The Studebaker Scotsman has already gotten a thorough CC treatment, so if you are not familiar with the full history of the Scotsman, I suggest you read the linked post. Unfortunately, that post had to make do with Googled photos and period advertisements, so I’ve been looking to augment this site with an actual example for a while. At the auction of famed Studebaker hoarder Ron Hackenberger last summer, I finally got to study a Scotsman in person, so lets take a closer look at the preferred ride of late 1950’s skinflint buyers.
So what did a Studebaker Scotsman buyer get for their $1,995, the lowest priced wagon available at time? For starters, you got only two doors. While other manufacturers were still selling two-door wagons, the body style was on its way out as the four-door wagon was in its ascendancy. If you wanted your Studebaker wagon with four doors, you had to step up to the Champion Deluxe or the even more expensive Commander wagon. You also got a three on the tree, the only transmission choice for the Scotsman. Shoppers looking for an automatic again had to step up to a higher model. Vacuum operated wipers were standard, although electric wipers were optional. You also got your choice of just five drab colors: Midnight Black, Parchment White, Glasgow Grey, Glen Green, or the Loch Blue of our featured car. All the colors were pretty much as dour and dreary as their names suggest.
It may be more accurate to describe what the Scotsman buyer didn’t get. For starters, you didn’t get a dome light or a passenger side sun visor. You also didn’t get outside mirrors (the fender mounted mirror on the feature car is an aftermarket unit). The Scotsman sedan had no load floor in the trunk – just a naked spare tire. Luckily, the Scotsman wagon at least got a load floor, given its anticipated hauling duties.
A heater was standard (not necessarily a given in vehicles of this era), although it was just a basic waterbox located in the passenger footwell, and not the integrated Climatizer heater used on most other Studebaker models. Also standard was was a “short” 4.10 rear axle. Advertisements claimed “up to 29 mpg”, but that was undoubtedly with overdrive. And if that gearing wasn’t short enough for you, you could bring that gearing all the way up to 4.56 with the optional overdrive. Beyond that, options were few, with a rear facing third row seat being the most notable available option.
But perhaps what stands out most about the Scotsman is how little of the car actually stands out. Other than the front and rear bumpers, the Scotsman is completely bereft of chrome trim. The taillamp surrounds (chromed on other Studebaker models) are painted silver.
The grille is just a flat sheet of perforated steel, again painted silver. The headlight bezels, like much of the rest of the trim, is painted body color. And one could have the bumpers painted instead of chrome too, for a small credit.
Buyers also got just about the plainest interior ever to grace a modern car. The seat covers were completely devoid of any quilting or tufting – just a vast expanse of flat vinyl. The door cards were literally just vinyl covered cardboard, and didn’t even include an armrest. It almost goes without saying, but there was no carpeting: just a rubber floor covering.
Under the hood, the themes of economy and thrift continue. The 185 cu. in. flat-head “Sweepstakes Six,” which can trace its origins back to the 1939 Champion, was the only available engine. Putting out all of 101 HP, at least it was understressed and had a decent reputation for reliability and economy.
At some point, a previous owner must have found this particular Scotsman a bit too austere, and attempted to perform some upgrades on the otherwise basic accommodations. In addition to the previously mentioned exterior mirror, An AM radio appears to have been sourced from a contemporary Studebaker (one was not available in the Scotsman, even as an option). The unevenly applied side trim was another “mod.” (the Scotsman had no side trim from the factory). Also, the original body-colored hubcaps appear to have been replaced with chromed units somewhere along the line, greatly improving the appearance.
If I had been alive in 1957 and you had told me that Studebaker was going to after a market below the Entry-Level three (Chevrolet, Ford, and Plymouth), I would have thought it was a foolish endeavor, on par with Homer Simpson’s quest to find a new meal between breakfast and brunch. Much to my surprise (and probably to more than a few at Studebaker-Packard), the Scotsman ended up being Studebaker’s best selling model in 1958. Of course that doesn’t say much for Studebaker’s other models, which were hardly attractive or competitive that year.
Studebaker’s discovery that there was a sizable untapped market for no-frills, basic transportation autos in the US did not go unnoticed by other manufacturers. The imports had been selling to that segment of the market successfully for some years already, although they were generally nicely trimmed. By 1958, imports were closing in on 10% of the market. And Rambler was also doing well during this period. And of course the Big Three were developing their compacts for 1960.
The success of the Scotsman was critical in Studebaker’s decision to ditch their attempts at competing against the Big Three’s big cars, and created the compact Lark for 1959, which was of course just a shortened Studebaker body. The Lark was a big hit in 1959, but by 1960 there was increasing competition from the Big Three, so within a couple of years, Studebaker started pushing the Lark upmarket again, as the low end and compact market was over saturated. Studebaker’s attempt at finding success at the bottom of the market was fairly short-lived.
Given its lack of mechanical complexity and proven underpinnings, these Scotsman models likely provided years of trouble-free, low-cost operation for their owners, exactly what this previously undeserved market was looking for. Unfortunately, Studebaker’s marketers were never able to spin simplicity and frugality into lasting marketing gold.
This example ended up selling at auction for $1,925, just a few dollars less than what it sold for when new (not adjusted for inflation, of course). Still frugal after all these years!
This is a dream car of mine. I love how basic it all is! If I were to ever get a small trailer to travel with, this is just the vehicle I’d want to do it.
I sort of wish the original hubcaps were on this example.
The ones on it aren’t original?
The original hubcaps were painted body color, so for this car they would have been blue to match the body.
In 1969, my first car was a totally stock ’58 Scotsman wagon. I paid $75.00 for it, and drove it for a couple of years. It was just as you described here, with a couple of additional interesting details I can add. The speedometer projected above the steel dashboard in its own little nacelle, and consisted of a rotating drum with the numbers on it, viewed through a convex lens. The back seat was nothing more than a wooden plank with about an inch of foam rubber on it, covered with vinyl. At speeds over about 60 mph the front end would become extremely light, and steering control would vanish. I could turn the steering wheel from side to side without veering even slightly from a straight course because the front tires were barely in contact with the pavement. As soon as I let off the gas and started to slow down, the front end would settle again and steering would return. It was an interesting car.
Another car I’d *never* heard of before joining on at CC. A related issue is how long, in American marketing, the “Scotch = thrifty” association was a thing.
A quick newspaper search turned up this March 1958 Studebaker contest:
The next example I can think of are the Scots plaid rocker covers on GMC V6s in the 60s.
Second prize – two Scotsmans? 🙂
Good one, JP. 🙂
Here in Minnesota we had a chain of hotels that were called Thrifty Scot.
Further south is the Scottish Inn chain
I guess the Scots don’t have as good a union as another group known for thriftiness, so they wound up with the job. 🙂
Also, Rambler’s “Flying Scot” engines
When my kids were young …. early 1990’s … our Credit Union had a kids’ savings plan called “Scotty Savers”. And well into my adulthood, Safeway’s low-end store brand of foods was “Scotch Treat”. What’s more interesting to me than the car itself in a way, is the fact that the ad posted by George Ferencz doesn’t hide the Packard part of the corporate name. Talk about cheapening a once-great brand.
Studebaker sold about 21,000 of these poverty-spec specials in 1958, but their overall volume, which had been dropping for years, dropped again to about 62k units. They nearly expired then and there. The following year the Lark was a runaway success with about 133k units being sold. It was also much more nicely styled and better finished inside.
Turns out poverty-spec wasn’t where it was at in the late 1950s!
For unfathomed reasons, I really like it. Perhaps it’s cultural. There’s a lesson here for all you sweetly indulged Americans. Allow me to explain.
See, the car doesn’t really seem a stripper to me.
In 1958, a Holden Standard Wagon had no side trims, no armrests, no heater, no radio, vacuum wipers, no washers, no mirror, no (to me) identifiable seat pattern, rubber floor covering, no optional overdrive, and no third seat option. It did have plastic covered jute for the wagon floor (!), and chrome bumpers and wheelcaps. It had only 132 C.I., and 70 bhp, though admittedly a modern ohv job which went well for the times.
It was a top seller. For years and years, right up into the ’80’s, Aussie cars were very basically equipped. My brother had a ’74 HQ Holden that had a heater, external mirror, maybe synchro on first, and otherwise, little more than a base ’58 model (including unassisted drums). Airconditioning? Powered steering? Or brakes? Power windows? Seats? Why, these were exotic options either unavailable, or if so, practically never ordered. V8’s were unavailable, then later a small minority. Even automatics took till the late ’70’s to be the commoner order.
As a direct result, these often great-looking GM cars from right across that period were often horrible to be in, and with wheezy sixes, not much fun to drive either. I don’t really know why why we endured with this, perhaps some English-derived rectitude, perhaps just relief that the family car wasn’t a squishy, unsuited, underpowered, unreliable English car as it had been for years earlier (cars of such austerity that I swear cardboard seats were optional).
The moral is, don’t complain to me about the cars of your yore in America. It could be worse. And here, it was.
We all drove Scotsmans!
Perhaps it all has to do with our Puritanical origins as a country, always fighting the devil on our shoulder whispering for us to fall prey to the lustful. We, as a country, always claim to want the basic, the base, the pure, the bereft of adornment, but when we open our purse-strings, we tend to actually buy the overloaded, the gaudy, the oversized, anything we consider ne plus ultra.
People claim that they want basic transportation (me included), but one quickly tires of driving a stripped model daily. One hot commute, sans air conditioning, on thinly padded seats, quickly makes one wish for something more plush.
Ooh, I do like that answer!
And yeah, I did far, far too many hot commutes in a hot country sans a/c (or armrests, or speed, or, at times, a sense of hope) whilst developing permanent GM-branded burns from the vile vinyl they were STILL fitting to base Holdens as late as ’85, to find it character building.
I admire the unearthly devotion of a silent Trappist monk – but I ain’t about to join them.
Such poverty spec did still exist, I bought cheap at auction a 90 Toyota Corona wagon (van in Toyota model speak) bare bones basic vinyl seats no armrests plastic floor mats the only concession for some poor sod stuck in Tokyo traffic was AC and a fridge in the bottom of the centre stack it had a non turbo diesel engine and automatic trans no doubt also to suit gridlock stop and go traffic, at the time it kinda reminded me of Holdens of yore with their bare bones interior and engines cloned from prewar Vauxhalls.
This site introduced me to phrases like “poverty spec”, the hilarious “penalty box”, and the notion that ordering straight six and 3 on the tree when V8 and automatic were available signified some lack of moral rectitude.
It’s only in the late 90s that “poverty spec” cars seemed to vanish from British roads, which I attributed to a generational shift and the fact that so many cars are ex fleet or “pre-registered” so some people didn’t get a choice. My dad’s brand new 2000 Peugeot 206 was available with sunroof or A/C – “no, thank you” wasn’t an option.
Dacia seem to be re-popularizing Scotsman trim – they’re the first new cars I’ve seen for years with uncovered steel wheels, and I suspect you can get them with crank windows.
“It’s only in the late 90s that “poverty spec” cars seemed to vanish from British roads”
American ones too. My “poverty spec” ’12 Kia Sedona has power windows, front and rear a/c and a stereo with Bluetooth and built in satellite radio. But I gamely make do with manual rear flipper windows and silver plastic wheelcovers.
Ford sells the lowest trim level of the Fiesta with crank down windows, but A/C is standard IIRC.
Nowadays, poverty spec means no cruise control (the lowest trim level of the Fiesta AND Focus), no tilt steering, no remote start and/or push-button starting, and often no built in navigation software/system.
I learned to drive on cars with no power steering or power brakes and even no factory radio. I am not even sure there was a driver side outside rear view mirror.
I owned a 1992 Honda that had vinyl seat upholstery and a 97 Honda that still had manual steering (the last year ANY Honda product sold in the USA lacked power steering.)
And being a rare American who actually likes manual transmissions, the last time I was shopping for a used car at least, it seemed like the only vehicles you ever find manual transmissions on anymore are either the “sport” trim, or the “poverty spec” version.
Our 2015 Golf TSI would qualify as “poverty spec” I suppose, as it’s the base Golf sold here in the US but it’s amazingly well-equipped. However it does have vinyl seats, make that “leatherette”. And they’re adjustable in every direction, but manually.
I’d argue that all the options you listed ( power seats aside) were available in the HQ range. They’re all listed in the brochures. I worked for a Holden dealership in the late 70s, and saw plenty of optioned up HQs.
At the start of the seventies, your typical Aussie would go for the middle trim level, biggest six, and maybe an automatic. You might go for an outside mirror (before they became law), a heater (if it wasn’t standard) or a weather shield or sunvisor, but for most people that seemed to be enough. The brochures had heaps of options, and road test cars would often be Kingswoods optioned up beyond the price of a Premier, and magazines would often comment on that. You could have a wonderfully personalised car, but it still looked like that middle-trim model, no matter how many options you threw at it.
Definitely a case for Caveat Emptor!
I beg to differ. Other than the One Tonner, and the Dodge (Valiant) utes, we got chrome hubcaps. And I’ve seen plenty of optioned Holdens. Yes, there were plenty of unoptioned cars, but to assume that we all drove Scotsmans (Scotsmen?) is wrong.
Scotty! These are really fascinating cars. A couple of other ways these differed from the basic Champion was that they stuck with the single-headlight front fenders of the 1957 cars. Other 58 Studes got the headlight pods that would accommodate either single or dual sealed beams. But as only Studebaker could, the basic fender was changed from 1957 to eliminate the flipper vents behind the front wheels. The rear also made do without the fins on the rest of the 58s.
Also these cars kept the 1956-57 dash design, except that gauges for amps and oil pressure were replaced by idiot lights.
In all, if you could take the poverty-spec trim, these may have been the best looking cars Studebaker built in 1958, both inside and out.
As for this particular car, I doubt that this is the original interior. The literature depicts a seat with a contrasting color insert (that was likely one color combo that would go with all of the drab colors offered). This looks like a modern cheap re-upholstery job to me.
You might be right, JP. I wondered about the zebra-pattern piping on the seat covers, which seemed a little out of place. Even with color inserts, the interiors were still spartan by 50’s standards, let alone modern standards.
I’d alway thought the Scotsman had painted bumpers, but maybe that’s because of looking at ads like the one above rather than the actual car.
A fascinating find. I really wish I could have seen the Hackenberger collection in person!
“…it almost goes without saying, but there was no carpeting just a rubber floor covering.”
My memory may be faulty, but I seem to remember that the 1960 Ford Country Sedan our family owned also had rubber instead of carpeting covering the floors.
Interesting that one of the “features” of this car was color-keyed hubcaps in that the 70s would see many luxury models from Ford and GM sporting color keyed hubcaps. Though, to be honest, it seems like it would have been even less expensive for Studebaker and their customers if they had gone to white or light grey hubcaps for all Scotsman cars, no matter the body color.
And I can’t imagine anyone wanting such a plain car instead of a lightly used older ANY CAR. But then, I tend to forget many cars back then we not well maintained and so would be poor used cars.
I pondered this myself as I was writing this article. Wouldn’t a used car be a better choice?
But recall that cars did not last nearly as long in the 1950’s. One-year warranties were the norm, and cars started rusting almost as soon as they left the showroom. Many were close to used up by the time they hit 3 or 4 years old. Going more than 100,000 miles was enough of a rarity that most cars didn’t have six-digit odometers until the 1980’s!
My British parents who remember Allegros with wheels falling off etc, always bought new
basic cars, financed at high interest rates and replaced every 3 years or so.
Our new family car in 1988 was a Ford Fiesta. It had no head restraints, no radio, crank windows, only one door mirror, and they paid extra for a heated rear screen and load area cover. It was a Bonus special edition which meant you could get black or silver paint at no extra cost (normally 120/140 quid) and white plastic wheel covers instead of bare steelies.
They paid 5300 GBP (not to mention thousands in interest on top) which translates to about $18,500 in 2018 US dollars, and that’s with a very weak pound currently.
One day I’ll find a NZ post office tender Hillman Minx, my car is as basic as it gets inside but it has carpet and bright trim out side, the postoffice model was stripped of all this to get the cost down, they are quite rare the only adornment was chrome bumpers and hubcaps, no two tone paint they were stripped almost to this Scotsman grade, very rare cars now.
You make a really good point about used cars before about 1980. Easy to take today’s long-lived cars for granted. Back in the fifties and sixties it was uncommon to keep a new car longer than five years, it was pretty well shot by then.
Yes, the only people in my experience who bought used cars in the 60s-70s was those who couldn’t afford a new car or genuine skinflints. For almost everyone else “a used car is just buying someone else’s problems” as I often heard it said.
Tell that to Asian and African taxi drivers still driving Peugeot 504s and 505s around. The bodies may not have been so robust, but unlike today the mechanicals would last forever. Wonder how many contemporary diesel turbos will be around in 20/30 years time.
Rubber floor covering (with no carpet) remained a thing into at least the 70s. A good friend’s 74 Dodge Charger “coupe” was a zero-option car that sported those rubber mat floors (to go along with the slant six and the three on the tree transmission).
As I think about it, another friend’s family bought a new 1976 Ford Custom Club Wagon (the middle trim level). It too came with rubber mat floors instead of carpet, although it was at least color-keyed and sported a finish that made it at least look like they were trying for some style. I was amazed that you had to go all the way to the Chateau trim to get the carpet.
I rode around in a base Club Wagon back in the day from around that time. It made the Scotsman seem luxurious by comparison. There wasn’t even a rubber mat; the floor looked like that of a pickup bed, one without a liner. There was no headliner except over the driver and front passenger. There were no door panels or side panels; just painted metal framework; you could easily see the exterior panels through the holes. Basically it was a cargo van with windows and bench seats.
Yes, the people who bought the new 76 replaced one like you describe. It was a 1969 model with a six, a three speed stick and nothing but metal inside. They got over 200K miles out if it (including a couple of trips to Alaska from the midwestern U.S.), which was an unheard of figure back then. I had not thought of that one in the context of the Scotsman, but you are exactly right.
Our 1960 and 1963 Ford Falcons both had rubber mats instead of carpeting. On the subject of durability, both my Dad’s 1955 Buick Super Riviera sedan and his 1958 Buick Super Riviera hardtop sedan had seriously pitted bumper chrome after two winter seasons. Also remember that, before inner wheel-well liners became common, front fender tops rusted through after several winters of salt exposure. Body integrity and paint quality have done much to contribute to the longevity of today’s cars, which makes them appealing on the used car market. I think that the frequent styling changes of the fifties, coupled with the “keeping-up-with-the-Joneses” ethos, did a lot to make people forgive the lack of durability evident in new cars of the period. Rather than complain about rust and other quality problems, you exploited them as an excuse to purchase the new-and-improved car that would be the envy of your neighborhood.
The truth is that the Scotsman was not really all that different than the basic trim versions of the Big Three cars. The only real difference was that they didn’t have painted hub caps and grilles. But as far as the lack of bright exterior trim and interior features, they were essentially identical. And the Big Three cars did not come with any heater as standard equipment; strictly optional.
This was really just Studebaker taking advantage of their recently lowered overhead costs to allow them to compete with the strippers from the Big Three. Up to this point, Studebakers had always been more expensive than the Big Three, and therefore they couldn’t compete on price. The actual reduced content on the Scotsman probably didn’t save Studebaker all that much, but their new labor agreement sure did.
Heaters were optional on cars here well into the mid 60s Australian design rules mandated forced air demisting but not actual heat in the mid 60s.
This was really just Studebaker taking advantage of their recently lowered overhead costs to allow them to compete with the strippers from the Big Three. Up to this point, Studebakers had always been more expensive than the Big Three, and therefore they couldn’t compete on price.
Yup. For years, Paul Hoffman would give the workers whatever they wanted, rather than risk a strike to get to more competitive rates and productivity. The result was Studebaker was paying about 20% more for productivity about 20% lower than the big three.
The 54 price war slaughtered Studebaker. Hoffman and Vance called an all hands meeting at the Notre Dame football stadium in August 54 and stated their case, that Studebaker would go out of business if the workers didn’t agree to more competitive pay rates. The head of the UAW local sold the rank and file on the pay cut, but there was plenty of resentment and he was replaced at the next election.
That left the issue of productivity.
Then the Packard crew rolled into town, with the Detroit model of adversarial labor relations in mind, rather than the cooperative model Studebaker had had for years. Nance had a goal of (numbers from memory. rather than digging out the source material) cutting the man hours to build a car from 140 to 120, and Ray Powers started ramming the productivity decree down the worker’s throats, which led to several strikes.
After the Packard crew packed it’s trash and left town in 56, Harold Churchill became President of the company. Churchill was a Studebaker lifer having started in the old EMF plant in Detroit in the 20s, and he respected the “Studebaker way” of labor relations. Churchill got the assembly labor down to 96 hrs, building essentially the same car that had taken 140 a few years before, and did it without all the strife the Packard honchos caused.
Another problem was that Studebaker didn’t sufficiently modernize its South Bend facilities after World War II. Around 1949 or 1950 Vance did push for more investment in the plant, but the Board of Directors vetoed that idea and instead opted for higher dividends. The plant became a bigger handicap as the 1950s progressed.
By the early 1960s, the restrictions posed by the outdated plant were a huge obstacle for the company, but Studebaker would never generate enough money to sufficiently modernize it.
The out-of-control labor cost and low productivity are frequently overlooked when discussing Studebaker’s troubles. In “Studebaker: The Postwar Years by Richard Langworth, the uncompetitive result showed up in the prices, on page 70: “Bob Bourke recalls an interesting exercise around this time by Studebaker Engineering: “They priced out a Commander Starliner using General Motors costing parameters. I found that Chevrolet could have built it to sell for around $2,000 if they wanted to – about $500 less than we were selling it for”
Hoffman and Vance prided themselves on promoting Studebaker as “The friendliest factory in the business”, on never having taken an official strike, though wildcat walkouts did occur frequently. Not being willing to fight out the labor agreement to keep parity with industry wages and productivity, they doomed the company.
The complacency of Studebaker management after World War II is striking. Vance and Hoffman did have an inkling that Studebaker’s labor costs and productivity levels were out of line, but seemed to believe that they could “make it up on volume.”
The problem was that they viewed the volume and market share of 1950-51 as the “new normal.”
They never considered that Studebaker’s market share and total sales had been inflated by the postwar seller’s market, and that once the demand for new vehicles had been satiated, Studebaker would have to fight for sales. Fighting for sales in a fully competitive market would mean being able to discount the price (a fact that would be brutally brought home during the 1953-54 sales war between Chevrolet and Ford).
The only leader of an independent automaker who understood this was George Mason of Nash.
And the Scotsman’s decontenting was attention-getting in an era of uniformly ever-flashier cars, just in time for a market downturn and consumer backlash.
Summary of owners’ thoughts (Popular Mechanics)–pretty admirable brand loyalty:
Notice that 70% of buyers traded-in something besides a Studebaker!?!? Of course they might have bought their prior cars used.
JPC, I realize “loyalty” wasn’t the best word. What caught my eye was the percentage intending to buy another Studebaker next time around (as opposed to what they’d traded in). FWIW, one more bit of data from same source:
7% Speedometer Error!?!
That seems excessive, even for the 1950’s.
I’m sure someone here can tell us how off, on average, speedometers were in the ’50s
Also notice that almost 20% traded something other than a Stude, GM, Ford or Chrysler product. That would be a Nash/Rambler, Hudson, Willys or Kaiser. Independent owners liked to stay independent!
The Scotsman was a perfect fit for business and fleet buyers. The two-door wagon was good for carpenters and TV repairmen, and the austerity told customers that this business didn’t waste money on frills.
I suspect it sold well partly because it wasn’t new. All the Innovative Disruptive ’58s were HORRIBLE, while most ’57s had been attractive. The Scotsman avoided the tacked-on quadpods and fins, retaining the decent ’57 look.
Rambler Americans sold well for the same reason.
I remember when these were new in the rust belt. Within a winter or two, the painted wheel covers would rust out, and flap in the breeze. Easily fixed as used wheel covers in 15 inch were plentiful.
Did the Scotsman not change from 15″ to 14″ wheels in 1958 like other Studes did? (oddly, they went back to 15″ a year later for the Lark)
Looking at the top picture, I just noticed a hidden advantage. I’d always been bothered by the strangely protruding fins and bumper on the ’57 to ’58 wagons. In fact they would have saved a bit of labor for a carpenter or plumber. You could put the tailgate down and load pipes and boards out to the end of the tailgate without exceeding the ‘footprint’ of the car. Less chance of falling out, less need for a red flag.
I’d always wondered too about the protruding fins and bumper on the 57-8 Stude wagons too. The 55-56 wagons had fenders that only extended to the tailgate. The 57-58’s had those awkward protrusions that made the back end of the car look really bizarre. I guess it would have cost to much to lengthen the cargo area to match the longer fenders.
Not really a fan of hot rod type cars but I must say this one looks pretty fine!
As a kid I thought that shelf, exposing that Studebaker was selling an old car dressed up in extended rear fenders and too cheap to make a station wagon body to match, was really a pathetic embarrassment.
The controlling factor when the 1957 station wagons were tooled was the top shell tooling which was carried over from the two door 1954-’56 two door wagons. It was deemed too costly to create another die set for a longer top shell which would have added to the cargo area cubic volume available when the rear over hang was lengthened during the 1956 sedans restyle. Trying to make virtue out of necessity, rear splash pan ‘step’ was cited to make loading the roof rack easier.
You’re gonna hate me…
But I see a car like this and think…HOT ROD.
It’s light, it’s a wagon, and I imagine with any sort of a modern drivetrain – hilariously quick. Modernizing, such as suspension or disc brakes, could be easily hidden, with the wider tires and stance (but no more than a two-inch drop) being the only giveaways.
Penalty box becomes a guilty pleasure.
Google Scotsman Wagon and you will see that you are not alone – darn near every one of them has been modded. There is one with side trim similar to that on a 56 Bel Air.
THis is a deceptively charming car. Having seen one at the Studebaker Museum, one can’t help but gaze at it a little longer than normal.
Although this does lead me to a question: What is the definition of an “unstressed” engine? I’ve seen it used a number of times, especially toward large(r) cars with a straight six, and, while I’m not picking on Tom in this case, I always have to ask “how so?” A 101 hp engine tugging a 3,000 pound (and likely more) car, and a wagon that will frequently be loaded to some degree, doesn’t come across as unstressed. Granted gearing is quite low on these but that leads to extra revs at speed which, well, stresses the engine.
Yes, there have been cars with a worse power-to-weight ratio but seeing an engine with a large load being described as “unstressed” puzzles me.
No, I’m not advocating this should have had the highest powered engine available, although that would have been fun to drive and it would have been a lot less stressed than that poor six is here.
I had somewhat the same reaction to “understressed” engine. I suppose he means that by the engine developing only 101 hp, it’s not a highly-strung high performance engine.
I rather suspect most folks who bought a Scotsman in the first place tended to drive them rather gently and not push them very hard. But your point is relevant; these little Studebaker sixes had to work a bit harder than the larger sixes in the Big Three cars. Fortunately, they were pretty rugged, but still inevitably wore out.
Correct. “Understressed” as I’ve seen it used is usually verbal shorthand for low specific output (i.e. low HP per cubic inch). The assumption that is being made here is that an engine with low power output relative to its displacement is somehow being “underutilized” and therefore should last longer.
This is an old adage that sounds just plausible enough to be true, (and that I included half jokingly) but reality is a lot more complex when you include things like driving style, maintenance, workload, etc.
Unstressed was the case for most of these small 185.6 ci 101 hp L-heads except in the rarest Scotsman which was 1958 Econ-O-Miler taxi. Tipping the scales at 3030 versus 2740 lbs. for the regular four door Scotsman, its a good thing city traffic moved slowly. Built on the 120.5″ wheelbase Y-Body of the President and Packard sedans to provide the extra room, only 1,118 were sold. After rigorous taxi service its unlikely any of these survive, an extinct model unless one turns up.
One of the (few) benefits of the “Malaise Era” was seriously understressed engines. When you’re only asking a 350 Chevy to put out 145hp, it becomes very durable.
A lot of those 70’s V-8s found homes in all manner of hot rods. Change the cam, add a 4-barrel intake and some headers, and those engines woke right up.
“understressed” my big toe! My dad had a 51 Champion with that long stroke six, three on the tree and OD.
It was OK putzing around town, but got it’s guts run out when he started slamming it down the newly constructed I-94 at 65….actually, as the speedo was broken in the Champ, he didn’t really know how fast he was going. He got a speeding ticket on 94 from a Sheriff that said he clocked the old Champ doing 75.
Broadly, I question the entire “understressed” thing as putting a weak engine in a car guarantees the engine is going to get the guts wrung out of it just trying to keep up with traffic, because it’s going to spend more time in lower gears turning greater RPM.
“Deceptively charming” is a great way to describe the Scotsman. It was actually quite a nice effort, especially for Studebaker. All things considered, if they had, somehow, sold in 1960 Ford Falcon numbers, I can easily see the Scotsman being the choice of today’s hipsters instead of the Ford.
But it was all for not. As was also said, the idea of a bare-bones strippo was nothing new; the Big 3 had been doing it for years. The problem was there wasn’t a whole lot of profit in those kinds of cars, particularly for a small independent like Studebaker. But it certainly did help keep the doors open, even to the extent of being the primary reason they were able to stay afloat to bring out the Lark.
In fact, considering how well the Scotsman sold (for Studebaker, anyway), I was wondering if it might have been better if Studebaker had actually foregone the Lark and stuck with the Scotsman. Probably not. Even though the Lark’s moment in the sun was short-lived, well, I don’t think continuing production of the Scotsman, instead, would have made any difference in the long run, at all.
In fact, considering how well the Scotsman sold (for Studebaker, anyway), I was wondering if it might have been better if Studebaker had actually foregone the Lark and stuck with the Scotsman.
While the Scotsman probably added some sales at the margin, many of the Scotsman sales probably came at the expense of the Champion.
56 Champion sales, not counting the low roofed coupes: 21617
57 Champion: 15240
57 Scotsman: 9348
57 total 24588
58 Champion: 7763
58 Scotsman 20872
58 total 28635
59 Lark: 129950
A Lark could be pretty austere inside too. My dad’s 60 had rubber floor mats, a painted steel dash and knockouts where the radio and lighter would have gone. I don’t recall if the inside door panels were vinyl covered or painted cardboard. The shelf at the base of the rear window was certainly painted cardboard, which was normal for the early 60s. The upholstery was a woven nylon of some sort. The instrument cluster in the Lark always amused me as there was only one indicator light for both turn signals.
Unlike the Scotsman, the Lark was actually a pretty nicely trimmed car. If the buyer jumped to the Regal trim, the car was actually very nicely trimmed with a padded dash and very high quality upholstery. But even the basic Lark was a much, much nicer place to spend time than any Scotsman.
Interesting – the Scotsman didn’t even get the revised body of the other ’58 Studebakers, including the wagons. Here’s the regular ’58 Stude wagon with its round lights and tailfins, not to mention the front headlight pods. Makes me wonder whether the company really saved any money making all these variations.
There were four 1958 Champion Deluxe four door station wagons with the six cylinder engine built for export. Other than the trim level, they’d be what a Scotsman four door wagon would have been.
And of course it isn’t really a “revised body” at all but just the ’57 body with stick-on fins to match the stick-on headlight pods in front. A thin strip of chrome hides the seams, most noticeable on the rear doors and on the insides of the fins near the top.
The significance of the Scotsman doesn’t become apparent to the survival of struggling S-P until one looks at the percentages of total production they returned. From the Special Interest Autos #81, June 1984 driveReport on a ’58 Scotsman, introduced in June 1957, Scotsmans accounted for 17% of total 1957 sedan and wagon sales. For 1958, at 20,872, Scotsmans were 46.3% of total 1958 sedan and wagon sales. Without these bare-bones models, S-P would have expired before they were able to get the Lark to market.
Scotsmans accounted for 17% of total 1957 sedan and wagon sales. For 1958, at 20,872, Scotsmans were 46.3% of total 1958 sedan and wagon sales.
I figure that shows just how uncompetitive Studebakers were by the late 50s. As the Lark showed, the 53-58 Studebakers offered the interior space of a compact and the sub 200 cubic inch 6 of a compact, with a lot of extra exterior sheetmetal tacked on to make them look like a full sized car. If I could jump into the Wayback machine, I would tell whoever answered the phone: Vance, Hoffman, Nance, Powers, whoever, to take the Sawzall to the car in 56 and Larkify the outside of the Champion to fit the interior and the engine, rather than pretending they were competitive with Ford, Chevy and Plymouth.
This Scotsman was shot in the basement of the Studebaker museum.
Steve, You point out correctly something largely overlooked when discussions of how the Lark was designed: while truncating the car to a compact length it was unnecessary for them to narrow it as well. It was already there! This less-than-industry-standard width for their full-sized cars goes back to tooling decisions on the new 1947 series.
While their pre-war Commanders and Presidents were industry consistent OAW, the pre-war bodies, without front clip and rear fenders, were the width retained for the 1947 envelop body. The construction of the body plant has been cited as the reason wider body shells could not be accommodated later when they were trying to pretend their cars were ‘full-sized’. In truth, every car they built from 1947 to the end was essentially based on the Champion-sized, stretched to compete with full-sized Big Three models. It worked for a while.
The construction of the body plant has been cited as the reason wider body shells could not be accommodated later when they were trying to pretend their cars were ‘full-sized’.
Building 84 was appallingly inefficient. When Churchill took over as President, he sent out notices inviting anyone and everyone to submit ideas that could cut costs. One idea they implemented was to extend the body line on one floor of 84 out onto the roof of “a neighboring building” as the book says, so could have been 113 or 112, which eliminated 1 elevator ride for the bodies. That saved a small fortune.
There is an alternate reality where, instead of using Chippewa for the low volume trucks, it is set up as a modern, integrated, body assembly and paint, and final assembly plant for the passenger cars. Chippewa is larger than the Wayne, Mi plant that Ford opened for Lincoln in 53.
The Wayne plant could produce 380 cars in an 8 hour shift. 2 shifts working 5 days/wk/48 wks/year would produce 182,400 cars/yr with no overtime. That 182k+ volume would satisfy Studebaker’s needs every year except 50 and 51. Bring the new plant on line for 49, with the idea that the old plant would be the low volume trucks and swing car production, then phase out the old downtown body and assembly plants when volume fell in 52, and Studebaker’s production is running at a healthy, cost effective, pace.
Well, the tailfins are at least stylish, 😉
Seeing these everywhere must have been deflating for the handful of people who spent big bucks on a 1958 “Packard”….
Also, that’s a seriously weird speedometer.
Also, that’s a seriously weird speedometer.
Rotating drum speedos were quite common in the 20s and 30s. Give Studebaker credit for being ahead of it’s time, again, in putting the speedo in a binnacle on top of the instrument panel to get it closer to the driver’s line of sight, such as Honda has been doing with the Civic the last dozen years with it’s two tier instrument panel, and several companies have done with HUDs.
Another little touch in that speedo is the color coding. The numbers are green up to something like 45. Above that speed the numbers are yellow up to around 60, with the numbers above that red. Again, Studebaker was decades ahead of the rest of the world, pointing the way for speedos of the 80s, with 55 highlighted to remind people to go no faster.
I’m fascinated by the Scotsman, and any other low-line economy car.
In my opinion, the bottom-of-the-line models of many 50’s cars are more attractive than the glitzy, chrome-laden upper-end vehicles.
I also didn’t know it was their biggest seller for ’58!
The recent piece on 58 Mercurys sold me on the low end Medalist model. Hope that is right. But the plain dechromed style favored the design, to me.
With an old runningboard rack attached to the back bumper, that shelf would be a handy place to haul gas cans so that they wouldn’t stink up the inside of the car.
Most handsome car of 1958. Just get some seat covers from Rayco,15″ scrapyard wheel covers, Motorola or Blaupunkt radio – .you’d have a better all around vehicle than most. Read somewhere that Eleanor Roosevelt had one. Can anyone confirm this? I would like to have that one in the photo as a daily driver. Looks like it would need a radiator and a 12V battery though.
Here’s a 250,000+ mile Scotsman that spent its entire driving life (1957-2008, more or less) in New York city. Originally owned by Abe Vigoda, it’s had three engines, several replacement seats and a set of bed rails driven over its frame to connect the rusted-out B-piller bottoms back to something solid. It’s now resting comfortably as a ‘guard-car’ in upstate New York.
It was slower than a 240D, but the late-’57 President-model seats added in the mid-1980s gave it a bit of bizzare pizzaz. But in its day it drove across the country from New York, to Michigan, Canada and the south.
I caught one of the worst flus in my life riding in this to the York Studebaker Swap Meet back in March, 1986. The heater worked, but it couldn’t overcome the incoming air-flow from the rotted-out floors and missing door rubber and windlace. I shivered in the back on the trip out from New York, and rode home in a ‘well-heated’ 1973 Superbug. Yes, that was a warmer car.
The Scotsman was no planer inside than the 1960 Corvair 500!