(first posted 11/8/2011) We have spent a lot of effort debating the merits (and demerits) of economy cars on these pages. We have spent no small amount of time examining products that were designed to appeal to the most frugal among us. To be sure, lots of makes have tried different approaches to win the business of the miserly. For example, how Yugo baited their trap with an unrealistically low price to lure in the unwary customer that just looked at the initial cost of purchase. There was also the sad tale of the first movers in the compact car market that actually priced their products above the mainstream offerings of the day. They came to grief when buyers did the math of ownership and realized that these cars were no bargain. But there was one manufacturer that tried another approach and found a season of success by turning the value equation upside down. That company was Studebaker. The car was the Scotsman.
By 1957, Studebaker was no stranger to the idea of an economy car. In fact, it could be argued that the company had pioneered the concept with its Champion model of 1939. The Champion was a full size car (by the standards of the day) that sold for less than the full size offerings from Ford, GM and Chrysler while returning outstanding fuel economy and rugged dependability. The secret of the Champion was radical weight reduction (as much as 600 pounds) and a thrifty straight six that could return low 30’s mileage in the hands of a careful driver. The Champion was the right car for the late depression years – inexpensive to buy, inexpensive to own.
Studebaker never tried to field a true compact car during the first wave of such offerings in the early 1950’s. The company stuck with the Champion formula of full size car/ small six engine and sales remained steady with no risky outlay of scarce company funds to field a car for an unproven market niche. This strategy was the correct one. The boffins in South Bend watched the market pioneers come and go in a sea of red ink while their low cost competitor could share lots of components with its big brothers, all the time retaining its carefully nurtured identity as a value purchase. This cost sharing enabled the company to price the Champion competitively with the lower rung of the Big 3’s offerings while enabling the company to record a modest, but steady, per unit profit.
But several factors began to trespass on the carefully crafted turf that Studebaker tried to maintain. The first was internal. The company’s purchase by Packard in 1952 meant that henceforth, the return on investment for all models would have to ensure that those models could justify the resources expended in their manufacture. The Champion line was important (Packard fielded no entry level car), in the new corporate structure, but needed to show a profit in order to enable the company to survive.
But the other factor that put the squeeze on Studebaker-Packard was the attritional price war that the Biggest Two waged against one another beginning in 1953-54. Fords and Chevys were being sold at near cost in order for their parent companies to capture market share. Unordered cars began to flood dealers lots as the two bitter rivals sought to damage each other and establish market supremacy. In our own day, this would be called “channel stuffing” and the results were not slow in coming: the only companies hurt in the great price war were the independents. And if profits were hard to come by in the sweet spot of the market, in the price leader segment they were microscopic.
After the great sellers market of 1955-56 passed S-P by, and losses began to put the company in peril, S-P cast about for a new model that would generate some volume. The company desperately needed to keep the doors open long enough to develop a new generation of vehicles that would replace the new- for- 1953 bodyshell. By this point, Raymond Loewy’s design was looking really old hat. S-P needed a niche that could be conquered and defended. Given the lack of working capital, management began to cast about for something, anything , that would give them a unique model that could be developed for pocket change.
The answer was already rolling off of the company’s assembly lines. In order to compete with the painfully spare Chevy One Fifty and Ford Custom series (and to a lesser extent the growing number of economy imports like the Beetle) the brass at Studebaker started to de-content the 1956 Champion (above) down to a price that would make it the industry’s value leader.
The car that would emerge from these efforts in mid 1957 would re-define what it meant to be a stripper. In that pre-politically correct era, the name “Scotsman” was no stereotypical pejorative. It connoted a frugal, thrifty demeanor that S-P wanted to attach to its new offering. Officially, the car would be part of the Champion line, but the Scotsman would be a sub series that company management hoped would draw in enough business to spread their dangerously high costs across a larger production run.
If the Scotsman reminded buyers of anything, it was the “blackout” cars of the war shortened 1942 model year. The exterior advertised its owners penuriousness with such styling compromises as painted grille, hubcaps and (if the buyer deleted for credit)a painted bumper in place of chrome. The interior also reeked of cheap,with broad sweeping vistas of painted metal, cheap vinyl seats and painted cardboard panels providing the driving ambiance. Other cost cutting gimmicks included vacuum powered windshield wipers, no radio, and the drivers side sunvisor as strictly optional. Studebakers excellent “Climatizer” heating system was even omitted in favor of a cheap unit that kinda, sorta heated a little bit of incoming air. (In this, Beetle owners , at least, could sympathize). The rear windows were fixed in place.
The drivetrain was likewise an accountants dream. The hoary old 101 HP sidevalve six cylinder mill that had been installed in the original Champion of 1939 was the only engine choice. With a three on the tree transmission (the only one on offer), zero to sixty could linger on for over 20 agonizing seconds. Brakes were the standard four wheel drums with no power assist. To simplify the lineup, just three models were in the catalog. Buyers could choose from a two or four sedan or two door wagon. Prices started at a stunningly low (and patriotic) $1776.
While all of this sounds like Studebaker was tacking against the prevailing winds in the industry, somehow, it worked. This despite longer, lower, wider (and flashier) being the reality in Detroit. A business case projection told Studebaker to expect a sales figure of around 4,000 in the initial half year production run. When dealers ordered and sold just over 9,000, Studie management knew that they were on to something. The line was promptly renewed for 1958.
Studebaker tried what would now be termed “line extensions” to squeeze more sales out of the Scotsman brand. The company tried to drum up fleet sales by introducing the Econ-o-miler series as a taxicab or (in two door wagon guise) as a flower or light delivery car.
Studebaker also made the car available for postal duty.The name was attached to a price leader pickup. Cops were sometimes issued Scotsman sedans with a President 289 V-8 installed on special order. Cars so equipped could catch an astonished (and embarrassed) speeder without too much trouble.
For ’58, the Scotsman kept the previous years twin headlamp treatment (another cost saving) and eschewed the concurrent Champions (above) new tacked on tailfins. Prices got only a slight bump, with a starting MSRP that was still shy of $1800. The result was another banner year for the value leader, with sales higher than any other series in the Studebaker lineup. In fact, the Scotsman line outsold all other Studebaker models combined in what would come to be called the year of the “Eisenhower Recession”. Just under 21,000 cars were retailed in the Scotsman line that year.
That short, sharp economic downturn, combined with the success of the Rambler and the imports, formed the basis of much of Detroit’s near term thinking. Plans to market a compact, economy car were rushed to completion at Ford and GM. The market that Studebaker had uncovered with the Scotsman would be fully exploited by its larger competitors within a single design cycle.
But the one thing that the Scotsman had done was buy the time that Studebaker needed to develop the car that would allow the company to live and fight another day. In the early autumn of 1958, the Scotsman was eased out of production to make way for the model that would carry the company to the end of its days. A clever disguise of the same donor car as the Scotsman, the new model was also developed on a relative shoestring. That car would be the company’s last sales success. It would be called the Lark.
Wow man. I’m just imagining finding one of those special order cop cars today. It would make a fleet Crown Vic or Impala look like a Cadillac. (Which trans did the cop car get?)
I had a 58 Stude police model which had a 289 V8, 4 BBL, duals, positraction, 3 Spd with Overdrive and disc front brakes. It was much faster than the 352 Ford Cruisers, which also had OD but were much heavier.
Disk brakes in 1958, wow! I assume they used the disk brakes they used in the Avanti.
some of the police cars were equipped with Packard engines
Packard’s last engines were built in 1956 when their Detroit factory shut down, so maybe the ’58 Studebaker police cars used leftovers from two years earlier.
The Studebaker Police Package did not include disc brakes until 1963. If it was on a ’58 someone added it.
You brought back memories Jeff. That green champion is the image of the 1947 that was my first car. A very embarrassing experience. It was very shortly followed by a 1946 Chevy sedan which was quite a bit better but not really good. The Champion needed a running start to make the hill by the high school. At least the Chevy had no problem there. When I was able to buy my own cars I went to a 1953 Ford of the style pictured just after the champion. All of this in the 1959-61 time frame.
Dan, IIRC (and that is in question), the hawks had a four on the floor available by then. Probably most police depts opted for the cheaper three on the tree. The Dodge City PD opted for some studebaker V8 Larks with three on the tree. They were fast enough to catch and ticket my old Fords until I earned my way up to a 55 model with a 272 ohv v8.
Too much money and too little brains. Me, not studebaker.
A nice piece on an all-but-forgotten car. The Champion had been Studebaker’s one real success. It was always just a tad smaller than most other “regularly” sized low price cars. Coupled with that little 169 cubic inch 6, the car was always quite economical. It was also a fairly durable powerplant.
I am not sure that it is fair to tag Raymond Loewy with the 53 Stude sedans – his coupe was stunning, but the sedans were already well underway in another studio before management bought into the Starliner coupe. Loewy-style touches were added to the already-well-along sedans, and the results were not very good – either in styling or in quality. Studebaker never operated on much of a margin for error, and after the disasters of 1953 and 54, there was virtually no money to really change the cars, resulting in the banner year of 1955 passing Studebaker pretty much altogether.
But Studebaker got lucky and caught the wave of the recession of 1957-58. I cannot imagine that the Scotsman would have sold in any significant numbers had the economy not tanked. A rare lucky break for Studebaker. Today, I just look at these cars and shake my head. Can you imagine being the kid whose dad bought one of these? “Hey, everyone, look how poor (cheap) we are!” However, I guess the Scotsman buyer certainly would have had the last laugh over the guys who got Dauphines, Simcas, Anglias and the like. Keep them out of the salt, and they were decent cars.
Thinking it over, I guess if you were going to accept the inherant shortcomings of the 57-58 Stude, may as well save some money in the process. Because the more expensive models were really not all that much nicer.
I could see my dad bringing one of these home, if we were both about 30 years older. Growing up, we were always the only family on the block who bought the cheapo loss-leaders that didn’t come with radios, etc. The old man actually preferred getting cars without radios, because he could install a “better” radio from the Crutchfield catalog on his own for less money – and that radio was invariably a cheap piece of crap. Oddly, even though he was all about getting the cheapest Japanese family car on the lot, dad always had to have the dealer-installed floor mats, mud flaps and undercoating.
Unfortunately for him, they finally stopped selling Camrys and Accords with painted steel wheels and window cranks about 10 years ago. Fortunately for him, that means he thinks his current Camry LE is a luxury car.
Ha! From aBuick6 – funny story. My Dad had a 1961 Pontiac Catalina Safari wagon – sans radio. When I was smaller, the “radio” would be either a little tiny Yashica transistor (!) he toss on the dashboard – or – the detachable, battery powered half of a Motorola clock radio. Try singing “I Get Around” through your fist with wind rushing in the windows (no a/c for most of us in those days!).
Oddly enough, in early 1971, my Dad went to a junkyard and found a factory correct, tube Delco radio from a junked ’61 Pontiac Bonneville. Took the speaker too and had a Mom and Pop TV repair guy on 2nd Street in San Rafael install it. It actually sounded pretty good. Oldest sister was 16 at the time and loved her new driving freedom and the Pontiac with tube radio so much, that she was blasting KFRC 610 (AM!) to Creedence Clearwater Revival, or someone when she backed the Pontiac into a brand new Mercedes Benz. Ouch. Two months later, my Mother selected the Roto Hydra-Matic into the D R second gear range (she’d been mostly driving the ’65 Dodge 880 by this time) at a McDonald’s – thinking she was in reverse, and promptly went forward and crunched a McD’s picnic table.
A few months later, Pop traded the ’61 Pontiac on a ’71 Olds Custom Cruiser. Complete with five speakers. Unfortunately, still – an AM radio! At least it wasn’t a transistor thrown on the dash!
Great story. Your radio tale reminds me that when my Dad got his first Lincoln – a 70 Continental Mark III with leather and who knows what else, it only had an AM radio. This was strange even by 1970 standards, at least in that price class.
The radio delete must have been fairly common when your Pontiac was new. The 59 Plymouth Fury that I bought in 1979 was pretty nicely equipped, with V8, automatic, power steering & brakes, wheelcovers, the toilet seat trunk lid, and a little label on the dash where the radio would have been that said “fasten safety belts.”
Even nowadays I’m still looking for an AM-FM radio as an upgrade for my ’78 plymouth volare, as there are too few channels on AM in countryside. But looks like in mid and late ’70s, chrysler made a lot of AM only radios even some AM-CB radios. Where does FM go?
Same story here: all of our cars had no radio, including the non-stripper ’65 Coronet 440 wagon. But I installed an 8-track that I found somewhere; not a brilliant installation by this 16 year old.
I think my Dad finally went for an AM radio on his ’68 Dart stripper, since he realized that a radio wasn’t such bad company on his fairly long commute to the hospital.
And I picked up the habit to some extent: couldn’t bear the idea of whatever the factory AM/FM/cassette unit was going to cost for our first new car, a 1985 Jeep Cherokee. So I did the same thing FromaBuick6’s dad did: bought a crappy unit from Pep Boys or such, and suffered with it until it crapped out and had to instal another…
The Blaupunkt in my W124 was a revelation, and I finally got the message.
My dad was too cheap to order a radio with his stripper 1961 Chevrolet. Instead, he bought a little Hitachi radio so he could take it to work with him.
His 1965 Chevrolet had a radio, but it was used when he got it, and it had a radio, V-8 and Powerglide. His 1970 Pontiac had no radio (or power steering) and I still remember the “little radio” sitting up on the dash. Later, he gerry-rigged the radio from my uncle’s 1963 Meteor (which was wrecked), and it was not a good fit!
Now if the Scotsman had come with painted bumpers, grille and matte paint, it would really have been ahead of its time, and a harbinger of things to come.
I’m now picturing the car in the very first picture with all the chrome and bright-work painted body color. The only gleam would be the S on the hood and I’d replace the dog dishes with chrome baby moons and trim rings. That would be one bad custom mo-fo. Dig it… The anti-brougham.
You said it better than I could!
Or the property of a black-bumper Mennonite!
I had a ’51 Champion–mint green. Pretty basic car, although it did have two visors and a 2 speed auto!
I wonder how many of those interior painted cardboard panels are still in place.
I know some people will howl, but I see these as a great basis for a resto-rod treatment.
That 2 door wagon would be so cool with some 16″ 5-spoke wheels and an old-style Cadillac or Lincoln interior — pillow-tufted, leather-covered seats, big fold-down center armrest, tiltwheel, AC, etc. And maybe a modern powertrain, like a VW v6 TDI or Chrysler “hemi” with cylinder deactivation, and an 8 speed ZF automatic.
No, not a “street rod”, just a practical driver — a Curbside Classic, if you will… 🙂
“I know some people will howl, but I see these as a great basis for a resto-rod treatment.”
I’ve seen that. I have looked for one of these to buy and restore and it seems that a lot of them have been modded almost beyond recognition before I can get to them. The owners that I have spoken to say that because there are not a lot of rare trim and interior fittings and the exterior has large expanses of unadorned sheet metal, they are almost perfect for a customization.
I am building a 1958 Studebaker Scotsman 2 Door Station wagon now. I have a fresh 259 rebuilt, transmission rebuilt and the TT rearend in it.
It’s cause for a double-take when I see a goat-vomit green 1950 Champion sedan, which reminds me of so many I saw when I was a kid, with South African license plates. And the RWD two-toned Champion sedan, which is like no Studebaker I’ve ever seen.
I used to see a Scotsman now and then…boy, talk about Plain-Jane…the plain S in the center of the hood front is a nice touch though. The same body could be had as a 1957 or 1958 Packard sedan, hardtop, or station wagon; if you can find one nowadays you’ll see that while that’s not much of a Packard it certainly is a very deluxe Studebaker.
I’ll add that the HIV New York plate on the Scotsman sedan in the lead photo reminds me of the 1963 California plate I had; it had the HIV prefix and was a front plate that had lots of sand pocks. I sold it on ebay, and my description inferred that the plate might have a social disease. It sold pretty well.
They weren’t the same bodies as the Packard. The Packard had a longer wheel base to start and there is no body part that is shared with the Scotsman. They are indeed based on the same platform, but contrary to the myth, they aren’t the same car at all. Different doors, fenders, quarter panels, trunk and roof. They did share a windshield and cowl, but that’s it. Look at the picture, where do you see a Scotsmen? I don’t see any resemblance other than the windshield.
Yep, don’t see a Studebaker Scotsman here either, nothing shared with that car.
Excellent view of the other side of fifties American cars, the side that reacted against chrome-plated parade floats. That was a backlash that’s quite visible in the press of those years. Lots of talk about “keeping up with the Joneses” and conspicuous consumption.
Driving a Scotsman would certainly make a statement. Sackcloth and ashes on wheels.
For the record, the S-P merger was in 1954, when all four independents were coalescing in response to the price wars.
“For the record, the S-P merger was in 1954, when all four independents were coalescing in response to the price wars.”
Right-o. I type faster than I think sometimes. I even keep an S-P stock certificate hanging in my study from the merger.
Speaking of chrome plated parade floats, ever wondered what the plain jane Scotsman looked like in automotive drag? Here’s the same car in Packard Clipper guise from the same year (1957)
Good catch !
Wow, those last few Packard owners must have felt bad when they saw a Scotsman coming down the road! A sad end. Thanks!
Yes, much the way a Cimarron owner would feel upon encountering a Cavalier.
Or an Escalade owner seeing a Silverado WT.
Yep, the Packardbaker. Two years of that and management was begging for the line to be euthanized by the ’59 model year. Those were done primarily to keep the dealers from suing, as they’d had to put up some good money into upgrading their facilities for the ’55 and ’56 model years.
Kudos to Duncan McRae and Vince Gardner who took a sow’s ear and tried to make something stylish and competitive (sort of). Case in point: ’57 Packard Clipper. Stylists and builders raided the East Grand Avenue Packard parts bin and used a hodgepodge of ’56 Clipper parts to create the ’57. Considering they did it using the President Classic, the results didn’t turn out half bad. There was still a chance that an 11th hour bankrolling of the real ’57 Packards (and Studes as planned in late ’55/early ’56) might still transpire, so the result was the Packardbaker (much like the 2012 Lincoln line up).
Shame that James Nance was hoodwinked (and worse, the Packard board NOT asking for an audit) with the Studebaker takeover. Considering what Studebaker was up against after 1954, they did pull off some minor miracles. Credit Harold Churchill with moving ahead smartly with “Car X” as the Lark prototype was called. The Scotsman did well filling in the blanks, austere as it was. It appealed to economy car buyers you would’ve been like my long deceased Grandfolks/Great Aunties/Uncles in the Midwest who’d never buy “one if thim damn, furrin’ cars!”
I think I prefer the Scotsman to the Clipper all that chrome trim promotes rust in coastal areas but Studebakers are pretty rare here and there would have been no market for a stripper model against cheaper English and Australian 6 cylinder cars.
Every time some one does an article on the 50’s Independents, I am still astounded at the damage done by GM & Ford and their price war of the early 50’s.
Had they known that the oligopoly to follow and the near-hegemony of GM after that period would lead to a less competitive set of manufacturers, would they still have participated in it?
Not only the independants, but also Chrysler suffered from the price war of 1954 as well. Plymouth slipped from 3rd to 5rd place behind Buick and Oldsmobile. I guess the stodgy design of 1953-54 Mopars didn’t help either but it got a 2nd life in Australia as the Chrysler Royal. http://www.allpar.com/history/plymouth/1946-1959/54-plymouth-cars.html
We could wonder what if the design of the ’53 Studebaker was more coordinated between the 2-door and the 4-door models?
I think they would have. And, hell – it didn’t really make a less competitive industry so much as an international industry. The lame competition from Studebaker, Packard, Nash and Hudson and Willys, was replaced with adroit, nimble competitors from Germany, Japan, now Korea. Look at the offerings from Mitsubishi and from Isuzu in its last year; and compare them with the crude, dated 1982 AMC cars or 1966 Studebakers. The bar was raised much, much higher; even the rejected products were far batter than American offerings of the 1970s and earlier.
Industry should be, must be, survival of the fittest. Else you wind up with a protected, client-manufacturer; and that has not worked out in Britain, in France; in Yugoslavia, in India or Malaysia.
Another example: Std. Oil Trust was not so dangerous considering they had serious foreign competition from Royal Dutch/Shell, still a major player. If political leaders were worried about monopolies, all they had to do was lower tariffs for foreign competitors.
Wait a sec, that first Scotsman ad says the engine came with a Celeron timing gear! I had no idea Intel was in business that early. No wonder they were hot sellers, with such futuristic features.
Ha! Funny, I’m a computer guy but somehow that didn’t register when I read it. I guess my head’s in a totally different place here. That’s a good thing.
That (“Celeron”) means it DIDN’T have a timing chain; gear driven cams were somethng common in WW-I and the 1920s . . . . long outmoded by the fifties. Stude’s spin on giving a stylish, high-technology name for “we can’t afford to engineer and develop a proper, up-to-date valvetrain” . . .
Gear driven timing gears are much less prone to failure than chain or belt driven timing assemblies. Studebaker V8’s are famous for their toughness. I have had 5 timing chain\belt engines fail over the years from the belt or chain breaking. This is a almost never heard occurrence with Studebaker V8’s.
Gear driven timing gears are much less prone to failure than chain or belt
My dad managed to break one. My folks bought a 36ish Studebaker Dictator after the war. Dad said he knew the timing gear had a couple broken teeth, but it ran, so they drove it as is.
They were on a trip to northern Michigan when the gear broke in some podunk little town. The mechanic shook his head “a timing gear for a Studebaker?” He looked at the gear again and saw it was a Stewart Warner, so maybe Studebaker used the same gear as someone else? He started rummaging through his inventory, and found he did have the correct gear, so mom and dad made it home with the Dictator.
I’m a sucker for a stripper, even though most of the old cars that I have are loaded, I have had quirk for low option cars, I think it started when I was a kid, we had an Eldorado and a LeSabre as our household cars, both had all sorts of power windows and locks,seats, cruise,etc…my cousins father would practice the routine of buying a nice car for his wife, a Coupe de Ville at he time, and then he would drive some late model beater used car since he only worked about 5 miles away from home, one time he bought an ex-police unmarked 1977-1979 Malibu, with dog dish caps and a radio delete(it did have air, after all this was Florida) but I recall that it was the first car that I ever saw without a radio, as a kid I was intrigued by the big block off plate with “CHEVROLET” on it where the radio would normally go, I think this car also was the first “police package” car I had ever seen, so I was equally interested in the “certified” 125mph speedometer instead of the usual 85mph speedometer that most other cars had.
I either like over the top luxo and sports cars, or real simple ones. I really enjoyed my 1300 Beetle and Suzuki Samurai, I miss them. But I love my top line LS430.
The stripper Scotsman reminds me of my college days when a couple of friends asked what kind of car my family had. Answer: 1967 Chevy Bel Air six. They laughed, not because it was that old (4 years at the time) but because it wasn’t an Impala or Caprice!
And ours was pretty stripped — 3-on-the-tree, no power steering or power brakes, heater and AM radio, blackwall tires with dog-dish hubcaps. But the back windows of our 2-door did roll down! And for reasons known only to GM, the Bel Air for just that one year had the same taillights as the Impala.
It could be interesting to made a thread about the post 1965 Bel Air, while the 2-door sedan was dropped after the 1969 model year. Canadian Bel Air was still available in 2-door hardtop for 1970 in the Great White North from what I read at http://www.chevelles.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3189826&postcount=15
Didn’t the Biscayne was more stripped then the Bel Air during those model years?
You could get a bel air in Canada until at least the end of the ’77 model year. They were very sparsely trimmed and were normally police cars, taxis and fleet type cars. They were not quite as plain as the Scotsman though.
I think you could still get a Bel-Air in Canada until like 1981!
Yes, the Biscayne occupied the bottom rung of the full-size Chevrolet ladder in the 60s. It had less chrome trim than the Bel Air and cheaper-looking upholstery.
Cool that you could still get a Bel Air 2-door hardtop in Canada as late as 1970. Our last hardtop Bel Air in the US was the bubble top ’62.
Could’ve been worse – your family may have had the even plainer Biscayne (with NO outside trim and TWO tailights!)
Wow, the pics of the wagon look like a computer generated image made by mixing a ’56 Ford and ’56 Chevy wagon together and adding a ’58 Ford grille.
Wouldn’t it be great to have one of these painted the color of marinara sauce? Then you’d have a Stude tomato.
Better than the brown Stude prune.
Put a sour cream colored roof on a brown one for a Studebaked Potato!
The “Stude Tomato” is Ted Harbit’s ’62 Lark pure stock ’62 drag racer. He’s also driven the “Plain Brown Wrapper,” a ’64 Studebaker Challenger owned by George Krim. Challenger was the bottom trim level offered; however, this one ain’t got the base engine. IIRC, it had an R-4 dual-4 BBL bored out from from 289 to 304 with a hot cam (which was still stock, because Studebaker would let you order ANYTHING on ANY car).
My friends family had one for a while about 1965, two door white station wagon. Don’t remember much about it, too young to drive at the time. It got us to the beach in Santa Cruz, we were happy. Don’t think I ever saw another one, wish I had a stock one today!
My dad had a Scotsman 4 door in the late 60s. A total stripper, but it was damn reliable, got good gas mileage- in 33 cents per gallon days, and comparitively trouble free. He also said the car was ahead of its time cuz it gave everything you needed and nothing that you didn`t. He also had a `65 Cadillac De Ville 4 ddor with everything, but he let my mother drive that cuz she couldn`t use a maual shift.
Thanks for the great story on the “poor man’s Stude” – We have owned a ’58 Scotsman now for 17 years -it has a newer GM 350 V-8- auto- 2002 Caddy leather seats-its a great car- and yes, it still has the original cardboard door panels but they have been recovered with a black fabric…
Fantastic – you hit all my bells with that one !! A surprise at every traffic light – among other things – please take good care of her !!
IIRC for some time the Scotsman was sold with the driver’s side windshield wiper standard and the passenger’s side optional? Or, am I confusing that with the sun visor arrangement?
Not sure about the Stude, but Chevy had their Biscayne Fleet Special fror awhile in ’59-’61 which had a cigarette lighter delete, no nothing and ONE sun visor on the driver’s side only. Canada had a similar Pontiac Strato-Chief fleet leader.
I am a bit surprised that this write-up didn’t include another problem facing Studebaker Packard during this time. It was how the Federal Government used the Department of Defense to shift contracts from S-P towards GM, Ford and Chrysler. During WWII, all the independent auto makers enjoyed a war bonus in some way. After that war we see that these defense contracts pulled from the independent automakers, but increased for GM, Ford and Chrysler.
These defense contracts kept the independents in the fiscal black, so losing them was a severe blow to their bottom line. Additionally, being smaller manufacturers, their production was more concentrated towards the US military contracts. This impacted their abilities to be more flexible towards their auto products.
From 1953-1957, the US Secretary of Defense was Charles Wilson, who was appointed to that position while he was the CEO of General Motors. He was the second CEO from General Motors also named Charles Wilson, who served in a similar position under President Truman. Both men owned millions of dollars in GM stock, due to their previous careers at the top of GM. While both men focused dutifully on their work preparing the US for war production during WWII and the Cold War nuclear war threats, it was during the first term of the Eisenhower administration we see Defense reorganized and modernized. In the name of modernity and efficiencies, we see the Federal Government cut back dramatically in defense spending. This greatly impacted the small automobile independents. These Mr. Wilsons’ stock portfolios grew right along with the new US Defense contract-fed General Motors, uh, coincidentally.
The Big Three however did not see cuts in defense contracts. Instead, they gained increases to develop jet engines, nuclear age defense weaponry, and at the end of the Eisenhower years, NASA contracts for rockets, space exploration, satellite technologies as well as Air Force and Navy nuclear age weapons.
It is these underlying fiscal conditions, exacerbated by the 1953 recession, as well as the larger and more damaging 1958 recession that drove so many independent auto makers out of business by 1964.
So, while we focus on how these independents produced auto models during the 1950s, and focus on how well they stacked up with the competition, we also need to understand that most of these car companies weren’t auto-centric and most of them also depended upon their US Defense contracts to keep their bottom line profitable.
By recognizing how the Big Three could supplement their companies via defense contracts, we better understand how they could also flood the auto market with their auto products. The Big Three could do this financially and survive, thanks to a Defense Secretary named Wilson.
…how the Federal Government used the Department of Defense to shift contracts from S-P towards GM, Ford and Chrysler.
I have seen charges that the contract shift was to GM only, at the expense of Ford and Chrysler as well.
What Charlie Wilson did was stop the “second source” procurement policy. The second source policy was to have a second company producing an important item in case the prime contractor’s factory was destroyed. Like all DoD contracts, the second source contracts were cost plus, so the contractor was guaranteed a profit, no matter how high his costs were.
There was a major scandal about cost overruns on Kaiser’s second source C-119 contract. Even though the Kaiser built planes cost thousands of dollars more than the Fairchild built planes, Kaiser made a profit on them.
I wish I could find what the cost to the Air Force was for a GE built J-47, because I have the costs for the Packard built J-47s and it might be an interesting comparison. The Air Force paid some $20M to equip Packard’s plant to produce the engines. That equipment was pulled out, at Air Force expense, when the contract ended. Then, when Curtiss-Wright took over the Utica plant in the bailout, the Air Force handed C-W second source contracts to build P&W J-57s and overhaul the GE J-47s, and the Air Force coughed up another $25M to move jet engine equipment back into Utica, to duplicate facilities that already existed at GE and P&W.
Packard was primary contractor on a series of diesel engines for Navy minesweepers, but, according to a memo written by the Packard engineer who lead the design team for the engines to Curtiss-Wright management, the way Packard had engine production set up, the engines cost the Navy twice as much as they should have, yet Packard made a profit on the “cost plus” contract.
Then there was the end of the Korean war in June 53, which sharply reduced DoD’s need for equipment.
Wilson may have tipped some business in GM’s favor, but the procurement policies he inherited were staggeringly wasteful and ripe for reform.
Another thought on DoD “cost plus” contracts. All the WWII war work was also cost plus. All the automakers let costs, including labor costs, soar to maintain production.
After the war, most automakers took strikes to bring labor costs back in line. Studebaker would not take a strike, and that is how their postwar labor costs were so far out of line with other automakers: by some accounts, 18% higher pay rates with 20% lower productivity rates.
Finally, I haven’t commented on the Scotsman.
Cars didn’t last long during this era. So, cars which had flooded the auto market during 1953 and impacting the recession during that time, are needing to be replaced by 1957-1958, in which a more sharper and more severe recession rocked the auto industry, cutting sales by 40%. So, there was a market for a new car – but not for an expensive car as was predicted by Detroit’s marketers.
The Scotsman caught a wave in a depressed market, as did the VW Beetle and Rambler. Studebaker would have gotten an even bigger slice of the market had they produced the new Lark starting in 1957. With the Scotsman, Studebaker got lucky for a year. These new car buyers were hurting for new wheels but didn’t have the cash or credit for an Edsel, a Desoto, a Buick or a Mercury.
The Lark remained competitive until the Big Three offered newer, more modern products that topped Studebaker quality with attractive new styling and excitement.
Nice car ! .
” Studebaker – Ask the Man who owns one ! ” .
Pops always bought cheapo strippers , sadly never a Studie I can recall .
Certainly no radio , AC or slush box trannies ! .
My dad too. No Studes because it was ’70s/80s when I came along but I still think of FM radio and cloth seats as nice little luxury touches. And I share the disdain for slushboxes!
Cannot help but notice that the Studebaker in the first photo is wearing a plate in the HIV-series. Never have seen that before and I assume it is real, but I could be wrong.
I saw that, also. I wonder how that slipped through. Bet you can’t get a personalized plate with HIV on it.
Those plates were issued from 73-82 in that format and NY has two H counties.
They did a credible job on updating these cars from the ’53 -55s. Not in the same league, beauty-wise, but not bad looking in their own right. If you didn’t recognize the window frames as unaltered, you wouldn’t know for sure it was the same body (same with the early Larks). A very successful squaring at either end, although wagon’s “settee” rear bumper captured by overlong fins would show what ridiculous “lengths” S-P would go to make the car look more extedended in side view. The coupe’s greenhouse looks particularly good, and fits the overall design quite well.
The wagon greenhouse was a holdover from 54, when Studebakers had a shorter rear deck. The 56 facelift brought the longer rear, with a larger, more useable trunk, but the company was too cheap to make a new wagon greenhouse.
…Then, when they chopped off the fins for the lark wagon, you got an arguably better rear end than either of the predecessors, since it all fit together better. I would take a 2-door Lark or ’54 Conestoga any day, though with the V-8.
To further enlarge upon how the ’57-’58 four door station wagon came out with its ‘back step”. In tooling for that much-needed body for 1957, during the midst of their 1956 financial waterloo, the top shell stamping from the two door wagon had to be carried over as no funds were available for an appropriately lengthened stamping.
With the ’54-’55 two door wagon already fairly short, further updated with the ’56 squared-up quarters then diced-up with four doors on the 116.5wb W-body, it came out one ungainly-looking rig.
The four door wagon disappeared from the Lark line for 1959 but returned for 1960, this time re-engineered based on the longer Y-body, adding four more inches to rear doors…….as it should have been in the first place!
You wouldn’t dare call a miser’s special a Scotsman today!
Thing is, while Harold Churchill was doing his best to find a nitch where Studebaker could survive, the Board wasn’t interested in the car division. In spite of the success of the Scotsman and the early Lark, no money budgeted for a really up to date compact. By fall of 60 the Board was, again, talking about liquidating the auto division. Churchill was shoved aside and Egbert brought in to wind down the operation.
Problem was, Egbert fancied himself an auto enthusiast and sunk millions into halo cars, which failed, instead of building on the Lark’s initial momentum.
Here’s a couple numbers: from 47-48, 50-53 and again in 55 Studebaker sold more cars than Nash. By 58, more than twice as many Ramblers were hitting the road as Studebakers, and the gap widened from there.
In the early 60’s my dad had a Scotsman travel trailer. It was about 12-14 ft long, and I still remember the decal next to the name with a smiling little guy wearing a kilt. Needless to say, it was totally basic.
never heard of or seen the scotsman before today. surprising, because this car looks really happy with that big smile on its face. particularly in the splash pic for this article. the headlight/hood edge treatment really looks like someone was copying off chevy’s paper in art class. seems like they should have been able to sell a ton more of these.
It took me a minute to find an ad with the $1776 price (May 1957), but there it is:
The boffins in South Bend watched the market pioneers come and go in a sea of red ink while their low cost competitor could share lots of components with its big brothers,
That may be the nub of the issue right there. The Henry J, Aero and Jet were all clean sheet designs, produced in, by Ford/Chevy standards, small numbers. That forced large amortization charges per car for the R&D and tooling. According to the pundits, Nash never tried to sell the Rambler as a cheap car, and a portion of the market did accept it on that basis. When the others came out, they were positioned as cheap cars, and had everything you would expect of a cheap car, except the cheap price.
Studie, by cutting down their full size car, saved a fortune on R&D and tooling. Ironically, Dutch Darrin suggested to Kaiser that they produce a compact by cutting down the full size car he had designed for them, but Kaiser rejected the idea because management didn’t want to pay Darrin’s royalty on the design.
The Lark had another advantage, from Studebaker’s perspective. Studebakers had been particularly narrow, around 70-71″ for some time. The market was starting to expect “low priced, full sized” sedans to be significantly wider by the late 50s, but, as management discovered when they considered moving the 56 Packard tooling to South Bend, the existing Studebaker facilities could not accommodate a wider car without significant, and expensive, modification. 70-71″ width was perfectly fine for a compact however.
Studebaker could probably have introduced the Lark, or a cut down Champion, in 56 and done well, as the Henry J, Aero and Jet were all dead and buried by then, opening up that segment of the market.
Ah yes, back in the day…when I got out of high school in 1956 I had a decent job and one of our cars was a ’52 Champion…not a bad car, reliable and reasonably nice. The local Studebaker dealer in our small town was in the other end of our main Bank building….with a showroom barely big enough for one car – they had a ’56 Champion two door on the floor all dolled up with everything in the book. I really wanted that car – after awhile I realized no one else in town wanted it -the guys at work were jazzing me for looking at a Stude – but the car was really a looker ! After a couple of conversations, we got down to a price and a trade in on my 52 Bel Air hardtop – and this salesman showed me a new Scotsman in the back shop – I was shocked looking at it – no chrome, CARDBOARD door panels. vacuum wipers and a heater box hung under the dash – no thanks….and he wouldn’t get off that subject – it got so bad I never went in there again…but that new ’56 has always been on my mind! (I ended up with a ’57 Olds 88 2 dr sedan – never to look back !!) And the Olds was the same price as the ’56 ! Thanks for listening !
Cardboard door panels. I repeat: Cardboard door panels.
FUN FACT: Eleanor Roosevelt bought one of these, presumably to set an example for puritanical, self-flagellating frugality for the broad masses of the people.
The Studebaker Scotsman: the automobile industry’s answer to the hair shirt.
Look at it pragmatically, the Scotsman pre-empted the Falcon. A dirt cheap, six seater, six cylinder capable of good economy and “adequate” performance. Out of the new line of ’59 compacts from the big 3, only the Valiant had any semblance of performance from its much larger engine. the Falcon and Corvair were pretty much on a par with the Scotsman in the 0-60 stakes.
Ford must have kicked themselves that they hadn’t uncovered that market back in ’57.
I find something very appealing about these stripper studes, the look (kinda) of a ’50s sled but with economy good enough to use as a daily. Might have to do something about those brakes, though.
We had a 1958 Scotsman that was a former Wisconsin Highway patrol car. Ugly gray 2 door, spotlight, no radio, big Packard V-8, 3 on the tree, no OD, TT, heavy duty clutch, 4.55 rear end. That car was fast to about 90. I learned to drive in it, but my dad traded it for a 1959 Lark 6 cylinder before I got my license. A couple years later we ended up with a beautiful 1953 Commander Loewi Starliner Coupe. Great car.