Saturday, October 26, 2019

Return to the AACA Museum, Hershey, Pennsylvania--October 26, 2019

1931 Studebaker 80-R President Four Seasons Convertible Roadster
The 2019 Corvette Racing Weekend was held at the AACA Museum in Hershey, Pennsylvania, and during the event we were not only regaled with Corvette stories but had the opportunity to wander around the museum itself and look at the cars on display.  

This was our third time visiting the museum so we took the occasion to look at the cars on display that were part of a changing exhibition rather than go back to see cars we had done before, such as the impressive Tucker wing.  From May 18 to October 20 the museum had featured "Studebaker Cool" and we were fortunate that many of the cars were still present from that South Bend manufacturer.  While we had seen some of the cars during our visit to the National Studebaker Museum in August 2018, there were some additional fine examples loaned by collectors, along with other unrelated makes of cars exhibited.

In 1927 Studebaker its "President" line of cars, aimed at the higher end of the market and 1931 marked the introduction of a new nine bearing eight cylinder inline engine with numerous advanced features, producing 122 hp.  Studebaker had enjoyed some success on the track and a racer special with this engine actually unexpectedly took the pole position at that year's Indianapolis 500.  This car features the newly-introduced four seasons convertible body, conceived in consultation with noted designer Ray Dietrich, and is considered the high-water mark for Studebaker in the Classic Era.  6,340 President 80 cars were built in 1931 but he President line existed only from 1928 to 1933, when financial setbacks resulting from the Great Depression, led to Studebaker going into receivership.  These cars are the only examples from this company to be categorized as  Full Classics by the Classic Car Club of America.  Only 54 Four Seasons Roadsters are currently known.

1938 Studebaker State Commander Convertible Cruising Sedan
Although it had not offered a convertible since 1934 and the type was not profitable in any event, to keep up with its competitors and promote showroom traffic Studebaker introduced the handsomely-styled Convertible Cruising Sedan in for the Commander and President lines in 1938.  Given the situation in the 1930s with respect to authoritarian governments, Studebaker changed the name of its Dictator model to Commander, and the previous Commander line became the State Commander.  The body shape was developed in consultation with Raymond Loewy, who had done (and would continue to do) considerable design work for Studebaker.  The body, which ended up on 233 Commanders and 93 Presidents in 1938, actually used components originally meant for the Cord 810/812.  A car like the one on display would have cost $1,365 when new.

1931 Studebaker President 80-R Four Seasons Convertible Roadster
Similar to the grey car in the museum's entrance area, this red car was another example of the most desired of all Studebaker classics.  It was a "four seasons" car as it was a convertible offering roll-up side windows.  This example was the end product of a 27 year restoration project and was completed to the highest accuracy possible.

1932 Studebaker Commander Regal Four Passenger Coupe
Studebaker sales continued to plunge in 1932 with only 4,100 Commanders sold, and this coupe is the only known remaining example with this body.  Selling for $1,455, this model featured an eight cylinder engine putting out 101 hp.  All Commanders had safety glass, synchronized gear shifting, chrome (as in this car) or painted artillery wheels, and a vacuum advance for the distributor.

1910 E-M-F Model 30 Touring Car
E-M-F was a pioneering American car company that produced vehicles from 1909 until 1912, founded by three men who had come from elsewhere in the industry: Everitt was a custom coachbuilder from Detroit, while Metzger came from Cadillac and Flanders had been Henry Ford's production manager.  The company had an arrangement to sell its cars through Studebaker wagon dealerships and even opened a branch plant in Walkerville, Ontario in late 1909.  Due to serious quality issues, Studebaker ended up sending mechanics to unsatisfied owners to repair their cars at a cost of over $1 million.  In spite of the problems, the cars actually sold well, putting E-M-F as the fourth biggest car company in the United States.  Studebaker subsequently bought out E-M-F and by 1913 its name had disappeared from the cars, henceforth known only as Studebakers.  Which was a good idea, as the E-M-F cars received many derogatory nicknames based on the initials: Every Mechanic's Friend; Eternally Missing Fire; and Every Morning Fix-it, among others.

1896 Benton Harbor
In 1995 this car became the first vehicle donated to the AACA Museum.  Begun in 1888 and completed in 1896, it was the first automobile in the United States to be built from scratch rather than based on an existed carriage.  The engine was built by William O. Worth and the remainder by the Bauschke Brothers of Benton Harbor, Michigan, the latter claiming to have been experimenting with horseless carriages since 1884, but in any event it appears that the builders never advanced beyond the prototype stage.  However, William O. Worth went on to become involved with building commercial vehicle with the Chicago Motor Vehicle Company, which went bankrupt in 1904, Worth then moved on to Evansville, Indiana as a consultant to the Single Center Buggy Company, whose original motorcar plans failed but which then considered a high-wheeler to Worth's design.  Worth refused to make some suggested changes and went off in a huff to start his own Worth Motor Car Manufacturing Company in Evansville.  The company moved to Kankakee, Illinois, but was evicted for failure to pay its factory rent, finally going bankrupt in 1910.  Such were the fortunes of automotive pioneers...

1927 Studebaker "Big 6" Commander
The 354 cu. in. six cylinder engine in this car was produced from 1918 until 1927.  It produced 36 hp and was noted for its reliability.  These Studebakers were sturdy cars and used a three speed transmission (plus one gear for reverse) and were able to deal with the poor roads of the time.  As roads improved, these early high-torque engines were not really suited to the increased speeds possible on better roads.

1924 Studebaker EK "Big 6" Sedan
Another example of a six cylinder Studebaker, albeit one with an engine rated at 60 hp, this car was originally maroon in colour but was repainted to look like a taxi when restored in the 1990s.  It had been on display at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn from 1968 until sold in 1984. The current owner acquired the car in 2011 but it has only been driven an additional 1,000 miles in the intervening eight years.

1923 Studebaker EM Light Six Touring Car
Introduced in 1920, the Light Six was a popular motoring choice post World War I, featuring a smooth and economical six cylinder 205 cu. in. engine of 40 hp  By 1923 more than 150,000 Light Sixes had been built in South Bend, with four body styles available.  Mechanical brakes were fitted to the rear wheels only, typical of the time when manufacturers still had doubts about the safety of front brakes.

1934 Studebaker Land Cruiser (left) and 1941 Studebaker President (right)
1934 Studebaker Land Cruiser
This interesting car was Studebaker's foray into aerodynamic styling and was introduced at the 1933 Chicago "Century of Progress" World's Fair.  It echoed some of the styling themes of the Pierce Arrow Silver Arrow, which was also presented at the fair (Pierce Arrow being a subsidiary of Studebaker at the time).  The company was facing financial problems and in early 1933 had gone into receivership, although the designs for both the Land Cruiser and Silver Arrow had been approved before then.  Pierce Arrow was spun off to new owners in 1933 but only survived five more years.

The Land Cruiser was less radical than the contemporary Chrysler Airflow and was priced around 15% higher than the conventional Studebaker models at $1510.  First sold on the higher-end President chassis, the body style was extended to the Commander and Dictator series soon after in 1935.  The Land Cruiser, with the industry's first fender skirts and a unique four piece rear window, also offered a new fully enclosed trunk.  The car was introduced mid-year and was not expected to be a big seller but more than 800 Land Cruisers were sold in 1934.  1935 sales were poor and the style was soon discontinued, although the Land Cruiser name was to be revived for other Studebakers in later years. 

1941 Studebaker President Land Cruiser Sedan
Although lacking the fastback styling of the first Land Cruiser, this car brought back the name and was the top of the line model for Studebaker, costing $1,260.  It featured a 250 cu. in. flathead straight eight engine of 117 hp and a design by consultants Raymond Loewy and Associates, whose team worked with Studebaker's in-house designer Virgil Exner.  Loewy had begun working with Studebaker in 1936 and the relationship would continue for some decades, culminating in the short-lived Studebaker Avanti sports coupe of 1962.

1952 Studebaker Starliner Hardtop Prototype
This car is a recreation of the prototype Starliner Hardtop which a 20 year old Studebaker employee saw in development in 1950.  He was disappointed by the production version released in 1952 as he did not like the changes to the front end and some of the trim pieces.  Purchasing a pristine 31,000 mile hardtop in 1997, he modified the car to resemble the original prototype.

Loewy had proposed versions of the hardtop for some time as Ford and General Motors were doing well with the style.  When Studebaker finally got the car into production it was quite successful, selling over 26,000 in 1952, making it the sales star of the year for the company.  It was also the reintroduction of two-tone paint schemes at Studebaker after a break of two decades.

1953 Studebaker Commander Starliner Hardtop Coupe
The first new Studebaker body style since 1947, the "Loewy Coupe," which was designed primarily by Robert E. Bourke who was running the Loewy studios at South Bend, was a sales smash for Studebaker, unexpectedly outselling the sedan version of the car by a ratio of 4:1.  Available in both eight cylinder Commander and underpowered six cylinder Champion versions, the design was to continue in production for many years, with the coupe continuing to serve into 1964 and the sedan until the demise of Studebaker in 1966.  The coupe came in hardtop (Starliner) and pillared (Starlight) versions and nearly 40,000 were sold in 1953.  Unfortunately, the cars were rushed into production, resulting in quality problems.  The 1953 models had a flimsy frame (corrected the next year) and were prone to rust.  Nonetheless, the car is considered a landmark of American automobile styling and acclaimed by many as one of the most beautiful cars made.

1947 Studebaker M-5 1/2 Ton Truck
Studebaker's M-Series trucks, ranging from 1/2 ton to 2 tons, were introduced in 1941 and produced until 1949 and the arrival of the R-Series.  This truck, which has the same cab as the trucks produced by Studebaker for the US Army in World War II, was purchased after the war and used for telephone installation and line repair work until the late 1950s.  It was restored over a five year period from 2005 to 2010.

1953 Studillac (left), 1964 Studebaker Champ pickup truck (centre), 1964 Studebaker Wagonaire
The Studillac was a high-performance car assembled by Bill Frick Motors in Rockville Centre, New York, from 1953 until 1955, utilizing Studebaker Starliner coupes fitted with a Cadillac V8 engine of 210-250 hp.  Complete cars were available for $4,500 to $5,000 or a customer's car could be converted with a new engine and transmission.  Performance was good for the period, with a top speed of 130 mph and 0-60 times of 8.6 seconds.  A Studillac makes in appearance in Ian Fleming's James Bond novel "Diamonds are Forever," driven by Bond's CIA contact.  With the redesign of the front end of the Loewy Coupe by Studebaker in 1955, Frick's customers thought the car was ugly and sales of the Studillac ended.

Studebaker's financial situation meant that it did not upgrade its line of trucks for more than a decade.  The Champ, which arrived in 1960, used a chassis and cargo box essentially dating back to 1949, but the cab was new and derived from the Lark compact car. Engineers took a four door sedan, sawed it in half and attached the front to the truck chassis, all at minimal cost as they merely added  horizontal bars in the grille and added a new sheet metal stamping for the back wall of the cab.  The Champ was the first pickup truck to offer a sliding rear window in the cab, a common feature today, and given its Lark origins it offered car-like comfort in the cab.  Sales in 1960 were good but declined rapidly until production ended in December 1963 as the South Bend plant closed and Studebaker retreated to its Hamilton, Ontario plant where only cars were built.

1962 Studebaker Sceptre Hardtop Coupe

1962 Studebaker Sceptre Concept Car
In 1962 Studebaker retained industrial designer Brooks Stevens to submit new designs for future Studebakers and Stevens worked on several concepts to replace the aging Hawk and more recent Lark lines.  The body of this vehicle, the Sceptre, was made at a cost of $16,500 by the Carrozzeria Sibona-Basano, of Turin, Italy.  The result was a handsome and airy notchback coupe that would have replaced the Hawk in 1966/67. By 1963 Studebaker was on the ropes and the interesting concept ended up at Stevens' personal museum in Milwaukee where it remained until his passing in 1995.  In its original condition, it is now part of the collection of the National Studebaker Museum in South Bend and was loaned to the AACA Museum for this show.

In addition to having different trim on the left and right sides, not uncommon for a concept vehicles to show styling proposals, the Sceptre had a full-width experimental Sylvania headlight assembly and translucent C-pillars.  The interior was just as striking, with secondary gauges in bubbles ahead of the driver.  There was a console between the seats and on the passenger side a "rally table."  

1964 Studebaker GT Hawk
In 1961 Brooks Stevens was called in to Studebaker to work on a replacement for the Hawk model, which had been updated somewhat in 1955 but was still essentially the same design from Loewy and Associates that had come up with for the 1953 cars.  Stevens' revamp was remarkably successfully, achieved in only a few months and at surprisingly low cost.  The result was a handsome, modern design with clean lines.  It echoed something from Mercedes-Benz in its front end, with Mercedes being distributed by Studebaker in the United States at the time.  It also bore a roofline similar to Ford's Thunderbird and trim recalling the Lincoln Continental.  The comfortable interior had been completely redone.  Stevens had been given the project in March 1961 and delivered the elegant black prototype of the new Gran Turismo Hawk to Studebaker headquarters in July.  

Engine choices brought a revamped V8, including a supercharged version producing 290 hp.  A number of speed records were set, including some by Andy Granatell, then Vice President of Studebaker's Paxton supercharger division, on the Bonneville Salt Flats, garnering good publicity.  However, even with its clean design and positive reception, the GT Hawk's days were numbered.  In 1962 there were 9,335 sold; in 1963 production fell to 4,634 and in the shortened 1964 model year a mere 1,767 were built before production of cars ended in South Bend in December 1963.

1964 Studebaker Wagonaire
Produced from 1963 until 1966, the Wagonaire was another Brooks Stevens idea.  The wagon used the standard Lark station wagon body but featured a roof section over the cargo bay that could be manually retracted and locked into position above the rear passenger seat, allowing for the transport of bulky items in an upright position.  Equipped with the rearward facing seat, as in the display car, the Wagonaire could carry eight passengers.  Issues with leaking roofs injured the reputation of the Wagonaire and a fixed roof version was also offered soon after the model's introduction.  Lark and Wagonaire production was moved to Hamilton, Ontario after December 1963 and continued until 1966.

1959 Studebaker 3/4 Ton 4WD Pickup Truck
Given their expensive--an additional 50% above the cost of the regular truck--four wheel drive pickups from Studebaker were a rarity.  Built on a separate line in South Bend, only 155 4WD trucks were sold in 1959, and subsequent production came to a final total of only 302.  Considered a medium-duty truck, this model could carry 1,500 lbs and was powered by Studebaker's top of the line 289 cu. in. V8 of 225 hp.

1951 Studebaker Commander Starlight Coupe
Studebaker was the first American company to introduce new post-war styling with its 1947 series of cars, conceived by Virgil Exner.  These featured a "greenhouse" rear window on coupes and these became a separate trim line, the Starlight, in 1950.  In 1951 the car received the famous "propeller" grille, which was discontinued a year later but the big news for that year was a new overhead valve V8 engine, which put Studebaker three years ahead of Chevrolet and Ford.  1951 was to be the end of Studebaker's glory years as its decline began.  Production was hampered already in 1951 as the Korean War resulted in government-ordered cutbacks but Studebaker still managed to get out 269,000 cars in the abbreviated model year.

1959 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe
The Cadillac Series 62 was produced from 1940 through 1964 and this car, newly designed for 1959, marked the 6th generation.  This was the car that saw maximum tailfin height (along with its bullet taillights) and became a symbol of American excess.  Fitted with every available luxury feature and with a curb weight of 5,000 lbs, it needed its 6.4 l V8 engine, which produced 325 hp.

1939 Studebaker K15M
This cab-over truck was used in New York City.  Between 1936 and 1941 some 6,100 of these trucks were made but only six are known to exist today.  Its 226 cu. in. six cylinder engine was the same one used in Studebaker passenger cars and produces 90 hp.  Top speed is 35 mph and the bed was hand-built using period photographs.

1937 Studebaker J25 3 Ton Truck with 5th Wheel
Studebaker introduced new trucks in 1937 with a more streamlined appearance.  The company used cowl, dash, and windshield assemblies from their 1937 passenger cars to produce a low, elegant cab compared to previous models.  The Model J series ranged in size from the J15 1 1/2 ton truck to the J30 5 ton version, with this truck, the J25, at 3 tons.  Trucks were made to order with a wide range of options.  This truck has a 320 cu. in. Hercules six cylinder engine and a Clark five speed overdrive transmission.  Restoration was completed in 1996.

1957 Studebaker Transtar Truck
The 3E Transtar was introduced by Studebaker in 1957 in an attempt to freshen up its eight year old truck line, featuring a one-piece fiberglass grille and a bumper from its larger trucks.  The Transtar name was dropped in 1959 but returned in 1961 on the 1 ton and larger trucks that still used the 1949 design cab although with the fiberglass grille even though the lighter trucks had the modified cabs from the Lark cars then.  This Transtar was powered by a 259 cu. in. 170 hp V8 engine.

1964 Studebaker Champ Pickup Truck
As one of the last Champs built before the South Bend plant ended production in late 1963, this truck is one of only 2,509 built that year, with only 1,857 sold in the USA and a handful sold as carryover models in 1964.

1952 Studebaker Commander Convertible
For Studebaker's 100th Anniversary, the previous bullet-nosed front end was replaced with a "clam digger" grille.  1,715 Commander Convertibles were built in 1952, and one of them was used as the Official Pace Car at the Indianapolis 500 that year.

1930 DuPont Model G Cabriolet Roadster by Merrimac
The first DuPont cars arrived on the market in 1919 with the Model A and were produced in small numbers.  The Model G was the final DuPont of note, with a run of 273 car vehicles from 1929 to 1932.  The car was offered in 12 body styles.  A DuPont was entered in the 1929 24 Hours of LeMans and the company offered a LeMans model the following year.  The Model G used a Continental straight eight engine of 125 hp.  There was a Model H but only three were made and it is estimated that the company produced around 537 cars before its bankruptcy.  Very few survive today.

In addition to the excellent display of Studebaker cars throughout the museum, the lower floor also offered an interesting selection of Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

1928 Model SA
The sport of dirt track racing (later termed "speedway racing") boomed in the 1920s and Harley-Davidson responded with "the Peashooter," nicknamed for its distinctive popping exhaust sound.  It featured an overhead valve single cylinder engine of 350 cc, making 30 hp and had an impressive power to weight ratio.  This genuine racer was capable of reaching 100 mph back in the day.

1912 Model J
Introduced in 1911, the Harley-Davidson Model J twin was to be one of the first truly successful mass-produced American motorcycles. Upgraded with a 1000 cc V-twin engine with a three speed sliding transmission in 1915, the Model J's sales soared and by 1917 the company had built 18,000.  The US military ordered 20,000 of them for use in World War I and the bike remained in production until 1929.  

Briggs & Stratton Flyer (aka "Auto Red Bug")
The Auto Red Bug design originated in 1916 with the A.O. Smith Company of Milwaukee (which still exists) as the Smith Flyer but Smith sold the rights to this little car (or "buckboard") to the Briggs & Stratton company (which also still exists), which improved it and produced it from 1919 until 1925, when it was sold to yet another firm.  Briggs & Stratton's version is in the Guiness Book of World Records as the least expensive car ever sold, with prices ranging from $125 to $150.  Almost all of the Flyers were red so this white version is quite unusual.  Briggs & Stratton continued to develop the motor after selling the Flyer rights for other applications.  Flyers were built in both gasoline and electric versions and blueprints are still available today.

As our day at the AACA Museum drew to a close, we had the chance to peak into the storage area on the lower floor of the museum as cars were being shifted following the Corvette Racing Weekend presentations.  Here is what we saw at the end of our time in the museum:

1925 Stearns Knight

1928 Nash Sedan
1917 Pierce Arrow Model 38 Runabout

1978 Pontiac Firebird Trans-Am Super Deluxe
After the success of the "Smokey and the Bandit" movie, Pontiac presented actor Burt Reynolds with a Trans-Am for several years afterwards.  This example remains unrestored and in original condition.

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