Studebaker Champion
Studebaker Champion, Dutch licence registration AM-41-52 pic09.JPG
1954 Champion 4-door sedan
Overview
ManufacturerStudebaker
Production1939–1942, 1946-1958
AssemblyStudebaker Automotive Plant, South Bend, Indiana, United States
Studebaker Automotive Plant, Vernon, California, United States
Body and chassis
ClassFull-size car (1939–1952)
Mid-size car (1952–1958)
Body style2-door sedan
4-door sedan
2-door coupe
4-door station wagon
2-door station wagon
2-door convertible
LayoutFR layout
Chronology
PredecessorStudebaker Dictator
SuccessorStudebaker Lark

The Studebaker Champion is an automobile which was produced by the Studebaker Corporation of South Bend, Indiana, from the beginning of the 1939 model year until 1958. It was a full-size car in its first three generations and a mid-size car in its fourth and fifth generation models, serving as the junior model to the Commander.

Background

The success of the Champion in 1939 was imperative to Studebaker's survival following weak sales during the 1938 model year. Unlike most other cars, the Champion was designed from a "clean sheet" and had no restrictions caused by necessarily utilizing older parts or requiring the subsequent use of its components in heavier vehicles. Market research guided the selection of features, but a key principle adhered to was the engineering watchword "weight is the enemy". For its size, it was one of the lightest cars of its era. Its compact straight-six engine outlasted the model itself and was produced to the end of the 1964 model year, with a change to an OHV design in 1961.

The Champion was one of Studebaker's best-selling models because of its low price (US$660 for the 2-door business coupe in 1939, equal to $12,857 today), durable engine, and styling. The car's ponton styling was authored by industrial designer Raymond Loewy, who had been under contract with Studebaker for the design of their automobiles. Champions won Mobilgas economy runs by posting the highest fuel efficiency tests. During World War II, Champions were coveted for their high efficiency at a time when gas was rationed in the United States. From 1943 to 1945, the Champion engine was used as the powerplant for the Studebaker M29 Weasel personnel and cargo carrier, which also used four sets of the Champion's leaf springs arranged transversely for its bogie suspension.

The Champion was phased out in 1958 in preparation for the introduction of the 1959 Studebaker Lark. Prior to this, Studebaker had been placed under receivership, and the company was attempting to return to a profitable position.

First generation

First generation
Studebaker Champion 1939 BW .JPG
1939 Series G 4-Door Sedan
Overview
Production1939–1941
Body and chassis
ClassFull-size car
Body style2-door sedan
4-door sedan
LayoutFR layout
Powertrain
Engine164.3 cu in (2.7 L) I6
Dimensions
Length188.75 in (4,794 mm)[1]

The Champion was introduced in 1939. Following the design trends of the time, the grille and headlights were partially integrated. Deluxe models came with arm rests and dual wipers. The 164.3 cu in (2.7 L) I6 engine produced 78 horsepower (58 kW; 79 PS). In 1940, Studebaker claimed 27.25 mpg‑US (8.63 L/100 km; 32.73 mpg‑imp).[1] In 1941, the bodies were given a more streamlined look with a wider, lower grille.

1940 Business Coupe
1940 Business Coupe
1940 4-door Sedan
1940 4-door Sedan
1941 2-door Sedan
1941 2-door Sedan
1941 4-door Sedan
1941 4-door Sedan

Second generation

Second generation
Flickr - DVS1mn - 46 Studebaker Skyway Champion (1).jpg
1946 Skyway 4-door sedan
Overview
Production1942–1946
Body and chassis
ClassFull-size car
Body style2-door sedan[2]
4-door sedan[2]
2-door coupé[2]
Dimensions
Wheelbase110 in (2,794 mm)
Length193 in (4,902 mm)

The second generation Champion arrived for the abbreviated 1942 model year. In 1946, Studebaker built a limited number of cars based on this body shell in preparation for its new body and design rollout in 1947. All Studebakers built in 1946 were designated Skyway Champion models. Only the Champion series was produced, it being the most popular before the war.[3]

1942 4-door sedan
1942 4-door sedan
1946 Skyway 4-door sedan
1946 Skyway 4-door sedan

Third generation

Third generation
Studebaker National Museum May 2014 075 (1949 Studebaker Champion Regal Deluxe).jpg
1949 Regal Deluxe 4-door sedan
Overview
ManufacturerStudebaker
Production1947–1952
Body and chassis
ClassFull-size car
Body style4-door sedan
2-door sedan
2-door convertible
2-door coupe
LayoutFR layout
Powertrain
Engine169.9 cu in (2.8 L) I6
Dimensions
Wheelbase112 in (2,845 mm)[3]
Length1947: 192 in (4,877 mm)
1950: 197.3 in (5,011 mm)

In 1947, Studebaker completely redesigned the Champion and the Commander, making them the first new cars after World War II.[3][4] The styling included a new rear window, flat front fenders, as well as convenience features like backlight illumination for gauges and automatic courtesy lights.[3] The Champion made up 65.08% of the total sales for the automaker in 1947.

The 169.9 cu in (2.8 L) I6 engine produced 80 hp (60 kW; 81 PS) in 1947. In 1950, output was increased to 85 hp (63 kW; 86 PS).[3] Also, new styling (new grille, sheet metal, and rear end) was introduced, as well as an automatic transmission by Borg-Warner. [3]

One of the new styling features on the cars was the wraparound, "greenhouse" rear window that was on 2-door, 5-passenger coupes from 1947 to 1951, at first just an option, in 1950 it was given its own trim line, the Starlight coupe.[3] The "spinner" grille was introduced in 1950, similar to that of a 1949 Ford,[5] but was dropped again for the 1952 model year.

A single four-door, wood-bodied station wagon prototype was also designed. It appeared at several car shows, but was never put into production. The car was then driven for several years by employees to run company errands. Around 1955, the body was removed from the chassis and was sent to the secret graveyard in the wooded infield of the high-speed oval at the company's proving ground west of South Bend. In the early 1970s, members of the Studebaker Drivers Club discovered the body of the wagon prototype. Around 1980, members of the club were allowed to remove the wagon prototype for preservation. After a multi-year restoration, the car was put on display at the Studebaker National Museum.

Fourth generation

Fourth generation
STUDEBAKER CHAMPION-3721.JPG
1954 Regal Starliner hardtop coupe
Overview
Production1953–1956
Body and chassis
ClassMid-size car
Body style2-door sedan
4-door sedan
2-door coupe
4-door station wagon
2-door station wagon
LayoutFR layout
Powertrain
Engine169.6 cu in (2,779 cc) L-head I6[6]
185.6 cu in (3,041 cc) L-head I6[7]
Dimensions
Wheelbasecoupes & hardtops: 120.5 in (3,061 mm)
sedans: 116.5 in (2,959 mm)[3]
Lengthcoupes & hardtops: 202.2 in (5,136 mm)
sedans: 198.6 in (5,044 mm)
Widthcoupes & hardtops: 71 in (1,803 mm)
sedans: 69.5 in (1,765 mm)

In 1953, Studebaker was redesigned by Robert Bourke from Raymond Loewy's design studio ("the Loewy Coupe" or "Low Boy"). The 2-door coupe with a central pillar was called the Starlight, while the more expensive hardtop coupe was called the Starliner. In addition to the Loewy Coupe, there was also a 2-door sedan based on a shortened 4-door sedan. The 2-door sedan has a taller profile, and the back side windows in the 2-door sedans are noticeably bigger than the windows in the Loewy Coupe. The Loewy Coupe is substantially more collectible than the 2-door sedans. Although similar, the body pieces on the 2 cars are not interchangeable. The front end of the new Champion was lower than contemporaries and shares an appearance with the Citroen DS.

No convertible was offered in 1953. However, in late 1952 Studebaker produced one prototype of a 1953 Commander convertible to determine whether the model could be profitably mass-produced.[8] The car was based on the 1953 2-door Starliner hardtop. The car was later modified to 1954 model specifications and was occasionally driven around South Bend by engineers. Additional structural reinforcements were needed to reduce body flexure. Even though the car was equipped with the 232 cu in (3.80 L) V8, the added structural weight increased the car's 0–60 mph acceleration time to an unacceptable level. In addition, the company did not have the financial resources to add another body type to the model line. The company's leadership mistakenly thought that the 2-door sedans, 4-door sedans, and 1954 Conestoga wagon (described below) would sell better than the 2-door coupes, so the company's resources were focused on the production of the sedans and the wagon.

When the prototype convertible was no longer needed, engineer E. T. Reynolds ordered the car to be stripped and the body sent to the secret graveyard at the company's proving grounds west of South Bend. A non-engineering employee requested permission to purchase the complete car, rather than see it rot away at the proving grounds with other, earlier prototypes of other cars and trucks. Chief engineer Gene Hardig discussed the request with E. T. Reynolds. They agreed to let the employee purchase the car on the condition that the employee never sell it. In the 1970s, the car was rediscovered behind a South Bend gas station and no longer owned by the former employee. It has been through several owners and paint colors.[9]

In 1954, a new 2-door station wagon called the Conestoga was added to the product line.[10] Power of the L-head inline-six remained unchanged at 85 hp (63 kW), although in 1955 this was replaced by a larger version with 101 hp (75 kW). Also for 1955 the Starlight/Starliner labels were dropped, and a wraparound windshield was introduced.[6] The 1956 Champion sedans received very different bodywork, with pronounced "eyebrows" over the headlights and large tailfins. The coupes received the new Hawk-style bodywork with a centrally placed square grille reminiscent of a period Mercedes-Benz.[7]

The streamlined shape of the Loewy coupes made them popular with land speed racing competitors, both in their stock configuration and modified with chopped tops and other modifications to make them even more streamlined.[11][12][13][14]

Fifth generation

Fifth generation
1957 Studebaker Champion (4619419017).jpg
1957 Champion 4-door sedan
Overview
Production1957–1958
Body and chassis
ClassMid-size car
Body style2-door sedan
4-door sedan
2-door coupe
4-door station wagon
2-door convertible
LayoutFR layout
Powertrain
Engine185 cu in (3.0 L) L-head I6
289 cu in (4.7 L) OHV V8
Dimensions
Wheelbasesedans & station wagons: 116.5 in (2,959 mm)
Lengthsedans & station wagons: 202.4 in (5,141 mm)
Widthsedans & station wagons: 75.8 in (1,925 mm)

In 1957, the Champion Scotsman, a stripped-down Champion, was introduced in an attempt to compete with the “Big Three” (General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler) as well as Nash in the low-price field. Shortly after its introduction, the model was renamed Studebaker Scotsman.

Two engines were available, a 185 cu in (3.0 L) 101 hp (75 kW; 102 PS) "Sweepstakes" L-head I6, or a 289 cu in (4.7 L) 210 hp (157 kW; 213 PS) "Sweepstakes" OHV V8.[3]

References

  1. ^ a b Dusan Ristic-Petrovic. "1940 Studebaker Brochure". Oldcarbrochures.com. p. 9. Retrieved 2012-05-25.
  2. ^ a b c 1946 Studebaker, Standard Catalog of American Cars 1946-1975, Revised 4th Edition, page 764
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Flory Jr., J. "Kelly" (2008). American Cars, 1946-1959 Every Model Every Year. McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-3229-5.
  4. ^ "1947 Studebaker album". Oldcarbrochures.com. p. 3. Archived from the original on 2012-09-09. Retrieved 2012-05-25.
  5. ^ "1950 Studebaker Champion Coupe". Americanhistory.si.edu. 2008-10-24. Retrieved 2020-08-06.
  6. ^ a b Kowalke, Ron, ed. (1999). Standard Catalog of Independents: The Struggle to Survive Among Giants. Iola, WI: Krause Publications, Inc. p. 324. ISBN 0-87341-569-8.
  7. ^ a b Kowalke, p. 326.
  8. ^ Adolphus, David Traver (August 2006). "Custom Commander – 1953 Studebaker Commander Convertible". Hemmings Classic Car. Retrieved 1 March 2021.
  9. ^ Vaughan, Daniel (June 2008). "1953 Studebaker Commander Prototype". conceptcarz.com. Retrieved 1 March 2021.
  10. ^ Kowalke, p. 323.
  11. ^ "The Burkland family's earlier Bonneville cars". Ugo Fadini.
  12. ^ Brooke, Lindsay. "Sunshine, Salt and Speed: The Fastest Show on Earth". The New York Times.
  13. ^ "Looking for Small Photo of Studebaker Streamliner in Old Magazine". Jalopy Journal.
  14. ^ "Speed Seeking Studebakers #5 – The Rest of the Pack". MyRideIsMe.