Henry and Clem Studebaker were a part of the great westward expansion of the United States. In 1852, they opened a blacksmith shop in South Bend, Indiana and began building wagons. Lucrative government contracts during the Civil War fueled the manufacturer’s growth. Early in the 20th century, Studebaker worked with other companies to produce electric and gas powered vehicles and in 1913 the company started manufacturing cars and trucks under their own name. Celebrated industrial designer Raymond Loewy led 1940’s development from his firm allowing the manufacturer to be ahead of the pack in post-war model launches.
.In 1950, Studebaker was the most senior producer of wheeled vehicles in the country and stood as the ninth largest American car maker. The 98th was their best year with 329,884 units sold. The Commanders, with their pointed nose, and the Champions, with their impressive hood ornaments, marked the brand identity but it was the Starlight and Starliner which garnered the most attention. The 1953 hardtop Starliner design was honored by the Museum of Modern Art.
Packard bought Studebaker in 1954. The following year, the company made the one-year-only President Speedster. Priced at $3253, the car was loaded with features and amenities for passenger comfort. Only 2215 were sold and it remains a rare find. With overpriced options like the President, the new company struggled. Due to financial trouble, the Packard line of cars and the name itself was dropped in 1958. “Perfectly practical and practically perfect” was the slogan that led the marketing of 1959’s Lark but the perfection never materialized. The 1963 Avanti, unusual front-end and all, became an instant classic to some enthusiasts. Nonetheless, Studebaker would stop manufacturing cars in 1966.