Curbside Classic: 1955 Studebaker Commander Conestoga – “Original”, Runs Great, And It’s For Sale

Driving home from Port Orford yesterday there was a new sight along the scenic drive, in the town of Bandon: this 1955 Studebaker Conestoga wagon. That wasn’t here when we came by last Wednesday. Since I don’t go much to car shows, it’s been decades since I saw a Studebaker wagon—appropriately called “Conestoga”—or sedan from this era.  At first glance, the fire department paint job and light/siren on the roof put me off a wee bit, but this is such a fine wagon otherwise, in excellent and mostly original condition, so I  just had to pull over and check it out.

And it’s for sale too. I know at least one person here that will be a bit interested.

Before we get to that, let’s do a bit of history. Given that Studebaker was the world’s biggest wagon maker—the horse-drawn kind—it’s a bit surprising that they didn’t offer an automotive wagon until 1954, called the Conestoga. What we have here is essentially a 1955½ Commander Conestoga, as the new wraparound windshield arrived sometime in the middle of that model year. On the V8 Commanders, that is, as the lowly six-cylinder Champions had to make do with the rather out-of fashion flattish windshield for a bit longer (it’s hard to pin down just when).

There was another benefit to waiting for the updated mid-year 1955 Commander, as the standard engine went from the rather weak-chested 224.3 CID V8 to the new, more muscular 259 CID version, which upped power from 140 to 162 hp with an even bigger bump in torque, from 202 lb.ft. to a much healthier 250 lb.ft. The 224.3 is an odd duck, as it was only made for the first half of the 1955 MY; it has a very short stroke (2.81″) making it the smoothest of the Studebaker V8 family, but rather lacking that V8 punch buyers were looking for. Is six or so months the shortest lifespan for any engine in semi-modern history?


The Commander’s version of the 259 had a two-barrel carb. 162 hp may sound a bit feeble nowadays, but that was about right for the times. FWIW, Chevy’s new-for 1955 265 V8 also was rated at 162 hp with a two-barrel carb. The top of the line President got a four barrel version rated at 175 hp; 185 hp for the 1955½ version, to go along with the wrap-around windshield. I’m not sure just what they did to find that additional ten hp other than change the middle number.

For 1955, these V8 Studebakers were quite well endowed. And this one has the three-speed manual with overdrive, which on the wagons came with a rather zippy 3.92:1 final drive ratio. That’ll help with a brisk take off…

I see that this car has dual exhausts, which were not stock. But then that seems to be hard to resist doing to any older American V8. We’re addicted to that V8 burble and woofing.

Obviously the exterior paint is not original, but this upholstery looks like it could be; if not, it’s a good facsimile. It has a column-mounted shifter for the Borg-Warner T-86 three-speed manual with R10 overdrive.

Studebaker only built two-door wagons until 1957, when a four-door version appeared.

This has obviously been re-carpeted.


Station wagons were the hot new body style in the fifties; the CUVs of their time. Studebaker was late to the game; I don’t have the stats to verify it, but I’m pretty sure the share of wagons of their total sales were the lowest of any of the major five domestics in the fifties, whereas Rambler had the highest, having had the foresight to see that trend coming right from the Rambler’s first year (1950).

Although it’s a Commander, it’s wearing “Champion” tires, DeLuxe, at that. Firestones, as is befitting a Fire Department car.

This Conestoga was first sold by Walt Anderson Studebaker in Boise, ID, not that far from here.

I wanted to get more info, so I called the number(s). The one on the left is not in service; the one on the right put me in touch with someone who knew a bit about this Stude. It belongs to the local VFW, having been donated to them some five (or seven?) years ago. It’s been stored inside and only driven in a few parades since then. And they’ve decided to sell it.

He didn’t know much of the history of the car before then, or how it came to be painted this way, something that was presumably done after 9/11. He just said that it was in original condition, had low miles, and was well cared for. All of that seems about right from first appearances, although it’s hard to know for sure without a closer inspection.

Obviously some aspects are not truly original.

But how often does one find a clean Conestoga wagon?

Especially with such an endearing face?

By now some of you—or at least one of you—is wondering: “How much?” The asking price is $9,500. I’ll leave it to you to proclaim judgment on that. But if someone really wanted a nice, clean, solid mid-fifties Studebaker wagon, it seems reasonable enough. I’d be happy to go check it out, if the interest is serious. I haven’t driven a Studebaker in eons. It would be a good excuse.


Related CC reading:
Automotive History: The Studebaker Sedan’s Last Decade of Styling – Magic with Leftovers  by Jim C.

Concours Classic: 1955 Studebaker President Speedster – Look What They’ve Done To The Starliner  PN

Curbside Classic: 1957 Studebaker Commander – Eureka!  Jim C.

Automotive History: The Studebaker V8 Engine – Punching Below Its Weight