Thursday, December 16, 2010

1948 Studebaker Champion Regal DeLuxe 4-door Sedan

"Time flies faster than most of us realize. It's just a little more than eighteen months since you first read the thrilling Studebaker announcement, 'Your postwar dream car is here and in production!' Now the 1948 version of that dream car has arrived. New 1948 Studebakers, with glamorous new Champion and Commander convertibles in the vanguard, are swinging upon the scene at dealer's showrooms. They're more than fresh 1948 interpretations of the 'new look' in cars that's a Studebaker style mark. They're the dramatic encore to over a year and a half of the most sensational new-car success in motoring history. Riding low, wide and handsome straight into the heart of discriminating America, Studebaker styling has established the design pattern for all truly modern cars. See these newest and finest of Studebaker's postwar achievements at your first opportunity. They're superb 1948 examples of the new kind of motoring in which Studebaker so impressively and so inspiringly leads."

The first completely new american car after the second world war didn't come from the "Big Three", and it wasn't even conceived in Detroit. Studebaker, based in South Bend, Indiana, could come up with this "coup" so short after the war, because it had relied on external design consultancy for years: since the mid-30s, Raymond Loewy & Associates, founded by the famous designer who had put his hand on everything from household goods to trains, had done design work for Studebaker. While the "Big Three" had to stop production and development of their cars between 1942 and 1945, Loewy & Associates wasn't occupied with defense contracts and could continue the development of the new Studebakers which were presented in the spring of 1946, well ahead of everyone else.

Studebaker's marketing claimed him repeatedly as the stylist of their models, but Loewy didn't do the design himself. The 1947 Studebakers were largely the work of Virgil Exner, who was then head of Loewy's Studebaker dependance, and they were based on sketches done by Robert Bourke in 1940. Exner would eventually move on to become Chrysler's chief designer, and Bourke become the head of Loewy's Studebaker studio.

With their integrated front fenders and the tense trapezoid roof line, the cars looked very clean and modern for 40s standards. Especially the two-door "Starlight Coupe", which sported a wrap-around rear window, looked unique among the "warmed-up" pre-war designs of the competitors. The Studebakers were virtually similar through 1949. Only minor changes on the front grille distinguished the model years. 1948 Champions sported one horizontal chrome bar, while 1949 models had two bars. In the crazy postwar-times, where literally anything on wheels could be sold, these "updates" were enough to please the customers. To stay up-to-date, the Studebakers finally received a bigger facelift for 1950, with everything new ahead of the windscreen. This new "bullet-nose" frontend should become one of the most iconic designs of the early 50s.

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