Category Archives: Studebaker

Catching up with Great Autos of Yesteryear’s Casual Concours

We’ve made a point out of not covering car shows or auctions.. cars in that circumstance are curated and not feral as we choose to define the term. Our focus is veteran cars of note found alive in the wild.  Nonetheless, we felt a tip of the Feral Cars kufi, fedora, boater, derby, skid lid, etc. was in order for Great Autos of Yesteryear’s tenth annual Palm Springs Casual Concours.  Great cars, fun people and for a very worthy cause (Sanctuary Palm Springs providing teens in foster care an environment of health and kindness) so we figured it would be OK to break format and display some of the “goods.”

Palm Springs has long been a haven for old cars and their owners. The traffic, for Southern California, is bearable and the weather – except in the oppressively hot summer – is tepid, conducive to round-the-clock top-down motoring. The Desert Princess Resort there was where Great Autos of Yesteryear, the largest LBGT car club on the west coast and with that acronym there’s nothing not “out” about this group of enthusiasts.  Casual Concours is the unofficial start of the Palm Springs “season” that runs through May; it took place back in October so apologies for not posting this earlier. Dubbed “the desert’s most fabulous midcentury car show,” Casual Concours is, in fact and indisputably, fabulous. It’s a truly brilliant showcase for the owners and their cars, running the gamut from full boat luxury to quirky JDM curios. We had a chance to peruse the cars, schmooze with their owners and, as the Flintstones theme intones, “have a gay old time” while celebrating automotive diversity.

Some of the highlights..

“Just beat it, beat it, beat it, beat it..
No one wants to be defeated..”

Scott King and Sandy Edelstein’s 1991 Honda Beat won in the Best Foreign Open category. It’s a Japan domestic market Kei-class (under 650 cc) mid-engine roadster that bears the slogan “MIDSHIP AMUSEMENT” on its rear flanks. Isn’t that what happens when an aircraft carrier docks in Yokohama? One can’t really grasp how tiny it is in a photo but suffice it to note that it weights just 1,675 lbs.

Orange you glad to see this?

Accessories (and we don’t mean the J.C. Whitney kind or a string of pearls) are always in evidence at the Casual Concours: the owner of this ’73 Volvo P1800 found a set of period Samsonite luggage matching the color of his shooting brake from Gothenburg. The Porsche 356A sports a hat box mounted on a luggage rack over the boxer motor. Hatbox, boxer: get it?

Air cooled hat box

There’s a Rolls-only class at the Concours and, wouldn’t you just know it, the Best of Show was one of those selfsame Rollers. It’s Bill Stewart and Joe Gyori’s 1965 Silver Cloud III Drophead Coupe by Mulliner Park Ward. It’s just one of 101 built of which 52 were left hand drive. The presence this car has is astounding, even in a field of astounding cars. David Hemmings drove one to all kinds of rich hippie psychedelic mischief in the film Blow Up, some RR-oriented highlights of which are here.

Dennis Duca and Dean Peck’s ’75 “Hang Ten” Dodge Dart (don’t you dare call it a Duster) took top honors in the 1970 – 1979 Closed Car category. Yes, the shorty surfboard came with the Hang Ten trim option. No one is quite sure how many were sold over just two model years but it’s a safe bet most were wiped out by the crusher.

It’s not clear what the story is behind the bloody “Jerry Mahoney” ventriloquist dummy resting in the back seat of a 1957 Ford DelRio, FoMoCo’s too little/too late response to Chevy’s Nomad. Actually, we don’t really want to know that story but can assure you that the jaunty green and white two-door wagon is otherwise non-creepy.

Brick, the little dog who put the “boss” in Boston Terrier, seemed enamored of this fantastic 1963 Studebaker Wagonaire done up for a mid-century camping trip. The fact that the rear portion of the roof slides forward so one can transport a refrigerator upright seems not to have affected its eligibility as it went on win in the 1960-1964 closed category.

Doggone clever idea from South Bend

Here’s a clip of a commercial highlighting the Wagonaire from the Studebaker-sponsored Mr. Ed TV series.  Yes, Studebaker spent the first part of the 20th century trying to disassociate itself from the equine realms in light of its history as American’s preeminent builder of horse-drawn vehicles. Towards the end of its corporate existence, Studebaker made it possible for a horse to come into your living room. Go figure.

Wood is good! There is always a fair representation of wood-sided (real and otherwise) station wagons at Casual Concours and the winner in the 1980 – 1995 category — open to any car built during those peak malaise years — was, in fact, a woody. It’s a 1980 Chrysler Le Baron Town & Country with glorious fake wire wheels and tufted upholstery that would be the envy of Little Miss Muffett.

Timber!!

The plate on this 1952 Packard 400 Patrician reads SDNFEAR, an homage to the woman-in-distress film noir classic that starred Joan Crawford and Jack Palance. Sudden Fear, for which Crawford was nominated for an Academy Award, was set in San Francisco but Bagdad by the Bay’s steep grades were no match for Packard’s 327 cubic inch straight 8.

You oughta be in pictures..

Here’s a clip from Sudden Fear in which the Patrician is featured gobbling up a Frisco incline and disgorging Palance with no problem.

While the focus of Casual Concours is elegance and originality at least one overt muscle car was present. And, of course, it was a Rambler muscle car, not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s a wild 1969 AMC Hurst SC/Rambler, utilizing the Pontiac GTO formula: stuff the biggest motor you have — in this case a 390 cubic, inch V8 — into the lightest body: a Rambler American. Sprinkle some Hurst <<ahem>> fairy dust on it and you’ve got a neck snapping factory-built drag racer. The bold graphic arrow, indicating the motor’s displacement, pointing to the over the top air intake recalls the slogan, “nothing succeeds like excess.”

Mke mine Scrambler’d

Heavy breather

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[photo of AMC SC/Rambler]

 

 

 

Chevy rolled the dice: Monte Carlo

Chevy's broad strokes take on personal luxury

Chevy’s broad strokes take on personal luxury

When Ford’s Thunderbird grew from two-seat roadster to four-place grand tourer in 1958 the car business took note of the market for “the personal luxury coupe.”  Other makes soon fielded entrants into the new sector, some with great aplomb.  Think: 1963-’65  Buick Riviera, ’62-’64 Studebaker Gran Turismo Hawk, ’63-’64 Pontiac Grand Prix, ’66-’70 Olds Toronado, ’75 – ’79 Chrysler Cordoba. As Jimmy Durante might have suggested, everybody wanted to get into the act.

A Malibu lurks within

A Malibu lurks within

For the 1970 model year, Chevy adapted its mid-size Chevelle platform to do duty as a snooty upscale personal luxury coupe dubbed Monte Carlo, not to be confused with Dodge’s Monaco the nameplate of which dates back to 1965 — so there!   Monte Carlo followed the personal luxury coupe styling convention of long hood, short rear deck, thick C-pillar and vinyl roof, denoting formal, yet sporting, elegance rather than straight-up muscle car macho.

Monte Carlo was a runaway success with sales of over 130,000 the first year, generating significant profits for the company insofar as development costs were minimal thanks to shared architecture with the lesser Chevelle.  The model’s slogan was “At $3123, a lot more car than it has to be.”  The subtext seems to be that Chevy is doing you a favor selling you such a nice Malibu for comparatively little money.

Did Prince Rainier get to skim any of the profits or did he put the touch on Dodge five years earlier?

Did Prince Rainier get to skim any of the profits or did he put the touch on Dodge five years earlier?

Many surviving first generation Monte Carlos have been customized and/or turned into street hopping lowrider cars as in this video.  In light of that reality, we like this minimally messed-with example, finished in Laguna Gray, that we found sans wheel covers.  Not sure about the red outline around the grill that matches the left rear wheel’s sidewall; they didn’t come from the factory this way.

Here’s a must-see commercial from the car’s introduction, wherein government agents harass a hard working paisan because they confuse his new Chevy Monte Carlo with an expensive imported exotic.   It’s a great example of Nixon era paranoia.  Did someone just say “I am not a Malibu”?

If you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting consideration please send it to us:   info (at) feralcars (dot)com OR through our Facebook page.

 

The day Studey stopped

 Musings, ramblings and rants from FeralCars founder Bob Merlis

Remembering the day they closed the home of the Golden Hawks

Remembering the day they closed the home of the Golden Hawks

 

 This has been a year of 50th anniversaries: the founding of the Rolling Stones, the Kennedy assassination, the March on Washington.  A whole lot happened in 1963 but there’s one event from back then that has gone, mostly, unnoticed.  It was December 9th, just two week’s after JFK’s funeral, that the announcement came that, after 111 years, Studebaker would cease vehicle production in South Bend, Indiana.  Some of us took it quite personally and still do.

Loewy legacy lives

Loewy legacy lives

It was devastating for the workers and residents of that quintessential Indiana factory town but the repercussions were felt around the world and have resonated for the last half century.  While management assured its dealer network that Studebaker branded cars would still be built — in Hamilton, Ontario — it was a dark, dark day for Studeaficionados who found out that production of Studebaker trucks, GT Hawks and Avantis would soon cease with only Lark-type vehicle production continuing in Canada.  Avanti was the 4 place, Raymond Loewy-designed sports car that brought glow to Studebaker in its darkest hour.

“Too little, too late” is the conventional wisdom about why a high performance, supercharged, fiberglass grand touring car couldn’t pull Studebaker out of its death spiral but what a way to go!

From front page news to the end of line in just a few short months

From front page news to the end of line in just 18 months

Studebaker loyalists were in disbelief.  The only auto manufacturer able to trace its origin to wagon manufacturing would soon be no more.  Yes, there were ’64, ’65 and even ’66 model year Studebakers but 12/9/63 was really the end of the line; what followed over the next few years at Studebaker was, in essence, automotive rigor mortis

As a Studebaker loyalist, both then and now, I can tell you it still hurts to think about that dreadful day.  You can’t do anything about the past so let’s celebrate Studebaker’s glorious history with some examples that are still coming through in a very real way, fifty years after the beginning of the end, for Studey loyalists who’ve never stopped believing.

'60 Champ truck still delivers

’60 Champ truck still delivers

Havana-based '50 "bullet nose" with aftermarket roof treatment

Havana-based ’50 “bullet nose” with aftermarket roof treatment

This machine kills Nazis

You’re welcome, Marshal Stalin

'53 Starliner a/k/a "the most beautiful mass produced American car."

’53 Starliner, a.k.a. “the most beautiful mass produced American car.”

Bad news for Stude

Bad news for Stude crew

The introduction of Avanti had many believing that Studebaker would make it.  Thanks to our friends at King Rose Archives, you can check out the film that heralded Avanti’s introduction in the spring of 1962.

If you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting consideration please send it to us:   info (at) feralcars (dot)com  OR through our Facebook page. Include your name, location of the car and some thoughts about the vehicle and we’ll look into getting it the attention it deserves.

 

 

 

Turkey shoot!

Native American straight 8

Native American straight 8

Sometimes great feral cars just come knocking on your virtual door and say “shoot me” or, maybe, “post me.”  Yes, it’s that special day when gluttony is celebrated rather than reviled so we invite you feast on two early ’50s sedans that were sitting ducks (or turduckens) for loyal FeralCars fans Amy Treco and Andrew Keeler.  If you recall, Amy was our Halloween model/presenter.  If you don’t recall, click here to see what you missed. Andrew is constantly roaming, ahem, The Streets of San Francisco seeking out feral vehicular encounters. Today we  give thanks  to both for their service to the cause.

Amy sent in a stunning, rockabilly-style, lowered ’54 Pontiac with add-on “dagmar” front bumper bullets, fender skirts, headlight half covers, de-chromed flanks and a “tuff” windshield visor.  The last of these custom touches is the coolest accessory any juvenile delinquent type, loitering around a pool hall, trimming his cuticles with a switch blade, would lust after. ’54 was, by the way, the last model year Pontiac — or any domestic car maker — offered a straight 8 (cylinders inline) motor.  Displacement was 4.4 liters /268.2 cubic inches, around the same size as the motor powering today’s BMW M5 but with 430 fewer horses on tap.

FoMoCo goes low

FoMoCo goes low

Andrew sent in this ’49 Ford, a “fordor” model, still thrivin’ ‘n’ jivin’ in the land of Rice-A-Roni and sourdough. That mottled surface rust, coupled with contrasting fender skirts and red rimmed wheels, make this V8-powered (239 cubic inches/3.9 liters, 100 hp) rockin’ Dearborn relic a thing of beauty, worthy of a doo wop song sung under a corner streetlight.

Does the front end remind you of anything?  If your response was “airplane Studey,” give yourself a gold star. The similarity to Studebaker’s ’50 – ’51 “bullet nose” car is apparent and that’s no coincidence.  The Ford design has been attributed to Bob Bourke, Richard Caleal and Holden Koto, all of whom had been designers with Studebaker’s styling unit, administered by Raymond Lowey.  The three seemed to have done some moonlighting before they all — surprise! — ended up working for Ford.

People’s exhibits F and S:

Funky frontal

Funky frontal

Studey snoot

Studey snoot

We found an advert for Amy’s Pon-Ton, the subtext of which is that size does, indeed, matter.

Screen Shot 2013-11-27 at 12.38.08 AM

 

There’s a stunning ’54 Pontiac convertible you can buy for for a mere $93,000.  Doesn’t that make you want to check it out?  Here you go.

Equal time for the ’49 Ford.  You have just a few days left to bid on this low mileage ’49 Ford “tudor.”  It has only 51,000 miles on it which works out to fewer than 800 miles per year.  Bid here now before it’s too late!

If you, like Amy and Andrew, have stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting consideration please send it in:   info (at) feralcars (dot)com  OR through Feral Cars on Facebook.

Studey keeps on truckin’

Going, going, gone

Going, going, gone

The sight of an early 1950s Studebaker 2R pick-up truck barreling down the freeway is downright inspiring.  This one more than held its own with the stream of traffic on the 101 south of San Jose and what a thrill it was to see a 60 year old vehicle still fulfilling the purpose for which it was constructed.  At the risk of sounding a curmudgeonly note, let us assert that it’s a safe bet that today’s cushy pick-ups, packed with luxuries and electronics geegaws that have nothing to do with getting the basic job of hauling “stuff” done won’t be up to the task come 2073.

Screen Shot 2013-11-25 at 10.20.12 PM

We were sent a shot of another Studebaker truck of the same vintage recently, this one at rest. Its zaftig lines are most pleasing, don’t you think?  Still a looker even at an advanced age.

We found a completely “done” one of these in Charlotte, NC for about $20,000.  Seems like a lot of coin but if it lasts another 60 years, you can amortized the cost and feel good about the investment. Check it out.

If you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting consideration please send it to us:   info (at) feralcars (dot)com  OR through our Facebook page.