By on March 26, 2019

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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24 Comments on “Rare Rides: Hop in a 1955 Studebaker Conestoga Wagon...”

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    The father of a friend of mine had one of the last Studebaker Wagonaires, and kept it right up into the early 1970’s. It was that family’s all time favourite vehicle.

    Sorry don’t know much about the Conestoga. But the front grille looks like it was installed ‘upside down’.

  • avatar

    OMG.. fill up the pic-a-nic basket with Vienna bread, sardines and La Palinas. We’re goin fishin!

    Oh… everybody wear a hat.

  • avatar

    Looks like it’s running a 350 small block, probably backed by a Turbo 350, with a B&M shifter. Also some sort of vintage air a/c setup, and a GM Delcotron alternator (maybe a one-wire).

    • 0 avatar
      R Henry

      SBC is the sluttiest of sluts. She sleeps EVERYWHERE…!

    • 0 avatar

      @duke: I was just logging in to say the same thing as you did. While I’m glad (I guess) that the owner put in seat belts, I wonder if they would be effective in one of those willowy 1950’s cars? I hope they installed disc brakes, too…

      The lights at the bottom of the front bumper are/were removable, I believe they were an option on these cars. Taking those off would certainly clean up the front view.

      Regardless, it’s a sweet little car. I’d love a resto mod like that…

      • 0 avatar

        Willowy is right. My brother-in-law’s aunt drove a 1959 Studebaker Lark, the model that kept Studebaker alive a little longer, and it was broadsided in a parking lot, at about 15 MPH. The Lark was totaled: it was so badly mangled it took a front loader pushing from behind to help winch it onto a flat bed. The aunt was lucky it was hit on the passenger side, but still got a broken right ankle out of it.

  • avatar

    A couple of comments—Studebaker only made 1 prototype wagon for the 1947-52 series and that is in the Studebaker Museum after undergoing a painstaking restoration. No wagons were produced until the 1954 version of your featured car (an excellent example). Studebaker introduced their own design V8 in the 1951 Bullet nose models and was in production in various sizes from 224 to 304 cubic inches through 1964, so the 6 cylinder was not the only engine option.

  • avatar

    And you guys thought only 5 mph bumpers from the 70s are ugly. Look at that chromed fish mouth! I wonder if the 1954 bumper would fit. Otherwise, I like the look and the color!

    • 0 avatar

      “Look at that chromed fish mouth!”

      Really highlights the overbite!

      ’54 is vastly more elegant, even on 4-door:

      • 0 avatar

        Catfish face, the 50s sure ran the gambit from beautiful to fish face

        • 0 avatar

          Bad as the ’55 grilles were, look what happened to that poor car the next year:

        • 0 avatar

          I know some people on here don’t like “lower, longer, wider” but the early 60s cars saved us from the wild chrome orgy of the late 50s.

          • 0 avatar

            Well, my skeleton doesn’t like that concept now but my eyeballs have never seen anything more beautiful than ’59-’67 GM cars.

            I start at ’59 solely because of Angry Buick.

          • 0 avatar

            …and I can’t think of a truly bad-looking GM product from that time period.

            (Corvair vans, maybe, and I’ve never been a fan of the ’66 Cadillac, but otherwise, there’s not a loser in this whole bunch.)

            Lord, how the mighty have fallen.

          • 0 avatar

            “my eyeballs have never seen anything more beautiful than ’59-’67 GM cars.”

            That certainly was the golden age of GM

    • 0 avatar

      From what I understand, the extra chrome and appendages were added at the request of dealers who thought they were being out-chromed by Buick, Pontiac, Mercury, and Dodge.

  • avatar

    Although they are from well before my time, I like these Studes! I like the Wagonaire even better.

  • avatar

    There is a lot going on with that front bumper – someone may have been hopped up on something?

    I give Styling a hard time, but we should all remember that it is not an easy job to design a really attractive vehicle.

  • avatar

    A very nice Resto – Mod indeed .

    I love station wagons .


  • avatar


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