Sunday, February 12, 2012

1958 Studebaker Commander

"Long known for value, the names Commander and Champion take on a new deluxe meaning this year. They are (as a pleasant fact) basically low-priced cars. Yet they offer a luxury which only Studebaker could provide and still maintain quality and safety from front grille to rear fins."

Amazing, how the tone of Studebaker's advertisement changed within a year, emphasizing on "basically low-priced cars" rather than on "a look of importance", like in 1957. The reason: by 1958, the Studebaker Packard Corporation was already in big financial trouble, and customers didn't buy into a glamorous image anymore. Packard was in an even bigger mess, now selling badge-engineered Studebakers as "luxury cars", but Studebaker's designers were on an equally short leash.

While the competition launched a sparkling firework of fancy new designs, Studebaker had to rely on the aging body which already served the 1953 lineup and which was shared with Packard since 1957. Restyled tailfins and new double-beam headlamps in strangely tacked-on fiberglass  pods were the only updates that the tight budget would allow.

But, as sometimes difficult conditions lead to creative outbursts, this story has a rather happy end, as Studebaker, deliberately searching for a market proposition, had invented the "compact" Lark for 1959, which shared it's body with the big Studebakers. Presented amidst a sharp economic recession, these "compact" cars sold like crazy, and kept the ailing company afloat for a few more years.

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