Speed Seeking Studebakers

If you’ve been following me for awhile than perhaps you know–I found my 1955 Studebaker Coupe largely by accident. Truth be told, I had something more similar to a Ford Falcon in my head when I went a-lookin’ for my classic car. Thankfully however, I ended up on a different road. My Dad is in fact the one with the credit for finding her, forwarding on the ad he’d found in the local paper. I had no idea at the time what a Loewy/Bourke designed Studebaker Coupe was. I have though always been familiar with Studebakers. Growing up, an airplane-nosed relic hung in my dad’s office, this being a token of his teenage-years car project.

When I first saw “Stude” it was clearly love at first sight. As she’s become part of me, of course I’ve done my fair share of Studebaker research. None of it clued me into the depth of the Studebaker Coupe’s history on the salt. Last year, during my first trip to Bonneville for Speed Week, I was completely blown away by how many Studebakers I found on the salt! I knew Studebaker coupes were long-loved in land speed racing for their aerodynamic bodies—but it seemed like everywhere I turned I saw another Studebaker!

As I’m finding out, Studebaker coupes have a longer history with land speed racing than I would have guessed. The Bob Bourke-designed streamlined body first appeared in 1953, drastically different than any other car produced. By August of 1953, a ’53 Studebaker Hardtop made its first official run out on the salt. By the followin g year, the ’53 Coupe had broken its class D/CG record at 114.430mph. In fact, the first full-fendered stock-bodied car to break the highly coveted 200mph mark was a Studebaker coupe, in 1964. The official record was set at 201.744mph by Pisano Brothers/Jim Short in a ’53 Coupe with a 365c.i.d. Chrysler supercharged engine racing in the B/S Gas Coupe category.

Even better, is that although the record wasn’t official until 1964, it was actually six years earlier, in 1958, that the Studebaker Coupe first broke the 200mph milestone! Belmont Sanchez’s #201 (pictured above, courtesy of The American Hot Rod Foundation) barreled down the salty white, reaching a timed speed of 210mph. Running on Chrysler power, this Stude blew all others out of the water! Unfortunately, as it was trying to prove its record, the engine failed and it went unconfirmed…leaving everybody waiting for six more years! (Learn more about How-To Set A Record)

As time passed and Detroit eventually began clueing into aerodynamics to produce sleeker cars, Studebakers continued living up to their Bonneville legacy. That legacy can still be seen today.At this year’s Speed Week, my Speed Seeking Studebaker count was 14 (and I’m quite sure I missed a couple) with two different Studes setting a new class record!

Not only were there coupes, but Trucks and Avanti’s made appearances as well. Then of course there were Spectator’s Studes. I’m proud to say mine can be included in that category, as Studie made it to the salt with me this year! Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be featuring each one of the 14+ Studebaker’s I encountered!

Be sure to check back in at GreaseGirl.com to see a wide variety of Speed Seeking Studebakers. While you’re at it, continue to catch a little salt fever by taking a sneak peek of my pics at Speed Week 2010 over at MyRideisMe’s picture gallery!

What’s your Speed Seeking Studebaker story?

One Response

Comment & Join the Conversation!