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Why did the Studebakers go under?

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by hankthebigdog, Oct 7, 2011.

  1. hankthebigdog
    Joined: Aug 20, 2011
    Posts: 144

    from oklahoma

    I asked an older timer than myself "Why did the Studebakers go under?" I always thought they were tooooo far ahead of their time. What really happened to these beautiful works of craftmanship? just wonderin'
  2. Heo2
    Joined: Aug 9, 2011
    Posts: 661


    same thing as all companys that go under
    Dont sold the products buyers wanted
    to a price they wanted to pay
    Joined: Nov 22, 2005
    Posts: 7,594

    from SIDNEY, NY

    Several reasons, among them being an employee pay scale that was higher than comparable G.M. or Ford employess, working out of an outdated factory that needed replacing but they didn't have the capital to replace, and not being able to afford complete body redesigns when the Big 3 started doing it every two years.
  4. porknbeaner
    Joined: Sep 12, 2003
    Posts: 38,219


    The Ol' Man always said that they were ahead of their time. I parked my Starlight next to a neon and I believe he was correct about that.

    They also had financial problems that coupled with the recession in the '50s put them in a bad place from which they never really recovered.
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2011
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  5. need louvers ?
    Joined: Nov 20, 2008
    Posts: 12,917

    need louvers ?

    As far as I can figure, they always ran pretty close on funds to develope new products. When the big three expanded their product lines about 1960 or so to include several different models instead of a couple variations of the same car, Studebaker just couldn't keep up. Sad, because throughout the fifties they were ahead of the curve. That's my findings after studying a bit, but if I'm wrong, someone more knowledgable correct me please.
  6. Heo2
    Joined: Aug 9, 2011
    Posts: 661


    And they had real uggly cars exept for the hawks
    Good quality but uggly
  7. porknbeaner
    Joined: Sep 12, 2003
    Posts: 38,219


    Some where ugly but you just can't beat a '53 Commander Starlight for swoop. There was a time when I was enamored with the HAWK but now I look at them and they just don't do it for me any more. It must be an age thing.
  8. Heo2
    Joined: Aug 9, 2011
    Posts: 661


    yes but 53 they were alive and kicking for 10 more years
  9. Heo2
    Joined: Aug 9, 2011
    Posts: 661


    I my self like the 2 door coupes from studebaker
    But the lark and 4door champions and avantis
    is to put i kindly special looking
  10. dana barlow
    Joined: May 30, 2006
    Posts: 2,687

    dana barlow
    from Miami Fla.

    Some Studys were the best looking cars ever made IMHO.
    If ya look up the facts about the Stud V8 design,it was also way ahead pre WW2's end,but a little too far as the hightest gas it was designed for never came to be after the war,leving them with a engine designed for highcompresion and had to detune it for gas that was .
    Packard was too far behind design wise by then to help actully when they got together with both Co. becoming one at a bad time,they were thinking it would help but it didn't help them to hold off the big 3,they were just too low on $ to work with.

    Seems pretty evident as to what caused the demise.

    I have built a few later Studes recently. The "quality" is so hit and miss on these cars. The 66 Daytona I worked on looked fairly contemporary but the chassis was no different than the Avanti's or the Commander (Lowey) coupes and for that matter, the cars Chevrolet built over 15 years earlier. The interior was spare to say the least, kind of what you would expect a Soviet era car to look like. A very stark contrast to what you found in the Big Three.
  12. So, we can blame Chet Huntley and the Media!
  13. One of the more interesting versions I've heard;

    In its heyday, Studebaker was a mid-market car, not a direct competitor for the Model T or the Chevrolet.
    In its time it was a stunner, ahead of its time in many respects – a trait that would continue to haunt the marque to the end.

    The stock-market crash of '29 took a disproportionate toll on the company, aided by bad investments in two new but short-lived model lines called the Erskine and the Rockne and the untimely purchase of Pierce-Arrow, one of the true premium luxury cars of the day.
    Without the resources of what had then become the Big Three, the company faced an uncertain future and sunk into receivership in 1933. But after dumping Pierce-Arrow, it re-established itself in the mid-range class – hence that lovely '35 roadster.

    But management decided it would need to challenge Ford and Chevrolet in the low-price market if it was to survive and thrive. Enter one Raymond Loewy, a freelance industrial designer retained to design an all-new model for 1939, which would aptly be called the Champion. Smaller than the Chevrolet, and extremely attractive, it was an instant success, generating record sales for the brand. Loewy would play an ongoing role in Studebaker's success and survival, subsequently penning two of the most timeless designs of the century – the 1953 Studebaker Starlight/Starliner coupe and the 1963 Avanti. Before that happened, however, Studebaker trumped its competitors by being the first maker to introduce an all-new car following the end of World War II. As an independent contractor, Loewy was able to work on the design during the war while all auto-company employees were dedicated to military work. With airplane-inspired, enclosed-fender styling, the new car was an immediate hit, evolving even more dramatically into the iconic bullet-nose 1950 Stude – perhaps the epitome of love-it-or-hate-it styling.

    By then the handwriting was on the wall for all the independents, who could no longer compete effectively against the Big Three.

    A multi-marque merger was proposed that might have changed the complexion of the industry, perhaps resulting in the Big Four. But the untimely death of Nash president George Mason scuppered that, thus setting up the scenario that would lead to Studebaker's demise. Nash paired up with Hudson, creating American Motors, and Kaiser-Frazer acquired Willys, leaving only Studebaker and Packard as dancing partners. Inevitably they paired up, effectively killing the once-proud Packard brand, which disappeared in 1958.

    Still, even with limited resources, some interesting cars emerged from that period. The finned Hawk line continued the brand's tradition of avant garde styling, and Studebaker beat the Big Three to market with a compact car – the 1959 Lark – which would form the core of its lineup until the end. A dramatic reworking of the Hawk by another well-known industrial designer, Brooks Stevens, added some spice in 1962. A similar design produced by one of the Big Three would almost certainly have been a runaway sales success.
    Ditto for the aforementioned Loewy-designed 1963 Avanti, which is an acknowledged modern classic.

    As the story goes, there is neither a straight line nor a flat surface anywhere on the car.

    Ahead of its time once again, Studebaker released a Wagonaire variant of the Lark, with a retractable rear-roof section that permitted carrying tall objects on the rear floor. Sound familiar?

    Alas, by then the company's time was up. Or almost.

    All production in South Bend ceased in December 1963, but the Canadian plant, in Hamilton, carried on. With no more supply of Studebaker engines, GM of Canada came to the rescue, providing both six-cylinder and V-8 engines for the final years.

    You already know the end of the story. It came on March 4, 1966.

    There were countless decisions taken over the years that might have sent Studebaker down a more successful path. But there is one eventuality that I have never heard discussed.

    Studebaker paved the way for Mercedes-Benz's entry into the North American market, distributing the cars with the three-pointed star here before they were sufficiently successful to stand on their own.

    What might have happened if Daimler-Benz had acquired and supported Studebaker back then? It's an intriguing question.
  14. porknbeaner
    Joined: Sep 12, 2003
    Posts: 38,219


    They were alive and struggling.
    I think that they were spot on body wise for the sportier models, but like Polaco mentioned they were behind the times mechanically by the later '50s or earlier '60s.

    In '53 they were cuttin a fat hawg in the ass. My '53 came optioned with A/C, turn signals and electric wipers.

    It was way into the '60s before they lost the king pin suspension. There are two schools of though on that. Some say that they didn't believe that a stamped A arm and ball joints was safe, GM kind of had that same mentality with the corvette. Others say it had to do with cash flow and spending money on newer flashy bodies (like the Avanti). I am still out to lunch on that subject but I lean toward the latter.

    Everyone ese was moving fast into factory muscle with newer better engines and transmissions but Stude stayed with the old standby. A flashy body without performance didn't cut the mustard in the brave new world.

    Something to keep in mind is that they merged with Packard not to get their hands on a competiter but because they were financially strapped. Poor cash flow will drive any company out of business, remember this was before the days of fedral rescue money.
  15. spiderdeville
    Joined: Jun 30, 2007
    Posts: 1,136

    from BOGOTA,NJ

    roosevelt started industry consolidation during ww2 rid of the little guys
  16. Heo2
    Joined: Aug 9, 2011
    Posts: 661


    If you look on the coups of the 50s its a ponycar
    10 years to early. I gues timing is everything
    The first year of the mustang sold more than
    studeaker sold of all models in many years
    I have some studebakes snow weasels and must say
    the engines is realy well enginered better than
    most other us engines from the time
  17. '51 Norm
    Joined: Dec 6, 2010
    Posts: 483

    '51 Norm
    from colorado

    "I have built a few later Studes recently. The "quality" is so hit and miss on these cars." Elpolacko

    I agree, I had a '62 Champ pickup; the cab was essentially the front of a Lark; unused body mounts and all. The frame and chassis were mostly the same as what was under Studebaker pickups since '47. As a result the cab didn't fit the frame properly. I am told that the bed was a left over Dodge part with "Studebaker" stamped into the tailgate. The bed was noticeably wider than the cab and had character lines that didn't line up with the cab lines.

    If you look under any of the big three pickups of the era you will find the design and engineering to be far ahead of what Studebaker was offering. The car (and truck) buying public also noticed the difference and voted with their wallets.

    I didn't understand why Studebaker went under until I owned one; now I know.
  18. Jalopy Jim
    Joined: Aug 3, 2005
    Posts: 1,868

    Jalopy Jim

    A book I have on the History of Studebakers cites the company's always paying shareholders big dividends the reason for their demise, This would cause the shortage of funds to upgrade their plants and update their car lines.
    My Uncle was the last Studebaker in the USA and in the last years ran the business out of his home garage.
  19. They did make lots of products during the WWI and WWII years. After the war, they lacked the resources to advance that the Big 3 had. They basically got slowly squeezed out after WWII. Then the merger with the struggling Packard was a drain.

    If you want to read up on them, there's plenty of material around and I had a couple of economic courses that used them as good examples of bad examples.

  20. Seems like a strange quote to me, is this book you have suggesting that Stude paid more in dividends than they were required to? Seems someone might not understand the concept of investment and dividend payments. Most likely those were the terms required to get the funding to manufacture for the next year and someone was bitter about the outcome.

    Small business is hard, small to medium manufacturing is brutal.
  21. lordairgtar
    Joined: Oct 11, 2009
    Posts: 416


    I thought Packard bought Studebaker, not merged. Packard had capital that Studebaker needed.
  22. Ned Ludd
    Joined: May 15, 2009
    Posts: 3,361

    Ned Ludd

    It seems a bit odd then that the Studebaker platforms should dominate post-merger, even to the point of the last Packards being pale reflections of their former glory. One rather gets the idea that the merger left Packard powerless. Nobody wanted a dolled-up Studebaker with Packard badges, especially after the relative sophistication of the '55-'56, so Packard died.

    I think one can trace a disastrous sequence of bad decisions, especially on the Studebaker side. On the Packard side, imagine what might have resulted if they had stuck with the Torsion-Level and got its really very minor bugs sorted out. Despite Loewylessness the Packard platform was much cleaner and stylistically more flexible than the big Studebaker. It was probably more expensive to make, too, but it might just have been cheaper to develop it into '62-'63, i.e. five years after the Studebaker platform's last possibilities had been exploited.
  23. porknbeaner
    Joined: Sep 12, 2003
    Posts: 38,219


    I read merged. It could be a poor choice of words on the part of the writer or it could be that there isn't much difference.
  24. jipp
    Joined: Jun 20, 2011
    Posts: 1,116


    interesting read.. what if's always interest me.. :)
  25. hankthebigdog
    Joined: Aug 20, 2011
    Posts: 144

    from oklahoma

    thanks for the info. I plan to do some reading on them. I appreciate all of you guys and all of the knowledge that you share. thanks.
  26. Pops1532
    Joined: Jun 19, 2011
    Posts: 544

    from Illinois

    I had read about the proposed merger many years ago. Nash, Hudson, Studebaker and Packard were all to merge to form American Motors. Think of the possibilities......
  27. nimrodracing50
    Joined: Oct 3, 2011
    Posts: 68


    Capitalism $$$$. I always thought Lark's made cool gassers.
  28. proartguy
    Joined: Apr 13, 2009
    Posts: 178

    from Sparks, NV

    This topic has been kicked around since Studebakers demise. A lot of the information on this thread seems true.

    The one aspect not mentioned is that there was a production overflow by Ford and Chevrolet that essentially buried the independents. Ford, in particular, flooded their dealers with product. Those cars sold at a discount to keep the dealers inventory liquid so the independents were in effect priced out.
  29. Thanks for some well researched and well thought out responses. A most interesting read. I'd throw out one thought for argument: In my opinion, for what it is worth, the Avanti may have been the real first pony car based on the long hood, short rear deck, relatively high horsepower configuration and because it predates the Mustang by two years.
  30. Ole_Red
    Joined: Jul 29, 2009
    Posts: 585

    from 206, WA

    Gotta love the Studes!

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