This is a 1950 Studebaker Champion. One of my favorite lines from the show Guys and Dolls is when Nathan Detroit says, over the phone, “I hope you get stabbed by a Studebaker!” Interestingly enough, many experts, in a strange crossover between the world of cars and the world of musical theatre, speculate it is actually this car that the beleaguered gangster was referring to, namely because of the big pointy thing (that’s a technical term) sticking out between the headlights on the front.
You see, Studebaker was another one of those car companies rushing to get something cool to market in the aftermath of World War II, and that big pointy thing, called the “spinner” grille was what they came up with. Power came from an inline 6 cylinder, which was only 2.8 liters, so it was a busy little engine that produced 85 horsepower. This combination of pointy front ends and middling power caused the Champion to be rather popular, as they made up over 60% of Studebaker’s overall sales at one point.
They did a two door version, christened the Starlight coupe, that was a delightfully awkwardly proportioned thing. This is not that, however. This is the sedan, which featured the morbidly named “suicide doors.” That meant that the Champion’s life really didn’t turn out as well as it had planned having failed to live up to the expectations of its father and now it only feels numbness coupled with a forlorn sense of loneliness and why oh why did she have to leave so suddenly and break the poor Champion’s heart dear God what’s the point of going on anymore. Whew, that was a nightmare scenario.
What suicide doors actually meant was that the rear doors were hinged at the back, allowing for a large opening to the passenger compartment (you also see these on Honda Elements and some pickup trucks). I like this car. You can just see it taking an impeccably dressed young couple to a drive in movie or rumbling by in the background of an episode of Mad Men. It’s a car from a time gone by. A time when hair was gelled, perfume was worn and gamblers danced in sewers. Wait, I could be thinking of something else.
-Studebaker was the only independent car company other than Packard to develop its own automatic transmission.
-Fuel economy on these things were in the high twenties, which is staggering for the time.
-One journalist called the spinner grille “so far out, it was in.” Far out.