straight shooter

Studebaker reliability

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Were the Studebakers of the 40's, 50's and 60's reliable? I have always heard the extreme opposites about them. I have heard from some people that they were totally unreliable, while others have said that they were bulletproof especially the trucks.    

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I doubt that you will find a more reliable car than a Stude. Whoever told you that they are totally unreliable is, quite frankly, FOS. In all of the old mileage and reliability tests, Studes were always at the top of the list. Solid build quality and simple, rugged, engines and drive train. Parts availability for the later models is still very good.

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Another opinion poll? Every make and model has a lover and a hater. Just depends on the experiences a person has had. Mostly, I believe that Studebakers were/are very reliable cars and trucks.

Edited by keiser31 (see edit history)

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In their day they were considered reliable, as good as any typical car and better than some. The V8 engine was especially rugged, heavy but very reliable and long lived. The only thing I ever heard of giving trouble was the rear main seal leaking after long service, but this would apply to any car.

 

In the mid fifties they made some tinny bodies and flexible frames. Other than that I have not heard anything against them.

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My grandfather wouldn't buy anything but Studebaker until they stopped making them. His last one was a wagon and he used it like a truck on the farm with NO problems until finally replacing it with a Torino in 1971. I would say that he felt they were reliable.

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I've owned Studebakers for 50 years. Reliable to the point of boring because nothing

ever happened. I bought one with 12 thou clearance on #5 rod bearing, 10 psi oil pressure at 50 mph and 0 psi at idle hot, (50 weight oil and STP). I drove it like that for 2 years - it never let me down.

Terry

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^ LOL..........seriously.......  :lol: 

I have a friend who wound up with his aunt's '52 Studebaker she bought new.

It has around 50,000 miles on it, is original except for the tires and the small V8 in that thing runs like a sewing machine.

At idle you wonder if it IS running.

As far as my friend knows, outside of normal maintenance, nothing else has been done to the car.

Some friends just outside of the village have a '51 bullet nose Studebaker with a 6 banger that is equally smooth (but aren't ALL those straight 6's? ).

Their Dad owned it for years and they still take it our now and then.

Again, I don't believe it ever failed them.

Edited by cahartley (see edit history)

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I've always loved Studebakers, both for their styling and their reliability.   My dad owned Studebakers that seemed bullet proof.   I have owned a '59 Lark Regal Hardtop VI for 24 years and it has never let me down.  I constantly get positive comments about its looks.   On top of that, I just love driving it.

Rog

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It's not hard to find a detractor for any marque made during the thirty years that you ask about. The fact is that few who seek to defame Studebaker, or any independent for that matter, have ever owned, driven or even ridden in one. I think that it's important to take any negative statement with a grain of salt until you uncover something about the detractor's background and if he has a hidden agenda.

It is hard to argue the success of Studebaker as a vehicle manufacturer. Starting as a wagon builder in 1852, which led to the company becoming the largest wagon builder in the world by the turn of the century, and finally sticking around long enough to become the longest surviving American independent car builder by the time of the company exit from the car industry in 1966. The company didn't stay in business for 114 years by producing unreliable vehicles!

I have driven Studebakers for fifty five years. It's hard to use a broad brush when talking about a company with as diverse as Studebaker offered. Some models were better then others, but overall, they held up well when compared to their competition. Today, "different by design," means as much to us Studebaker owners as when the slogan was used by the company more then three quarters of a century ago. From the standpoint of relative rarity, unique styling, reliability at a reasonable cost it should be a no brainer.

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Grandad used Studebaker trucks on his big farm until they shut down the line in South Bend.

He was a skinflint, and didn't waste money on unreliable vehicles.

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I've had a few Studes back in the 70's when they were dirt cheap orphans. Both the 63 & 64 Larks were decent cars that ran well for less than $200 each. Mechanically they were straightforward and I liked the yellow colour on the engine vs. Chevy orange on the 66's with the transplanted "McKinnon supplied" 230's and 283's.

I currently have a post Stude Avanti II that had a neglected past but came back to life with very little tinkering.

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My mom's first car was a Studebaker, a red, bullet-nose coupe. This would have been in '49 or '50. She drove it for 10 years, until our NE winters had taken their toll. When she junked it, it ran so sell that the junk yard turned it into the yard truck... and got another 10 years out of it. I very much doubt it ever had  more than minimal service. She knows nothing about cars and my late father knew even less.

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My first car was a 53 Champion, I was about 14 and had to hide it from the family.

I cost me a whopping $12.00. Ten for the car and two to transfer the title.

It was a smoker but I got ten thousand mile out of it before the clutch went out. I walked away from it with a smile. Saw it a couple of years later in a wrecking yard.

I poured a lot of oil thru that car but it always started and was running when the clutch quit.

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I think all cars are valuable parts of history, but sometimes

people of today forget that some cars in the past--just like

some today--were not outstanding.

 

In the 1950's, as today, Consumer Reports tested cars,

and made reliability evaluations based on readers' actual experiences.

Here are their ratings (with my apologies to Studebaker fans)

from their May 1955 issue devoted to Auto Ratings:

 

---Low priced cars--Studebaker Commander V-8 Deluxe:

     "Studebaker's frequency-of-repair record is poor."

     They used descriptive terms in that era, not their

     current colored dot matrix, and "poor" was their lowest level.

    

--Low-medium priced cars--Studebaker President Deluxe V-8:

     "Frequency-of-repair, poor."

 

Of course, no car was all bad, just as no car was perfect.

Studebaker had some good points--but not in reliability.

The 1955 Willys car was worse, and I don't think anyone

reading the Willys report would be running to his Willys dealer.

 

It's interesting that, in that banner year of sales, the lowest rated

cars--including Studebaker, Willys, Nash, and Hudson--were in

the companies not faring well in the marketplace.  Those cars' trade-in

values weren't especially good, either.  Did customers, then as now,

gravitate toward reliable cars, whose companies then profited and grew? 

 

I believe these ratings carry especial weight, probably more than a few people's

remembrances today, since they were based on thousands of people

reporting then-current information.  However, they relate just to the

model years which people reported, and maybe earlier Studebakers were

fine.  I'd love to bear good news, but in 1955, Consumer Reports didn't! 

Edited by John_S_in_Penna (see edit history)

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Or gives different results for the same car bearing a different name and trim but identical in all mechanical ways :rolleyes:

Edited by ghostymosty (see edit history)

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1955 - 56 were bad years for Studebaker quality. And some 53 - 54 coupes had flimsy frames. Those were the ones I was talking about.

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I have never owned a Studebaker but made a few observations in the past 65 years. I believe that Generally they were pretty good cars with a few exceptions. I think the small six cylinder cars were bad to use oil after they got some miles on them. I remember several Champions that always blew a cloud of blue smoke out the tailpipe. Also, I have a cousin that is in his eighties and grew up next to a Studebaker dealership. He told me that when he was young he had seen many Champions in the service dept getting an engine overhaul with only 30 or 40 thousand miles. I also heard the bigger cars did not have this problem especially the v 8 engines.

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Ask the man who owns one, OK so the slogan is Packard and not Studebaker, but I guess that's me and I better respond. Fifty five years ago I bought my first car a 1953 Starliner htp, My father worked for the US Dept. of Labor as a claims investigator and later as Chief of Claims. During the years that he was an investigator he drove Champions (small six cyl. cars). The majority of the cars with standard transmissions were built with an optional overdrive. Great gas mileage, cheap to maintain and comfortable for long trips. Dad traded his 120K mile cars in after five or six years of highway driving.  The cars looked and drove like they had 20K, but much of this was because of the way that they were used and maintained. All Champions did not fare as well and city driven cars or those with no OD could age quickly. As a young man I was not impressed by the characteristics that endeared the Champion to Dad. How I ended up with a Studebaker is a long story, but it was more in spite of, rather then because of my experiences with Dad's cars. If it hadn't been for the purchase a friends 1955 President Speedster in 1964, that 1953 might have been my last Studebaker. It really wasn't a very good car! The Speedster was a great car that I restored during the 70's and still own today.

 

Over the fifty five years of Studebaker ownership I have driven them several hundred thousand miles. All were bought used, some pampered by previous owner and some outright abused, but they all were reliable transportation. Only once in that fifty five years did one ever leave me stranded because of mechanical failure. Does that sound like lack of reliability to anyone reading this?

 

The 1953 suffered from some engineering and production line errors that would haunt Studebaker until their last car was produced in 1966. The rubber band frame, poor fit and finish and the Lockheed self adjusting brakes (brake system really started in the late forties and was in its last year in 1953), they also had a reputation for rust, but what cars in the 50's didn't rust! 

 

I think that by his inquiry, Straight Shooter had already decided that Studebaker was a bad car. Strange since he had never owned one and probably never had even ridden in one. We owners of the independent orphans get a good deal of this from people who just don't get it, and would rather believe what someone who probably doesn't know anymore about it then they do says about the car. I think that SS was using his inquiry to pan the car and not really find truth about it.

 

The question that was asked was Studebaker "totally unreliable" and not whether it was even a good car. John S' inclusion of, less then creditable CR. May 1955 article only clouds the original question. How can nine months of production create enough data to provide a profile for the whole years production! I suspect that much of the data used for the report was from 1953-54, admittedly neither of which was a very good year. Sad that they weren't better cars because they were one of the most beautiful cars ever produced! I have found that 1955 Studebakers were very good cars and I have owned plenty of them. The fact is that no matter how good they were by 1955 the Big Three were putting out some outstanding cars. The hand writing was on the wall, the independent car builder was doomed to fail!-Bill 

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Ring and valve job, or overhaul, at 30000 to 40000 miles was pretty standard on long stroke engines in the forties. Prewar engines were not as long lived as post war versions, even seemingly identical designs. Main reason, chrome piston rings developed during the war, better oils (detergent and multigrade type) and better oil filters and air filters.

 

A typical car would get an overhaul at 30000 - 40000 miles, then at 60000 - 80000 it would be due for a rebuild or the car would be junked. Very few cars made it past 100,000 miles.

 

The new generation of short stroke OHV V8s and sixes, were much longer lived and often went 100,000 without an overhaul if they were taken care of.

 

Here I am talking about ALL American made engines in general, not just Studebaker. I think Studebaker engines would rate "above average".

Edited by Rusty_OToole (see edit history)

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Buffalowed Bill (or others), how were Studebaker cars,

in your opinion, in the mid-1960's?  I always

thought that the 1966 frontal styling update was a good one.

 

By the way, in 1955 the Consumer Reports review

of Cadillac was so full of praise that the Cadillac men

must have been very happy.  Reading it, one can glimpse

that the Cadillac really was once the "Standard of the World"

and see why it far outsold its competitors.  But I digress--

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We did a frame up driver quality restoration of a '64 Stude sedan several years ago (sentimental value to the owner obviously). I thought it was a well built car. A bit stodgy for my taste maybe but well built.

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John,

As Restored 32 indicated pretty well built but beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. I doubt that any of the Lark type are going to win any people's choice awards but if I were to start off on a trip across country, I would take one of them.

From 1951 on all Studebakers shared the same platform. The wheel base changed and there were, of course, component updates, but the platform design changed very little. All Studebakers were body on frame, no unibody here. Being able to unbolt everything can be a real advantage when restoring or repairing any non-unibody car. I am not from an area that rust is the first assassin of a car, but comparing one of my sixty something Lark types to my 1967 Camaro or 1965 Buick Riviera, the Lark may be a little behind, rust wise, but not by much. Studebaker never went to the damn GM type set in windshield and back glass, so I count that as a plus for the Studebaker.

Engine wise the V8 has it all over the I6. I have little doubt that the 6's lack of power was a problem for Studebaker. Studebaker redesigned the flat head 6 for the 1961 model, but it was always problematic because of head cracks.

All Studebakers 1965-66 were built in Hamilton Ontario, after the plant was shut down in South Bend. Canadian built cars from 65-66 all used the Chevrolet 283, or the Chev inline 6. No problem with these tried and true power plants. Brakes are decent for the time and Studebaker was the first American manufacturer to offer a front disc option in 1963.

The Studebaker Diver's Club has over 12000 members world wide, which makes it the largest single marque club in the world and with a dedicated network of suppliers, parts and friends are pretty easy to find. The 1959-1966 /lark type cars are cheap, so try one you might like it.

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Reliability had little to do with Studebaker"s demise.  Their cost per car was considerably higher than that of a comparable car from the Detroit 3.  In 1964 my dad was shopping for a new car and checked out a basic Commander 6 four door sedan.  The price was $3000 Cdn.  A comparable Valiant was $1900.  He bought the Valiant.  High unit cost was a problem for all of the independents because they didn't have the capacity to produce cars in the numbers that the Detroit 3 could.

 

Terry 

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