‘Retro cool’ 1949 Studebaker Champion Starlight Coupe

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Studebaker
The Studebaker Starlight Coupe's unique rear window raised eyebrows at the time

The avant-garde styling of the Studebaker Starlight Coupe was controversial right from the start. The unique four-piece wraparound rear window looked like a backward windshield, and standup comedians labeled it the car for people who don’t know whether they’re coming or going.  

But the coupe’s look, which stood out in the post-war years in a sea of lumpish sedans, resonates today among collectors who seek something different, as well as street rodders who want to create eye-catching customs. 

Studebaker
The Studebaker prompted quips about whether it was coming or going

The Pick of the Day is a 1949 Studebaker Champion Starlight Coupe described as being “exceptionally clean” after restoration to original, aside from such modern addons as air conditioning, seat belts, dual exhaust and an aluminum radiator for keeping its original 80-horsepower, side-valve inline-6 running cool.

While another controversial Studebaker styling feature – the famed “bullet nose” – wouldn’t come until the following year, the ’49 model is rare and distinctive enough to turn heads, some in admiration, others in amusement. The look was originally penned by legendary industrial designer Raymond Loewy along with another great force in American automotive styling, Virgil Exner. 

Studebaker
The period color sets off the styling details

“We love the look of these Starlight coupes,” the Lutz, Florida, dealer says in the ClassicCars.com advertisement. “The unique presentation with the long trunk and wrapping around rear glass made these look absolutely futuristic in the ’40s.

“And more than just distinctive, it’s quite rare. Studebaker produced less than 10,000 of these Champion coupes in premium Regal Deluxe trim in 1949, and we doubt you’re going to find a finer surviving example.”

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As well as an attractive paint job in an appropriate color, the Studebaker looks to be gleaming with clean chrome and details. The odometer shows less than 50,000 miles, although there is no indication whether that is original.

Studebaker
The modern-look interior appears fresh, with AC and seat belts added

“This one received a nice restoration later in life, so the wraparound chrome bumpers, distinct grille, artful taillight bezels, and all the other brightwork shines like a regal classic should,” the dealer says. “Even the correct two-piece wheel covers are still in place. And the green paint offers the right period-correct presence and the perfect backdrop for all this shine.”

The coupe is equipped with a 3-speed manual transmission shifted on the column, and the interior looks beautifully presented, with the AC ducts artfully incorporated into the original dashboard design.  The gallery of photos with the ad show a car that is overall very tidy and presentable. 

A postwar Studebaker Starlight Coupe would make a good entry point for a budding car collector, and this one is reasonably priced for condition at $19,995. The seller describes the car as “retro cool,” which sounds just about right.

To view this listing on ClassicCars.com, see Pick of the Day

 

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Bob Golfen is a longtime automotive writer and editor, focusing on new vehicles, collector cars, car culture and the automotive lifestyle. He is the former automotive writer and editor for The Arizona Republic and SPEED.com, the website for the SPEED motorsports channel. He has written free-lance articles for a number of publications, including Autoweek, The New York Times and Barrett-Jackson auction catalogs. A collector car enthusiast with a wide range of knowledge about the old cars that we all love and desire, Bob enjoys tinkering with archaic machinery. His current obsession is a 1962 Porsche 356 Super coupe.

5 COMMENTS

  1. A friend of mine had a studebaker with a 402 Ford Engine in it’ i,t was so big the bellhousing was in the front inside the fire wall and yes it was clean brutal exhaust and quick !don’t KNOW where it ended up!

  2. Very nice. I like how the a/c is hidden under the dash and the compressor is also hidden low down in the engine compartment. I have a ’51 Starlight Coupe, but not nearly nice as this one.

  3. Breautiful car maybe even over restored and it was commentented even had the original piecewheel covers in place but in this case that is incorrect, they are from the later year 53-55 Studebaker

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