Thursday, September 27, 2012

1954 Studebaker Champion Custom 4-door Sedan

"Studebaker . . . the new American car that is setting the style for the world."

We're really fascinated by the front ornamentation of this 6-cylinder powered Studebaker Champion from Havana: the highly stylized "S" (as in "Studebaker") represents exactly one half of the equally stylized "8" that adorned the V-8 powered Commander models. That's graphic design at its clever best!

The Champion Custom was the most frugal version of all Studebaker sedans, and somehow, its lack of chrome trim even emphasized the clean, European look that the "Loewy-styled" Studebakers were so much admired for upon their introduction in 1953. Studebaker's General Manager Harold Vance wanted the sedans to look like the coupe ever since he'd seen the first drawings. But that wasn't an easy task since the sedans were planned to have a 4-inch shorter wheelbase and were higher than their coupe counterparts. Robert E. Bourke, responsible chief designer at Loewy's Studebaker studio couldn't do miracles, and at the end of the day, although looking quite similar in front view, the sedans were no match to the sleek beauty of the "Loewy-Coupes". Still, they looked clean and modern beside other contemporary designs.

Around 1953, when the toolings of the facelift for 1954 were finalized, Studebaker was already running tight on money and had started negotiations to join forces with Packhard. Hence, the 1954 facelift resulted in minimal changes: added vertical chrome bars in the front grille and a new hood ornamentation had to be enough "news" to please the customers. Worse than that, over the next years, the same body should become re-, re-, re-, re-, and re-cycled because Studebaker simply had no money left for the development of a new, modern platform.

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