Studebaker's Engines and the Racetrack

In an economy move, Studebaker withdrew from participation in racing after the 1933 Indianapolis 500. Still, though the firm would not directly sponsor cars in competition, it wanted to cooperate with independent racers who wished to use Studebaker power. Since the large 337-cid engine used on the 1929-33 Presidents had been discontinued, they would have to settle for the smaller 250-cid eight.

But in many people's minds, this was a better engine since it provided more horsepower per pound than the bigger version. (At the '33 Indy 500, Dave Evans, drove the 250-equipped Art Rose Special to sixth place, ahead of all five factory-backed cars with the 337 engine.) It had been introduced on the 1929 Commander FD models and was completed under the direction of engineering vice president Barney Roos. The L-head engine used nine main bearings, had bore and stroke dimensions of 3.06×4.25 inches, and developed 110 bhp in the 1934 passenger-car version.

On February 23, 1934, company president Paul G. Hoffman announced that Studebaker would offer a "hotter" version of this power-plant for "speedway competition." It would feature a high-compression head, four downdraft Stromberg carburetors, a magneto, and -- since the generator was not needed -- a new water-pump drive. Studebaker engineers had obviously done considerable testing on this engine and claimed it would produce "about" 150 horsepower. "Due to the fact that these motors come from our own assembly line, we are able to sell them for the low price of only $750," Hoffman said.

Studebaker-powered cars started at Indy through 1939. This author is unable to say with certainty if these engines were the same as offered by Studebaker or were built by the owners. However, it was a very interesting concept on Studebaker's part and I am unaware of any other auto manufacturer of this era to make such an offer.

An interesting aside to this story was recently uncovered in the Studebaker National Museum archives. While looking through the comptroller's records, this writer came across a price memorandum, dated February 5, 1935, that noted a special net of $870 for furnishing and installing a racing engine and special rear axle in a President Land Cruiser. Unfortunately, the car was bound for Prague, Czechoslovakia; the likelihood of its current survival would be remote.

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