1966 Studebaker Wagonaire
Studebaker struggled on into the 1966 model year with alterations to front- end styling that provided an appreciably different look. Again, Brooks Stevens did the honors. He fashioned a new, more substantial-looking grille of four separate horizontal elements and returned to dual headlights.
He also lowered side moldings to better protect the body finish from door dings. The Detroit firm of Marcks, Hazelquist and Powers won a contract for the interior styling and came up with some very rich-looking, attractive offerings in both fabrics and colors.
The 1966 Studebaker Wagonaire featured
a retractable roof section.
No longer badged a Commander or Daytona, the Wagonaire became a model in its own right (though trim hewed toward the Commander). The fixed-roof option was reinstated. Engines were carried over from 1965, but a 230-cid Chevy six was added as an extra-cost option.
When it became obvious to the directors that the company wouldn't be able to sustain even the 20,000-car break-even point, they decided to terminate production. The official announcement came on March 4, 1966, and the last Studebakers rolled off the line 13 days later. A Wagonaire was the last six-cylinder car to be assembled on that date.
The sliding-roof wagon was a unique and functional vehicle. Jim Wright, Motor Trend's technical editor, asked in his 1963 road test, "Why hasn't someone come up with this idea before?" That Studebaker did so is not surprising in view of the many other "firsts" that the company introduced in its long history. It took another 40 years before GMC adopted the idea for its short-lived Envoy XUV, hailing it as the "first powered sliding roof" when it came out in 2003.
The 1966 Studebaker Wagonaire, with its retractable roof section, did not save Studebaker; one could make a strong argument that very little could have after the mid Fifties. The company built some very fine automobiles in the Sixties and gave an excellent accounting of itself in both engineering and styling. That Studebaker did not survive is not surprising given the competitive nature of the business. The surprising thing is that it survived as long as it did.
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