Cohort Pic(k) of the Day: 1952 Studebaker Champion Starliner Hardtop Coupe – The First One Year Wonder

I’m on a bit of a Studebaker jag, thanks to Cohort John Lloyd’s large collection. And this is something special, the 1952 Starliner hardtop. It was a one-year wonder, as 1952 would be the last year of this body style. Studebaker apparently felt that the hardtop coupe (or “hardtop convertible”) pioneered by GM in 1950 was a niche they couldn’t afford to miss out on. So they gave what was essentially the convertible body a hardtop that looked like a dead-ringer for the GM version.

That’s where the term “hardtop convertible” comes from, as that’s what they rather were, since the convertible had the frameless door glass and other elements suitable for the job. Plunking on a hardtop roof wasn’t really all that hard or expensive.

And it wouldn’t be the last time Studebaker did this.

But before we do that, let’s savor this gem first. Although I’m still mad about the Starlight coupe with its wild wrap-around rear window, I have to say this works very nicely, and rather changes the whole feel of this vintage Studebaker. There are some who also like this new 1952 front end too, more than the bullet-nose ’50 – ’51. I used to feel strongly otherwise, but I’m warming up to this much more conventional style.

Initially I couldn’t figure out whether this was a six cylinder Champion or V8 Commander, but the different badge on the prow of its nose gives it away.

It makes the otherwise unusual Studebaker tail of this vintage look downright normal.

The arrival of the Starliner didn’t mean the Starlight coupe went away, as this fine ’52 Commander shows.

Its tail comes off less orthodox than the Starliner, longer and pointier.

And there’s no denying that its rear seat had a highly unique aspect.

Here’s the driver’s compartment, from this Starlight, not the hardtop.


And the second time around? In 1958, when Studebaker decided it needed a “conventional” hardtop coupe. Very odd, as they did have the hardtop Golden Hawk. But that was based on the old low-slung coupe. This new Starliner hardtop was based on the sedan body. And since there had been no convertible, it involved a lot more engineering and tooling. Presumably they started with the two-door sedan, and hacked away. And how many did they sell? A few hundred?

Studebaker worked in mysterious ways, which makes them so endlessly compelling.