1989 Earthquake Tested – 1951 Studebaker Commander Coupe

There are only a few Studebakers from the post-war era that seem to enjoy universal popularity among collectors – the Hawk and its various derivations, and the bullet-nose Commander, particularly the Starlight coupe version. The Starlight version was unusual for having no C-pillars, and a rear window that wrapped around from B-pillar to B-pillar. All 1950-1951 Studebaker Champion and Commanders got the distinctive bullet nose, though. And that’s where today’s car comes in – check out this 1951 Studebaker Commander for sale for $1000 in Loma Prieta, CA (epicenter of the 1989 earthquake!).

1951 Studebaker Commander front

The 1951 Commander debuted Studebaker’s modern, 232ci small-block V8 with 120hp. Arguably the first small-block V8 from an American manufacturer, with Ford following in 1954 and GM in 1955, it put out a respectable 120hp. The listing for this car is somewhat confusing – it is listed as a two-door Commander with suicide doors. Since it seems that no Commander coupes had suicide doors, and they all seemed to come with the Starlight rear window, it’s likely this is a Champion coupe, or even more likely a Commander 4-door with suicide rear doors. And while the bullet nose is a neat piece of post-war jet-age design, it seems to be missing its center, and the bumper is not that well-resolved. With any luck, undoing a couple of bolts will take care of that. However, it’s a running project, and the body is said to be in good condition, so for the price you are off to a good start!


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