How Studebaker Works

1941, 1942 Studebakers

Strong sales of the 1941 Studebaker Commander helped make it a good year overall for the automaker.

Studebaker designer Raymond Loewy reworked the entire line for 1941, giving the cars slightly sharper noses and lower, wider vertical-bar grilles. The engines were reworked, too. Champ's was stroked to 169.6 cid and 80 bhp, while more-subtle changes lifted Commander's six to 94 bhp and the President's silky nine-main straight-eight to 117.

1941 was another excellent Studebaker sales year, though the make slipped from eighth to ninth in the model-year production race. Still, Champ attracted nearly 85,000 buyers to become the single best-selling line in Studebaker history, and Commander rose from just under 35,000 to nearly 42,000. President maintained its low-volume tradition with just under 7000 model-year sales, up only 500 from 1940.

A wider, heavier-looking, and rather Chevy-like "face" arrived for war-shortened '42, when DeLux-tone models were renamed "Deluxstyle." Studebaker touted a "new, perfected Turbo-matic Drive" as a Commander/President option. This was much like Chrysler's semiautomatic Fluid Drive, a manual transmission with a fluid coupling allowing clutchless changes within two gear ranges.

Studebaker returned to eighth for the model year by building some 50,000 cars before February 1942, when the government ended consumer production for the duration of World War II.

Studebaker's military output was numerous and varied, chiefly trucks (where the firm had an equally long and successful record) but also airplane engines and "Weasel" personnel carriers. Thanks largely to the success of the '39 Champion, Studebaker had turned over its styling chores to Loewy Associates, an outside firm not entirely occupied with defense contracts. As a result, Studebaker was able to introduce all-new postwar cars in the spring of 1946 -- well ahead of everyone else except industry newcomer Kaiser-Frazer. Earlier that year, Studebaker returned to civilian car sales with Skyway Champions, slightly altered versions of the 1942 Champ three- and five-passenger coupe and two- and four-door sedan. Changes were few and modest: an upper-grille molding that extended beneath the headlamps, optional lamps atop the fenders, and the elimination of hoodside moldings. Only 19,275 were built before South Bend changed over to the all-new '47s. For more on defunct American cars, see: