How Studebaker Works

1931, 1932, 1933, 1934 Studebakers

The 1932 Studebaker President had one wheelbase, 135 inches, for all models.

For 1931, Studebaker dropped the Dictator Six, but retained the Dictator Eight. Wheelbases stretched to 124 inches on Commanders and to 130/136 on Presidents. At midyear, the 221 Dictator eight was booted from 70 to 81 bhp, and the long-stroke 250.4-cid Commander unit was pushed to 101. Prices were adjusted to cover a slightly broader range of $795-$2550, versus 1930's $895-$2595.

This same lineup returned for 1932, when either a small 205-cid six or smaller 190-cid six powered the Rockne. The senior-line six, a stroked 230 with 80 bhp, went into a new 117-inch-wheelbase Standard chassis that also served Dictator Eights. The Commander's wheelbase increased an inch. All Presidents had a 135-inch wheelbase.

For 1933, Commanders rode a 117-inch wheelbase with a smaller 235-cid straight eight, but at 100 bhp, it had almost the same power. The President retained its 135-inch chassis and the smooth 337-cid 135-bhp eight. The 125-inch-wheelbase President returned -- this time with a smaller 250-cid eight rated at 125 horsepower. The Dictator name was wisely dropped for that year.

Curiously, the Dictator name returned for '34. Comprising Standard, Special, and Deluxe models, Dictators had a 113-inch-wheelbase and were powered by a 205 six with 88 bhp. That year's Commanders rode a 119-inch wheelbase and carried a revived 221 eight, albeit with 103 bhp. Presidents were downgraded to a 110-bhp, 250-cid eight and now rode a 123-inch chassis.

Sales dwindled from over 123,000 for 1930 to under 26,000 for '32, dropping the make from fourth to 11th. Studebaker finished 14th for 1933, when it went into receivership after a hoped-for merger with White Motors fell through. With that, company head Albert Russell Erskine resigned, then committed suicide soon afterward.

Stepping into this managerial breach were production vice-president Harold S. Vance and sales VP Paul G. Hoffman, who would jointly guide Studebaker through 1949. They quickly got rid of Pierce-Arrow (the luxury market had evaporated), then took steps to get idle production lines moving again.

The eight-cylinder engine in the 1934 Studebaker Commander produced 103 horsepower.

As a result, Studebaker made a small profit in 1934, enough to secure a line of credit and get out of receivership. Production promptly moved up to near 60,000 from 1933's paltry 12,500, lifting the make to eighth in the industry. Output slipped below 44,000 for '35, but recovered to near 56,000 and some 98,000 for 1936-37, respectively, when Stude­baker finished 11th and tenth.

Part of this success reflected a reversal of Erskine's "full-line" market approach. Studebaker's 1934-35 line comprised just three series: Dictator Six, Commander Eight, and President Eight. Commanders then took a two-year vacation.

For 1934, Studebaker introduced streamlined "Year Ahead" models with pontoon fenders and rounded grilles. Rumble-seat body types departed the following year. For more on defunct American cars, see: