Pick of the Day: 1953 Studebaker coupe in sparkling show condition

The Commander Starliner hardtop was an artistic design from the Raymond Loewy studio

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The Starliner was the pillarless hardtop version of the Commander coupe

The Pick of the Day is an elegant example of one of the most-beautiful automotive designs of the 1950s, a 1953 Studebaker Commander Starliner coupe in what looks to be nicely restored condition.

Legendary industrial designer Raymond Loewy often gets the credit for the svelte lines of Studebaker’s landmark coupe, with the car sometimes called the Loewy coupe. But it was Robert Bourke, a designer at Loewy’s studio, who penned the low, lean styling for what originally was to be a Studebaker show car.

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Studebaker boss Harold Vance was greatly impressed and gave the go ahead for production, which started with the 1953 model.  With its proto-European styling, the Starliner was like nothing ever seen in the showrooms of US automakers, and the buying public quickly lined up for a taste.

But alas, the unexpected enthusiasm for the coupe caught the South Bend, Indiana, automaker flat-footed with inadequate production, and assembly line problems added to delivery delays.  Momentum was lost and the lovely coupe never became the top seller that it should have been, contributing to Studebaker’s decline.  

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The aerodynamic shape has been perennially appreciated by speed-record racers, however, with countless performance-tweaked Commander coupes showing up at such venues as the Bonneville Salt Flats even today.

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This Starliner looks to be authentically restored to original, although the St. Louis, Missouri, dealer advertising the coupe on ClassicCars.com is light on information about its history. 

The seller does say that the Studebaker is “finished in an eye-catching color scheme and very well-detailed throughout with high-quality finishing. Nicely equipped with V8 power, factory radio, four-passenger seating and a manual gearbox.

“This is a wonderful and highly appealing example of the revolutionary Commander that is sure to delight its next caretaker.”

The photos with the ad show the Studebaker looking crisp in an attractive shade of blue with a red interior, factory equipped with the 120-horsepower V8 engine.  And the absolute artistry of that body design is hard to beat.

The asking price for this uncommonly handsome Starliner is $48,500.

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.

12 COMMENTS

  1. First car ever owned only mine was yellow/white running machine, Liz and I drove
    from California thought we were hot stuff

  2. I first saw it at the Chicago Auto Show. It became my idea of the most beautiful car design I had ever seen. I eventually bought one in 1975 and my son and I did a pretty (all black) amateur restoration. I kept it until 1998 when I sold it to a man in Peoria, IL. My next goal was a Jaguar XKE, but alas, way out ou my price range. However, about four years ago I bought a red Jaguar XK-8. These two Jags are my latest picks of the most beautiful car designs. Tom, Indiana

  3. They just don’t make like that anymore! My late brother did a ’54 Starliner and in 1994, it won first place as the People’s Favorite in Bend, Oregon!

  4. I own one and the original title says “Regal Commander Starlight Coupe”.
    Starliner was a 1953 Ford designation.
    Also the title displays the original color. Red. Interesting that it should have the color stated.
    I was born in 1951 and this is the very first car that caught my eye as a child. It only took me almost 50 years to get one.
    Life got in the way is the only reason for that. Mine is a survivor, a little sad looking but not a crunchy critter by any means.
    Off of the road since 1978 it will come back better.

  5. Starliner was NOT used by Ford until their beautiful 1960 hardtop. The car displayed here IS a Starliner because it is a hardtop (no “B” pillar). The coupe (with a “B” pillar) is called a Starlight.

  6. My first car was a 1956 Golden Hawk. Packard 352 V8 and 275 hp. Bad transmission and not enough money to fix it. Wish I could have kept it. SW gauges, 6000 rpm tach and 160 mph speedometer.

  7. There’s a lot of what if’s, what if they got a smooth launch, what if the got the mix between coupes and sedans right, what if the quality was the usual Studebaker quality.
    The company had plenty of money coming out of 49/50/51 sales years to do it right, so it wasn’t a rush/rush to get it out.
    Just a bunch of bad breaks, bad management decisions, Studebaker certainly had everything, plant, people talent to do it right, they certainly proved that in 47. What’s amazing is how fast it came apart, but history has been kind to the 53 couple because it was a wonderful designed car.

  8. Thank you Mr. Howard Brown, you are absolutely correct, Additionally this pictured Commander hardtop is the later year model as indicated by both the hood ornament and the horn button. The earlier year production Commander models displayed ‘Tri Star’ chrome pieces with an ‘8’. Since this Studebaker Tri-Star resembled the Mercedes Benz Tri-Star, MB threatened to take legal action for copyright infringement, the Studebaker Corporation changed their ornaments to what you see on the pictured Stude.

    Thank you Mr. Golfen, for an excellent article. I love Studes and have two 1953 Commander Hardtops, one of which I have owned since 1975 when I was a teenager.–Dave S.

  9. OOPS. The interior instrument panel designers goofed! The dials and control knobs should have been reversed. Reading the instruments by looking down at your kees and taking your eyes off the road isn’t very safe.

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