Monday, June 23, 2008

My Dad's Studebakers

One of my clearest childhood memories of playing in the old barn on the northern Ohio farm where I grew up was the '53 Studebaker Commander Coupe that my parents used to drive about the time when they were married. The Studebaker sat parked in there, the trunk always partly ajar, bent so it wouldn't really close. When we moved off the farm in 1979, my dad towed the car to our new place, but he couldn't garage it, and it sat out in the weather for about 20 or 25 years, and ended up in not very good shape.

When he retired, though, one of his presents to himself was a restoration of that car, or one just like it. Famously designed by Raymond Loewy, the '53 coupe is supposedly one of the most beautiful cars ever manufactured (as even Wikipedia will tell you), and the one my dad has now is a beauty. It looks like it's new.

At a Studebaker meet, in the meantime, he bought a 1960 Studebaker Lark, and he and my mom tooled around town in it for a few years, until he sold it on eBay. Last fall, he bought a gigantic old 1955 President (he calls it a Landcruiser) four-door. It, too, had been sitting in a field for a bunch of years, and he's working to put it back in running order, to have something for daily driving, I guess. A couple of times (in March, and last week), I've lent a hand to a bit of the work, helping to rebuild the front suspension, pulling on the torque wrench. He pretty much just tells me what to do and I do it.

I once asked my dad: if Studebaker was one of the auto industry's "Big Four," how come they stopped making cars? With typical bluntness, he said "Because they weren't one of the Big Three." He's owned more Studebakers since they stopped building them than he did when they were a going concern, but that's what I like about this story. There he is, enjoying retirement, but still working with his hands, taking something that others might see as obsolete, and bringing it to life.

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