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When introduced for 1953, Studebaker’s Starlight pillared coupes and Starliner hardtops made automotive history. Designed by Robert Bourke of Raymond Loewy’s styling department, these cars have long been rated as one of the classic designs of the 1950’s.
In October 1954, Studebaker was taken over by Packard. For 1955, only minor changes were possible. The restrained split grille of 1953-1954 was replaced by a heavy chromed single opening with large bumper guards, dubbed “fish-lip” by some. Studebaker attempted to move up-market by reintroducing the President series, a name last used in 1942. Presidents were built on a wheelbase extended from 116″ to 120.5″. They had fog lights and a thick chrome spear on each side.
In January 1955, the sedans and station wagons adopted an “Ultraview” wraparound windshield, but the coupe and hardtop windshields stayed flat. That same month, the President Speedster two-door hardtop was introduced. This was Studebaker’s first step toward a sporty car, and the forerunner to the memorable 1956-1961 Hawks. The standard engine was Studebaker’s “Passmaster” high-performance 185 hp 259.2 ci small-block V-8 with a four-barrel carburetor and dual exhausts. Prices started at $3,253. During the 1955 model year, Studebaker sold 133,826 cars, including 24,666 Presidents. Of these, 2,215 were Speedsters.
The Speedster was advertised as the “low-swung, road-hugging new Studebaker Speedster an exciting sports car in styling and performance!” A “5-passenger masterpiece of brilliance and brawn … produced in limited quantities for those who want something very special.” Outside, Speedsters had a chrome band across the top, and two- or three-tone paint schemes. Inside was a special interior with quilted-pattern leather and vinyl upholstery, plus a white-on-black Stewart-Warner “cockpit-type instrument grouping with high-speed tachometer and speedometer” in a dash with a tooled-metal appliqué.
Despite the advertising, the Speedster was not a true sports car. Weighing 3,301 lbs with a big V8 engine in a coupe body that was 204″ long, it was a predecessor to the muscle cars of the 60’s and 70’s.
- Studebaker’s first attempt at a luxury sports coupe
- Built only for 1955 model year
- Just 2,215 units produced
- Price new: $3,253