1947 Studebaker Commander Starlight Coupe

My friends and family often ask me why I go to the Scottsdale Pavilions car show so often. “Don’t you get tired of looking at the same cars all the time?” they inquire. While you do see a few of the same cars, it’s different enough to be interesting. You just never know what might roll its way into the Pavilions, and today’s post is a perfect example of what I am talking about.

This car is a 1947 Studebaker Commander Starlight Coupe. I’ve never seen one before and with only 13,299 ever produced (and far less than that surviving today), I doubt I’ll see very many more of these things around.

The world was a very different place when this car rolled off the assembly line. Harry S. Truman was president of the United States. America and the Allied Powers had won the war and stopped the Nazis from taking over the world. We had successfully split the atom and were now living in a terrifying new age of nuclear bombs that could level entire cities. Over at the University of Pennsylvania, the US ARMY was preparing to flip the switch on its top secret ENIAC project. These were exciting times!

In the US, no new cars had been produced between 1942 and 1945 due to the war. As restrictions on raw materials were lifted, automobile manufacturers such as Studebaker were eager to get back to work on new designs.

After the war, Studebaker discontinued their full-size President, making the Commander their top-of-the-line vehicle. The Commander’s claim to fame is its unusual styling.

During the post-war economic boom, Americans became enthralled with the newfangled concept of commercial air travel. Planes such as the Lockheed Electra and Douglas DC-3 whisked passengers to their new destinations in record time. Studebaker designers were inspired by these aircraft, and indeed the Commander looks as if someone cut the windscreen out of an airplane and welded it on for the rear window. From a certain angle, it’s hard to tell if the car is coming or going!

Under the hood, the Commander Coupe had an inline-6 engine which produced around 90 to 100 horsepower (figures vary). Studebakers were fairly upscale cars, costing between $1,755 and $2,648. A much rarer convertible model was also produced.

This one appears to be in pretty rough shape, but it’s not too far gone to be restored. In spite of some rusted fenders, the body looks straight, the trim is all there, and the dash is complete right down to the original radio. I hope the owner plans on fixing it up even further!

Admittedly, this car doesn’t have the sexy flair of a 1950s or 1960s Ford or Chevrolet. While I like those other cars, I like this one for a different reason. I feel that I don’t have to be all about something to show appreciation for it. It’s just something different to see and I’m glad that someone out there is making an effort to keep her on the road. That is exactly why I like going to the Pavilions.