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Can you daily drive a 1950 Studebaker Champion?


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Hello everyone, I’m looking into getting a semi restored 1950 Studebaker champion as my daily driver and I’m wondering what issues I may run into. I know they aren’t as safe as a modern car, but I usually only drive on backroads anyway and I’ve never been in an accident, not even a fender bender. I would add seatbelts obviously lol. If I kept up on the maintenance do you think it would be reliable enough to daily drive to work? Thanks for any help you can give me!

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On any used antique you buy, there will be a bunch of little things to fix. You start taking them on longer and longer jaunts and fix what you find wrong. On the forum we call this "sorting". depending on the quality of the restoration work this can take a little time or a long time, but unfortunately the quality of work you find on most antiques for sale is really bad. The reality is you will probably have a lot to do. Nothing from 1950 will be as reliable as a modern car. If there was a problem period for reliability, it's more like 1973-1988, and that is a rash generalization that does not apply to everything.

 

So yeah, probably there is work to be done on the 1950 Studebaker. Another thing to consider is that it is a Champion, and that is an economy car of the period. If your daily drive includes any freeways, it may not be a good choice. An economy car in those days was geared toward gas economy, and tend to have a less powerful smaller displacement engine than you would expect in a full size car. Studebaker Champions and Nash 600s and Statesmans come to mind. Does it have Overdrive? You definitely want overdrive, and it was optional. You definitely do NOT want an automatic. I don't know if they offered one. If they did, it would be ridiculously slow in that car. In the late 80s, I daily drove a 51 Nash Statesman. Overdrive made the tiny engine good enough in the modern traffic of the time. The speed limit was still 55MPH nationally then. Looking back, I don't think it would do on today's freeways, at all.

 

If it snows where you live, you will need a different winter car. The Studebaker's body will degrade unacceptably fast. I daily drove the Nash in winter, but there were no corrosive materials on the roads where I lived, that being an eastern and midwestern problem at the time. You cannot depend on that anywhere now.

 

 

Edited by Bloo (see edit history)
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My gut feeling is that this is a bad idea. You had better be mechanically inclined, have a full line of tools at your disposal and be experienced at using them. If you insist on having an antique car as a daily driver you might be better off buying something a little newer with a V8 engine and a 12 volt electrical system. 

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Posted (edited)

For work it wouldn’t be a long drive, about 15-20 minutes, and at the longest an 1-2 hour drive for the occasional day trip. I don’t know what condition the gas tank is in, I will have to check that. Out of all the roads I travel on the top speed limit is 60 mph, so running in the slow lane at 55 wouldn’t be an issue around here I don’t think lol. The fuel economy is actually one of the things I liked the most about the champion, it gets similar mileage to my current car and I can live with slower acceleration lol. I am mechanically inclined and I do have I would think most of the necessary tools. It has a 3 speed manual in it, I don’t know if it has overdrive but from my research 3rd gear is good up to 60mph so even if it doesn’t have overdrive it would be livable. Phew… I hope I answered all of your questions 😂. Thanks for getting back to me so quickly.

Edited by Matt129 (see edit history)
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I think the answer is yes, depending on the amount of pain and discomfort you are willing to endure. Maybe the more important question to be asked is should you? We take for granted the fact that our old cars are not going to be as safe as most newer cars, but it's the adventure or reliving the past the spurs us on. So we ignore the pitfalls with the realization that any adventure will be short-lived. Than there is the maintenance. There just is a lot of work that goes into keeping a vintage car on the road. We trust our cars to do the job they were made for, but the world is not the same as it was when our vintage cars were new.

 

I'm a car collector. In our stable of cars we own a low mileage 1950 Champion Starlight Coupe. It is perfectly acceptable for touring, but to consider it daily transportation is a stretch  too far for me. The most I would consider appropriate would be an occasional nice weather commuter. 

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There are members of the Studebaker Drivers Club who drive 50 bulletnoses and other classic Studebakers as daily drivers.

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My mom drove a 1950 Studebaker everyday, which included trips to the grocery store, us to school once in a while, and other errands.  The overdrive is a huge plus on the highway as we did take on the highway a number of times.  

 

Of course this was back in the 1960's when there was less traffic on the road.

 

Craig

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They were reliable enough in their day. Properly maintained, no reason to not be reliable today but, as The 55er said, be prepared to do a lot of your own maintenance.

It's getting difficult to find mechanics who are willing to work on vehicles they can't plug in to a computer to diagnose.

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For me the bottom line is try it on for size. If it suites your needs great. If it doesn't you should be able to find out in short order. IMO you don't want to make it your only car, a backup car is essential, and invest in a AAA card, or similar roadside insurance policy.

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Another thing to keep in mind was that back when these were daily drivers every gas station had a mechanic who knew how to fix them.  That will be you now so honestly assess your skills.  I don't want to offend but the fact that you are asking these questions gives me pause.  Is it really that big a deal to also have a semi-modern beater and keep the Stude just for fun?

 

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I drive my 38 State Commander as a daily driver. I’ve had it seven years now and have put a little over seven thousand miles on it. The last three years I’ve been retired so very low mileage. I’m far from an expert mechanic but I can do most of my own repairs, tune ups and fixes. I did rebuild the engine, transmission, brakes and rewired it. I needed help when I had a distributor problem and the forum (thank you again Ed ) came to the rescue. Again when I smashed the front end I was able to do the body work, thanks to over 60 supportive members of the forum giving me advice and support. If you do this have a backup car ( my wife’s 2011 MB works well for us) for when you have problems. Then don’t be afraid to dive it and fix the problem. Some will require expert attention but most common problems can be solved by studying the problem. These cars are straight forward mechanical machines. If you take your time, document how you are taking it apart you will be able to put it back together. Don’t be afraid of asking questions. There is no such thing as a dumb question is definitely true when working on an old car. Have fun, stay on the forum and keep us updated on progress and show us what you end up buying. Pictures of problems and where you are located will only help you possibly have a new friend stop by to help you when those problems occur. 
dave s 

Edited by SC38dls (see edit history)
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12 hours ago, SC38dls said:

I drive my 38 State Commander as a daily driver. I’ve had it seven years now and have put a little over seven thousand miles on it. The last three years I’ve been retired so very low mileage. I’m far from an expert mechanic but I can do most of my own repairs, tune ups and fixes. I did rebuild the engine, transmission, brakes and rewired it. I needed help when I had a distributor problem and the forum (thank you again Ed ) came to the rescue. Again when I smashed the front end I was able to do the body work, thanks to over 60 supportive members of the forum giving me advice and support. If you do this have a backup car ( my wife’s 2011 MB works well for us) for when you have problems. Then don’t be afraid to dive it and fix the problem. Some will require expert attention but most common problems can be solved by studying the problem. These cars are straight forward mechanical machines. If you take your time, document how you are taking it apart you will be able to put it back together. Don’t be afraid of asking questions. There is no such thing as a dumb question is definitely true when working on an old car. Have fun, stay on the forum and keep us updated on progress and show us what you end up buying. Pictures of problems and where you are located will only help you possibly have a new friend stop by to help you when those problems occur. 
dave s 

Glad you fixed it! I keep my 41 president in the front garage so I can drive it when I want to, not because I have to. In summer she sees the road a couple times a week. But if it's raining I take the Duramax.

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