MotorCities National Heritage Area
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By Robert Tate, Automotive Historian and Researcher
Images courtesy of Robert Tate’s Collection
Posted: 02.28.2018



file 20180228033108 1954 Studebaker
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. Despite their stellar styling, 1950s Studebakers were plagued by quality control problems that included delayed deliveries and early corroding within the fender areas. This story, however, is about the 1954 Studebaker models, designs enjoyed by consumers and historians alike.
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The 1954 Studebakers featured pretty much the same body designs as the 1953 models, except for a new egg-crate grille design. The consumer had a choice of six basic body types in the Studebaker Commander V-8 line for 1954. Among the most popular models were the 1954 Studebaker Champions. The company’s advertising described the models’ “Jet-Sleek Styling” because of its new functional down swept hood design. The Champion Starliner hardtop could seat five passengers and the instrument panel was color keyed to the interior. The design of these Studebaker models gave drivers and passengers an unobstructed view of the road. Other 1954 Studebaker models included the Commander Regal Conestoga station wagon, Land Cruiser, Champion Deluxe, and the lowest price Champion Custom.
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Robert E. Bourke, who had joined the Raymond Loewy design team in 1945, was the chief designer for Studebaker. Bourke also worked with Ted Brennan and many other talented Studebaker designers.
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Even though the 1953-1954 models were not a great financial success for Studebaker, however they have been recognized as some of the greatest automotive design achievements of all time. Patrick Foster said in his book Studebaker: The Complete History, “Studebaker had made its share of mistakes throughout its many years of business, but it was during 1953 to 1955 that the company committed the fatal errors that in time would force it to abandon the automobile business. The sad truth is that much of the progress made by Studebaker management and employees, from the craftsmen who built carriages and wagons to those who produced military products for World War II and the beautiful postwar cars, went down the drain one year after the company celebrated its 100th anniversary. That so much could go wrong so quickly was unprecedented. Studebaker suffered a virtual perfect storm of problems.”
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In 1954, a year where Studebaker only produced 85,000 vehicles, the company was purchased by Packard. It had become very difficult for Studebaker to compete as an independent against General Motors, Ford and Chrysler when it came to pricing.
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In conclusion, the 1954 Studebaker models offered the consumer great looking designs which will always be a part of our American automotive history and heritage. For more information on Studebaker models, contact the Studebaker Drivers Club Inc. at 736.420.7829.