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1960s Studebaker Concept Cars


1960s Studebaker Concept Cars Sceptre Series
The third and most radical of the Stevens-designed 1960s Studebaker concept cars was this Sceptre hardtop coupe. It would have been a 1966 model.
The third and most radical of the Stevens-designed 1960s Studebaker concept cars was this Sceptre hardtop coupe. It would have been a 1966 model.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

The 1960s Studebaker concept cars Sceptre Series previewed a sharp-looking coupe planned as a 1966 production model.

Stevens hoped to usher in a whole new generation of Studebakers with his prototype for 1966, a shapely notchback two-door hardtop he called Sceptre.

Eyed at one point as a replacement for the GT Hawk, it looked smoother and lower than the 1964-1965 designs, but was still fairly angular and just as glassy on the same relatively compact platform.

But the Sceptre had plenty of startling departures. They began up front, where Stevens replaced conventional sealed-beam headlamps with a single full-width tube, developed by Sylvania, that gave more light with virtually no glare. (It now seems an amazingly accurate forecast of the "light bars" used on certain Mercurys, though those are just for nighttime "identity," not illuminating the way.)

Marking the tail was a similar tube behind a recessed full-width red lens. Equally forward-thinking was Stevens' use of blue polarized-glass insets for the C-pillars, which were transparent from the inside but appeared opaque from the outside. (You can think of this as a low-tech precursor to the light-sensitive LCD "glass" that appeared 25 years later for various concept cars and a few aftermarket moonroofs.)

Other distinctions included pointy front fenders, front cornering lights, a wheel-cover motif remarkably like that of Mazda's later rotary-engine symbol, and a big tri-color emblem mounted on a raised circle smack in the middle of the hood.

Sceptre's interior was no less striking. Driving necessities were squarely ahead of the wheel once more, but Stevens now put all the secondary gauges in bubbles, each tilt-adjustable for best viewing.

The speedometer was a wide strip-type device on a short stalk that pivoted up from between the two middle bubbles; the stalk could be folded flush with the panel, leaving the speedo just above the minor dials, or raised to put it close to driver eye level -- a kind of early "head up display."

To the right was a floor console angled in for optimum control reach. Here too, Stevens penned a very clean overall dash with lots of padding to conceal another sliding vanity, but also a "rally table" on the right side. Seats were four vinyl-covered buckets with center sections trimmed in chrome-like Mylar plastic.

With all this, the Sceptre would have been a sensation in 1966. But, of course, it had no more chance of reaching showrooms than Stevens' other "comeback" Studebakers.

As the designer recalled, money ran very low sometime in 1963, "and we were suddenly told we'd just have to reskin the Lark again. . . . Of course, you never dared stop. So we kept going on the prototypes even then." But not for long, as the book closed on all these ideas when Studebaker closed its historic South Bend plant.

Concept cars often test different styling on their left and right sides. The Sceptre concept's right side featured simpler bodyside trim than its left side.
Concept cars often test different styling on their left and right sides. The Sceptre concept's right side featured simpler bodyside trim than its left side.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Stevens wasn't the only one working on new Studebakers. Also in the running were two prototypes for an entire line of 1965-1966 66 models patterned on the glamorous Avanti coupe.

These were built under the redoubtable Raymond Loewy, the guiding light for that show-stopping GT, whom Egbert still retained as a consultant. A talented Loewy team had fast conjured the fiberglass-bodied Avanti while Stevens was facelifting the Lark and Hawk -- the second of Egbert's two-step plan to spruce up Studebaker's image. But though Loewy delivered exactly what Egbert wanted, the Avanti itself did not.

Raymond Loewy, Charles Sorensen, and Brooks Stevens developed two more prototypes for Studebaker -- the Avanti and the Famiia. Continue on to the next page to learn more about these cars.

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