Passionate People

Thanks again to 56packardman for putting links to Monday’s and Tuesday’s Disaffected Musings posts on the Studebaker forum. (If you’re a Studebaker fan you should read this, by the way.) Also, thanks to the many Studebaker fans who clicked on those links.

“Nothing great has been and nothing great can be accomplished without passion.” Hegel is supposed to have made that remark and I have written a shorter version of it in this blog. No one can question the passion of Studebaker fans. Every time a link to a Disaffected Musings post appears on their forum the number of blog views/visitors increases dramatically. Remember that it’s been more than 50 years since the last Studebaker automobile was built.

So, why don’t I turn Disaffected Musings into a blog about defunct American makes like Studebaker? First, many people are far more qualified than I to write about Studebaker, Packard, Pontiac, etc. Second, my automotive passion extends beyond defunct American car companies. Third, my passion, in general, goes beyond just cars even though I have not created much non-automotive content recently.

Unfortunately, I think many people are just “mailing it in” when it comes to living their lives. I am not the happiest person on the planet, but I engage my real interests as often as possible. Nothing great can be accomplished without passion; I think Hegel was right on the money.

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On this day in 1915 the steamer Eastland overturned in the Chicago River, drowning between 800 and 850 of its passengers who were heading to a picnic. One person who was supposed to be on the boat, but wasn’t, was Papa Bear himself, George Halas. At first, his name actually appeared in local newspapers on the list of those missing or dead. If you don’t know, or even if you do, Halas founded the Decatur Staleys football team whom you probably know as the Chicago Bears. He was also a founding father of the National Football League. From the wonderful book The Pro Football Chronicle by Dan Daly and Bob O’Donnell:

 

“Years later he [Halas] reflected on his good fortune. ‘When I missed connections on the ill-fated Eastland,’ he said, ‘I realized I was a very lucky man. Nothing which has happened since has given me any reason to think otherwise.'”

 

Never discount the role that luck plays in life outcomes. By the way, Halas also had a brief major league baseball career playing in 12 games for the New York Yankees in 1919, the last season before the Yankees acquired Babe Ruth. From ESPN’s website a picture of George Halas:

 

See the source image

 

Even though I am a Packers fan I have tremendous respect for the career of George Halas. His 1963 selection as one of the original members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame was most deserved.

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See the source image

 

From Mecum Auctions a picture of a 1961 Buick LeSabre convertible that was offered at their Kissimmee auction in 2015. That car makes quite an impression on me especially with the white/beige top over the green exterior. I like exterior colors with some spirit. Continuing to imagine purchasing a Studebaker Gran Turismo Hawk I think I would have the car painted in British Racing Green. Sorry, purists, but I want the car the way I want it.

Back to the LeSabre…Buick built 11,951 LeSabre convertibles in 1961. The LeSabre featured a 364 cubic-inch V-8 rated at 250 HP, but in the Buick manner of this time period it produced 384 LB-FT of torque. The car had a three-speed automatic transmission. Like the hashtag reads, so many cars just one life.

 

#Studebaker

#ThePowerOfPassion

#EastlandSinking

#GeorgeHalas

#1961BuickLeSabreConvertible

#somanycarsjustonelife

#disaffectedmusings

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Loewy Coupe Concerto In Four Movements

Greetings from tropical Panama. No, I am not really in Panama, but with the dew points here having been in the mid-to-upper 70s for most of the last week it sure feels like I could be.

If the air temperature is 105°, but the dew point is 35°—which can happen in a place like say…Arizona—it will feel hot, but your perspiration will evaporate helping to cool you down. Evaporation is a cooling process.

If the air temperature is 90° and the dew point is 75°, like it’s been here for much of the last week, your perspiration will not evaporate anywhere near as quickly. When people say “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity” what they’re referring to, whether they know it or not, is the dew point. The dew point is the temperature at which the water vapor in a sample of air at constant barometric pressure condenses into liquid water at the same rate at which it evaporates. It is also referred to as a measure of the absolute amount of water vapor in the air as opposed to relative humidity, which is the amount of water vapor present in air expressed as a percentage of the amount needed for saturation at the same temperature. Meteorology lesson over…

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It’s another melancholy Monday as my wonderful wife, for the second time in three weeks, is away on a week-long business trip. I have expressed these thoughts before, but I don’t understand the “macho” attitude that many men express when they indicate they’re happy their wife is away. If you don’t like spending time with your wife then why did you marry her?

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I just acquired and finished reading Studebaker 1946-1966, The Classic Postwar Years by Richard Langworth. I devoured the book. Langworth wrote a concise, yet very informative recap of this period in Studebaker’s history.

The introduction of the legendary Loewy coupes in 1953 did not, unfortunately, turn out as planned for Studebaker. Let me start at the beginning, though, quoting liberally from Langworth’s book:

 

“Ask any industrial designer for the best automotive shape of the fifties and he’ll almost certainly pick the 1953-54 Studebaker coupes…One must be very careful here: The fifties was not a time of universal stylistic perversity, anymore than an era of uniform ugliness. The Continental Mark II, the Chevrolet Nomad, the 1953 Packard Caribbean, all deserve credit for purity of line. But none of them matched the sheer perfection in every detail of the Studebaker coupes. They were, and are, magnificent-looking machines. Before their first year was up they’d won Motor Trend’s award for ‘the most aesthetically styled cars.’ They’ve been cited as the outstanding industrial design of the decade by authorities who never before considered an automobile for that title.”

 

While it would have been great if Langworth had given us more specific cites in this paragraph, his point is still well-made. From momentcar.com a picture of a 1953 Studebaker Commander Regal Starliner coupe:

 

See the source image

 

From flickr a picture of another 1953 Studebaker Starliner coupe:

 

See the source image

 

With the “failure” of the coupes (reasons for which will be discussed shortly, it was really a failure of the sedans) and the trend in the US auto industry for yearly updates to styling and engineering, Studebaker felt compelled to update the cars. From crossbonescafe.wordpress.com a picture of a 1956 Studebaker Golden Hawk:

 

See the source image

 

While one can see the similarity in the front fenders and roof line, one can also see the changes in the hood, front grill and rear quarters. With the industry trend towards more fins and chrome, Studebaker continued to “update” the cars. From mydreamcar.online a picture of a 1959 Studebaker Silver Hawk:

 

See the source image

 

By model year 1959, the Hawk line was just a footnote for Studebaker. That was the year the company introduced the Lark compact, which was successful especially in light of Studebaker’s situation in the first years after the “merger” with Packard in 1954. Hawk sales were less than six percent of Studebaker’s 1959 total. As the Hawk became really dated Studebaker called on Brooks Stevens to update the car for a pittance. His creation was a masterpiece, in my opinion. From myclassicgarage.com by way of volocars.com, a picture of a not stock 1962 Studebaker Gran Turismo Hawk:

 

See the source image

 

One can still see the original front fenders from the 1953 Loewy coupes, more or less, as well as a strong resemblance to the ’53s in the rear. I must confess that in the past 2-3 weeks I have become even more obsessed than usual with the Gran Turismo Hawk. That obsession is one reason I purchased Langworth’s book.

OK, why didn’t the introduction of the original Loewy coupes turn out better for Studebaker? I’ll let Langworth tell the story:

 

“What happened to the brilliant ’53s was a tragedy, one of the major automotive tragedies of the fifties. When people in the late fifties didn’t buy Edsels, nobody cared much because Edsels were—well—ugly. [Sorry, C/2. Langworth’s words, not mine.] But when people didn’t buy Starliners and Starlights, everyone who loved cars mourned. So why didn’t they buy them? Ah, there’s the rub. One problem is that there weren’t enough and the scarcity was owed directly to management policy.”

“…In model year 1952, the company built about 134,000 two- and four-door sedans against some 49,000 hardtops and coupes—nearly a three-to-one proportion. In model year 1953 the proportion ended up at nine sedans to eight coupes. Studebaker had originally based production planning on the 1952 ratio, not taking into account the tremendous appeal of the coupes…To this extent, the coupes were too good. Their percentage of overall production was far higher than normal for the industry and well in excess of 1952. As the Loewy people had warned, previously designed sedans, using coupe styling details that were applied at the last moment before tooling, were just ghastly mistakes.”

 

The Studebaker sedans, at that time sedans were the bread and butter of the US auto industry, were an abysmal failure. Also, as Langworth points out, the production lines for the coupes were stopped almost as soon as they started by a tooling emergency. When the front-end sheet metal of the first coupes was mated to the chassis, it didn’t fit. Why? That’s really too long a story to tell in this already long post, but all of this contributed to coupe sales not matching their appeal.

As I have written often, I don’t really believe the axiom that if you build a better mousetrap the world will beat a path to your door. That is certainly not true anywhere near 100% of the time. People who think life is always fair or that people always get what they deserve are blind, stupid or both.

 

#FehWeather

#MachoStupidity

#Studebaker

#RaymondLoewy

#1953StudebakerCoupes

#1962StudebakerGranTurismoHawk

#somanycarsjustonelife

#disaffectedmusings

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Monday Museum Musings

Yesterday, as a delayed Fathers Day gift my wonderful wife and I took her parents to the AACA Museum in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Her father is a big Studebaker fan and the museum is currently hosting a large Studebaker exhibit. Although my wife and I are museum members the nearly 200-mile round trip keeps us from visiting more often than we do.

Perhaps the big highlight for me was seeing the Studebaker Sceptre concept car in person for the first time. The car is on loan to the AACA Museum from the Studebaker museum in South Bend, Indiana. Without further ado:

 

 

By the way, showing photos in this blog is why I am glad I still use a desktop computer with a big monitor. I’m sorry, but you just can’t appreciate photos from the screen of a smartphone.

I think Brooks Stevens was a genius. After his death in 1995 the New York Times called him “a major force in industrial design.” Another great Stevens design was the Studebaker Gran Turismo Hawk. In the bottom most of the four photos above you can see the red ’64 in the upper left. Here are some better pictures:

 

 

This is probably the finest GT Hawk I’ve ever seen. Stevens redesigned the Hawk, by this time a dated looking car, for a pittance and came up with a car that still looks good today. Tell me why I’ve left the GT Hawk out of both Ultimate Garages…

The AACA Museum is also hosting a small Pontiac exhibit that includes three GTOs. The only one of real interest to me is this one, a 1964 model.

 

 

It means nothing to anyone else, but I find something interesting in the fact that the last model year for the Studebaker GT Hawk is the same as the first year for the Pontiac GTO, 1964. I was just a wee lad, but I was alive at that time.

We all had a marvelous time. Kudos to Bill and to Warren, two volunteers at the museum who were so generous with their time and knowledge.

 

#AACAMuseum

#Studebaker

#StudebakerSceptre

#BrooksStevens

#1964StudebakerGTHawk

#1964PontiacGTO

#somanycarsjustonelife

#disaffectedmusings

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More For Monday

OK, as you can guess whatever interest I have in elections lies in the data. From this August article on thoughtco.com comes this chart:

 

Midterm Election Results

This chart shows the number of seats in the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate that the president’s party won or lost during midterm elections dating back to Franklin D. Roosevelt.

 Year  President  Party   House   Senate  Total 
1934 Franklin D. Roosevelt D +9 +9 +18
1938 Franklin D. Roosevelt D -71 -6 -77
1942 Franklin D. Roosevelt D -55 -9 -64
1946 Harry S. Truman D -45 -12 -57
1950 Harry S. Truman D -29 -6 -35
1954 Dwight D. Eisenhower R -18 -1 -19
1958 Dwight D. Eisenhower R -48 -13 -61
1962 John F. Kennedy D -4 +3 -1
1966 Lyndon B. Johnson D -47 -4 -51
1970 Richard Nixon R -12 +2 -10
1974 Gerald R. Ford R -48 -5 -63
1978 Jimmy Carter D -15 -3 -18
1982 Ronald Reagan R -26 +1 -25
1986 Ronald Reagan R -5 -8 -13
1990 George Bush R -8 -1 -9
1994 William J. Clinton D -52 -8 -60
1998 William J. Clinton D +5 0 +5
2002 George W. Bush R +8 +2 +10
2006 George W. Bush R -30 -6 -36
2010 Barack Obama D -63 -6 -69
2014 Barack Obama D -13 -9 -21

 

The lesson? Regardless of party, whichever one won the Presidency will almost certainly lose Congressional seats in the midterm election. I don’t watch CNN or MSNBC or Fox News or network news so I don’t know if this FACT has been reported; I doubt it, but it sure seems relevant to me. Do I have a prediction? I don’t know enough to make one, but the history sure seems clear. (Update: regular reader Philip Maynard has commented that the “news” networks are “reporting” this general trend in midterms. However, I suspect that regardless of ideological slant the reporting comes with an agenda and is not “just the facts.”)

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Thanks to 56packardman for posting links to this blog on other car sites when relevant. I will return the favor and post a link to a piece that I found quite interesting, the subject of which was Studebaker and not Packard.

From the article comes this picture:

I don’t know the year, but it looks like a 1964-66 Studebaker Cruiser four-door sedan. As regular readers know my interests are almost exclusively in two-door vehicles, but this car’s history overcomes that for me. More from this post by 56packardman:

“As we have covered previously, Studebaker found itself on the ropes yet again after the 1959 Lark briefly saved the company. Studebaker had been in decline since the badly botched introduction of its 1953 line. In 1961 the Studebaker board brought in Sherwood Egbert to end auto production. Instead, he mounted a Churchillian effort to revive the company’s car business. While the effort didn’t save the company, it did result in some of the most memorable cars Studebaker ever built: the Gran Turismo Hawk and the Avanti. Egbert brought Brooks Stevens on board to re-make the cars and Raymond Loewy was tasked with the project that yielded the Avanti. Stevens worked miracles with almost no money on the passenger car bodies. Over three model years, he grafted enough new sheet metal onto the cars that the 1964s looked like they were an all-new design. Stevens’ re-working of the Hawk produced one of the finest designs of the ’60s with the bonus to Studebaker of the ’62 Gran Turismo Hawk costing the company $28 a car less to produce than the ’61 model. Bean counters today would be pleased with the $28 per car savings, but in 1960’s dollars, this was a very significant cost reduction. Despite the lower cost, the car looked new and fresh – and the design has aged well. Stevens’ Gran Turismo Hawk, like the Robert Bourke-designed Starliner hardtop coupe it is based on, is still a very handsome automobile.”

 

“Necessity is the mother of invention” is a famous saying. Studebaker made some remarkable cars in the early 1960s, but was doomed anyway. If you build a better mousetrap the world will not necessarily beat a path to your door.

 

#somanycarsjustonelife

#disaffectedmusings

 

For Philip Maynard:

https://s3.amazonaws.com/wp-images.bankspower.com/performance-upgrades/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/27122045/DSCF0012-1400x600.jpg

From bankspower.com a picture of the “Hanky Panky” by Bruce Geisler.

 

 

Mittwoch Musings

October 10?! Once again, Mittwoch (“Middle of the Week”) is the German/Yiddish word for Wednesday.

Based on the specific “referrals” to the site, and as far as I can surmise, yesterday’s out of context post title (Mutant Zombies) may have attracted one or two readers who might not otherwise have read Disaffected Musings. Were any regular readers put off by the title?

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From Ambrose Bierce: “A conservative is a statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from a liberal who wishes to replace them with other evils.”

Bierce also said, “Politics is a strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.”

Bierce was a renowned writer/poet and a journalist who served in the Union Army for virtually the entire Civil War. In late 1913 he traveled to Mexico in an attempt to experience the Mexican Revolution first-hand. He was never seen again.

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Even noted finance publication Barron’s has taken note of the restomod industry. Long-time friend and Disaffected Musings reader Robert sent me this link. The article is about restomod Mustangs by a company called Revology founded by Tom Scarpello, a long-time auto industry veteran. What I found interesting and amusing is that the tone of this article makes it seem like Scarpello invented the idea of the restomod, even though that actual word is not used. Of course, restomods have been around a long time. Maybe people who read Barron’s have no idea.

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I’m still in a moratorium on writing about or showing C2 Corvettes. (Technically, I guess I just violated the moratorium.) I have been re-reading More Than They Promised, a history of Studebaker, by Thomas Bonsall. If I didn’t want to push away the rapidly increasing number of readers I would show a lot of charts from the book. These charts, on things like sales data and assets, fascinate me, but I’m more than a bit of an oddball as any regular reader knows.

Five-ish years ago I would not have had any interest in a car like this:

This is a photo (by yours truly) of a 1932 “custom” Studebaker St. Regis. By custom I mean the car has a non-standard body that includes extra-long doors. Most people think of Studebaker as a lower-price make and, of course, that was the reality for much of Studebaker’s existence. However, the real world is almost always more complicated than our distillations of it. People who engage in what I call impossible distillations of reality are usually off the mark.

This car is quite handsome in person, but one would not expect to see too many museum pieces in a state of squalor. Once again, if you are a car aficionado please do all that you can, within your means, to support the hobby. That might include membership in an automobile museum.

October 10?!

 

 

 

 

Sunday Studebaker

From this post comes this observation:

 

Studebaker’s V-8 was one of the best engines of the era. We have pointed out in previous posts that it had one major design factor that severely limited Studebaker’s ability to expand it: the bore center spacing was such that the engine could not practically be expanded beyond 289 cubic inches. We perceive of that now as being a flaw in the design, but we need to understand the engineers’ reasons for designing the engine as they did. The engineers DELIBERATELY designed the engine to be limited in displacement. Deliberately?!

Yes, because South Bend’s engine engineers had counted on postwar predictions from General Motors Research Labs that future gasoline octane ratings would soon rise above that of aviation fuel. Charles Kettering, GM’s research boss, saw higher octane ratings and higher engine compression ratios as the next big thing.

Studebaker bought into that and developed its postwar V-8 so it would accept compression ratios of up to 14:1. The idea was to increase engine power and efficiency by progressively raising compression rather than by expanding displacement. Unfortunately for Studebaker, the oil companies didn’t go along with Kettering’s vision, automotive octane numbers stayed flat, and Studebaker was left holding the small-displacement bag.”

 

Besides noting that history is replete with examples of the folly of human beings trying to predict the future, even when the arena is at least partially under human control, think about the ramifications of this point. Studebaker was in no position to cover the waterfront; that is, it did not have the resources to design multiple V-8 blocks. Chevrolet/GM could develop a small-block and big-block V-8 with different overall exterior dimensions, including different bore center spacing, and not just different displacements. Studebaker could not afford that approach.

I have a graduate degree in Economics (which, at this point, will get me breakfast at McDonald’s as long as I also have $5). Once an industry begins to shake out in terms of market share—and luck/stochastic variation can play a large role in that process—it can be virtually impossible for those firms with smaller share to ever gain market power. Market share begets more market share. Once the US auto industry developed into The Big Three and everyone else, and this happened sooner than most people realize, the demise of the Independents may simply have become inevitable. (For model year 1941, the last full year of production before World War II, all of the top eight makes in terms of production were Big Three makes.)

“A thing of beauty is a joy forever, its loveliness increases. It will never pass into nothingness…”

– John Keats

See the source image

From autoblog.com a picture of a Studebaker Avanti.

See the source image

From conceptcarz.com a picture of a Studebaker Commander Starliner coupe.

From Keats again, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever, its loveliness increases. It will never pass into nothingness…”

 

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