Rare Rides: Hop in a 1955 Studebaker Conestoga Wagon

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides hop in a 1955 studebaker conestoga wagon

Today’s Rare Ride is a peachy two-door wagon from a company in South Bend, Indiana that would cease to exist about a decade later.

It’s a Studebaker Champion Conestoga, from 1955.

The Champion line started in 1939 as Studebaker’s full-size offering. The company was desperate to improve its financial situation after poor sales in 1938 attacked the balance sheet. The Champion was all new, intended as a free-standing clean break for the company. Designers were not saddled with parts-sharing requirements from Studebaker execs, but were reminded that the Champion was to be as light as possible. The resulting two- and four-door sedans were indeed lighter than competitors, and came equipped with a 2.7-liter inline-six.

The Champion proved a success, seeing redesigns in 1942 and 1947. A third generation released for ’47 saw the lineup expand into the convertible, coupe, and station wagon realms.

By the early Fifties, the Champion was showing its age via upright and stodgy post-war styling. That changed in 1953 with the debut of a fourth-generation model. Studebaker hired a designer from Raymond Loewy’s design studio and told him to modernize. A part of said modernization was a class revision, from full-size to midsize.

What didn’t get modernized was the power motivating all Champions. Through the 1954 model year, Studebaker still employed the same 85-horsepower inline-six as in 1939, albeit enlarged to 2.8 liters. That same year, the Conestoga wagon joined the lineup. Studebaker gave in to modernity for 1955, offering an enlarged version of its old engine. The new displacement was a full three liters, and power jumped to 101 horsepower. Heady figures!

But sales were falling for the Champion line, and an independent Studebaker could not compete on price with competition at the Big Three. A final, fifth-generation Champion arrived for 1957, offered with less equipment and a lower price tag than previous generations. The company renamed its new affordable car the Champion Scotsman, and then just plain Scotsman.

While Studebaker offered a V8 for the final Scotsman (more than doubling the power figure), by that point the changes made little difference. The fifth-gen Champion was cancelled in 1958 after just two model years. The writing was on the wall for the rest of Studebaker as well, and the company officially folded in 1967.

Today’s Rare Ride is a beautiful Conestoga wagon from 1955. Well-equipped with air conditioning, it has 42,000 miles on the odometer and asks $29,500.

[Images: seller]

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  • Tassos While Acura was the first Japanese attempt to sell 'luxury' (or "premium") vehicles in the US market, and despite its original good success in the near-luxury segment with the Legend and the far smaller and less expensive Itegra (a glorified Civic), it later lost its momentum and offered a series of underwhelming vehicles. It sure is not a LUXURY maker, and as long as it offers FWD or AWD and NOT RWD vehicles, it will never be taken seriously as a serious sports cars maker. Infiniti is much worse, and if both of them go under, few will notice. Lexus was more successful, offering pimped up TOyotas for 10,000s more, but there is NO vehicle in their lineup, esp now that they scewed up the only serious entry (the LS), that I would care to consider. AND I say all this as a very satisfied owner of 5-speed Honda coupes and hatchbacks (a 1991 Civic hatch and a 1990 Accord Coupe).
  • Mike Beranek Yet another reason to accelerate the transition to electric vehicles charged with energy from wind & solar with modern, non-Monty Burns nuclear as a backup.
  • Tassos The cap the timid Western Europeans agreed to, a HIGH $60, which still lets Putin make a TON of billions of $, was way too HIGH. Ukraine correctly complained about this, it had asked for a $20 cap, I believe.
  • FreedMike "...I wouldn’t recommend holding your breath until fuel prices drop."Regular is $2.87 at my local gas station today. Considering that it was over four bucks this summer, I'd call that a drop. And it happened with the war still going on, the GOP not taking over Congress, Dark Brandon in the White House, and the Theoretical Keystone Pipeline still being canned. Imagine that. And I wonder if poor Slavuta has broken out the "will rap for food" sign yet.
  • THX1136 I would imagine the caps will have minimal impact. Putin is going to do what he wants to do regardless of how the citizens of his country fare.