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Just before World War II, the American auto industry was comprised of the Big Three (General Motors, Ford and Chrysler) plus the Independents including Hudson, Nash, Packard, Studebaker and Willys-Overland. Prewar car production had ended by February of 1942. Production resumed in late 1945, but all 1946 models were based on their 1942 predecessors. Introduced in May 1946, Studebaker’s 1947 models were the first all-new postwar cars. Styling was by a Virgil Exner team from the Raymond Loewy Design Studios. The look was distinctive but controversial, especially the uniquely-styled and historically important Starlight Coupe with its curved four-piece 180-degree rear window.
For 1950, the Loewy stylists made Studebakers even more unique. Advertised as “the jet-propelled look”, the new front end had a streamlined bullet-nose, chromed slits on each side, and split mesh grilles below. Nineteen-fifty would be Studebaker’s best-ever year, with 343,166 cars sold. This car is one of that year’s 9,144 Starlight Coupes. It originally had a 169.6 cid 85hp I6 engine with a three-speed column-shifted manual transmission. It weighed 2,675 lbs; prices started at $1,644.
As described in the July 1990 issue of Hot Rod magazine, John Carter of Tucson, Arizona, found this car at a local swap meet “with faded green paint, shot upholstery … but still a runner”. The car was heavily modified at his Race Car Company shop. Power steering, torsion bar suspension and disc brakes from a 1975 Chrysler Cordoba replaced the Studebaker’s original manual steering, coil suspension and front drum brakes. The aft chassis was narrowed and wide wheel wells were installed in the trunk to allow use of large-diameter ultra-wide rear tires. The existing wheels and tires were replaced by 15×4 wheels with 145-15 tires in front plus 15×15 wheels with 31.5×18.5-15 tires in back. The drive shaft, differential and rear axle are all based on Ford parts. The original flathead six and three-speed manual transmission were replaced by a 355 cid supercharged Chevrolet engine and a Hughes-modified Turbo-Hydramatic.
All external handles, ornaments and bumpers were removed. A functional hood air scoop was added. The exterior was painted orange sherbet with turquoise and magenta scalloped inserts. The interior was stripped and a roll cage installed. The seats were recovered in mint-green and turquoise vinyl and tweed. The steering wheel, door inserts, roll bars and roll bar padding are all turquoise. The original instruments have been retained.
Mr. Carter named the car “Pro-jectile”. Street-legal but built for drag racing, this car is a striking example of a late 20th Century pro-street hot rod.
- John Carter’s “Pro-jectile”
- Rebuild in July 1990 Hot Rod Magazine
- Street-legal, but built for the drag strip