September 19, 2016
THE CAR STUDEBAKER SHOULD HAVE MADE?
by Jim Corbran, Automotive Columnist
Although it’s not the only mid-fifties Studebaker convertible in existence, it’s certainly one of the more handsome examples.
I came across this custom-built beauty at last week’s Studebaker Swap Meet held at the Chautauqua County Fairgrounds in Dunkirk. Syracuse residents Victor and Connie Oliver found themselves a nice shady spot inside the exhibition hall to show off their pride and joy, which is being presented as a 1955 Speedster. I say “presented” because, as you can see from the front, it started life as a 1953 model — a Commander Starline Regal hardtop to be exact, as there were no factory Studebaker convertibles made at the time; it takes on more of a 1955 look as you move towards the back. Oliver pointed out that the car contains elements of other mid-fifties’ Studes as well.
It came as a bit of a surprise when the answer to the question “How long did this take you?” came back “eight months.” Turns out that the car’s previous owner had already removed the top and rear quarter panels, and shortened the wheelbase by 15 inches before the Olivers purchased the car. It sat in their garage for two years before the final plans were formulated and the work could begin.
“This was inspired by a Bob Bourke design,” Oliver told me, “which is in the John Bridges book Bob Bourke’s Designs for Studebaker.” In addition to the beautiful bodywork and the spotless, V-8-filled engine bay, the Olivers’ Speedster II also features a fully functional (although hidden in these photos) folding top. The Oliver’s car made it public debut at this summer’s Studebaker Drivers Club International Meet, a seven day event held in Warwick, Rhode Island.
Studebaker discontinued the convertible models when its new lineup debuted for the 1953 model year. The body style would return as a compact Lark for 1960. But you have to wonder if it might have helped to have a ragtop in the line throughout the 1950s.
It couldn’t have hurt.
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