Heritage 1983. Bridges John. “Bob Bourke Designs For Studebaker” 1984. Staff Writer. “The New Stu-debaker Coupe” The New York times May 8, 1947.)
For further information on photos please visit http://www.detroitpubliclibrary.org/ or email nahc@detroitpubliclibrary.org. Please do not republish the story and/or photographs without permis-sion of MotorCities National Heritage Area. For further information contact Robert Tate at btate@motorcities.org

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