Home » Cars My Dad Used To Have, Kind Of: 1955 Studebaker President vs 1957 MGA

Cars My Dad Used To Have, Kind Of: 1955 Studebaker President vs 1957 MGA

Sbsd 6 16 2023
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Good morning, and happy Friday! As you are probably aware, Sunday is Father’s Day (at least here in the US; is it more widespread than that now?), so I wanted to do a little tribute to my dad, and by extension, dads everywhere. But we’ll get to that in a minute; first, let’s finish up with yesterday’s foolishness:

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Well, there you go; the shorter car has the longer bar on the graph. Lots of folks thought the airport wagon was cool, but had no idea where to park it; it’s a valid concern. And big props to commenter “newbalanceextrawide” for the Penny Racers reference; I got a good laugh out of that one. Oh, and for the record, I think the portmanteau we were all searching for is “Cameetle.”

[Editor’s Note: These were actually known as “Funtastiks!” – JT]

This Sunday will be my first Father’s Day without my dad. I think I’m going to mark the occasion by washing and waxing his car; I just have to decide on the appropriate soundtrack: Boston, John Hiatt, or Beethoven? I’ll see what sort of mood I’m in. But today, I decided to feature a couple of cars from his honestly-pretty-cool vehicular resumé, or at least the closest things I could find to them in a reasonable amount of time. I know he’d dig these, and I hope you all do, too. Let’s take a look.

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1955 Studebaker President – $14,500

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Engine/drivetrain: 259 cubic inch overhead valve V8, three-speed automatic, RWD

Location: Gresham, OR

Odometer reading: 94,000 miles

Dad’s actual car: 1954 Studebaker Commander coupe, V8, three-speed manual

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Studebaker in the 1950s was just too damn cool. Its cars were lower and sleeker than anyone else’s, and its engineering department created some serious horsepower to propel those designs. Unfortunately, its business side was a complete fiasco. Even merging with Packard, which had more money but a smaller market share, couldn’t save them, and the merger ended up dragging both companies down. But while it lasted, it was beautiful.

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For 1955, Studebaker revived its President nameplate, last used before the war, for top-of-the-line coupes and sedans. The fastest, coolest, and most expensive of these was the Speedster two-door hardtop. This isn’t one of those; it’s “only” a President hardtop coupe. But it has the same 259 cubic inch V8, the same sleek shape, and the same cool factor. This one is an automatic; my dad’s car was a Commander, one trim level down, with a three-on-the-tree. A V8 in a car with such a low hood required some tricky packaging; the air cleaner assembly is off to one side, rather than being on top of the carb as usual.

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This Stude is in fine shape, and the seller lists a bunch of repairs that have been made in the last few years. From the sounds of it, every mechancial thing that could have needed attention has been gone through. It has all the makings of a great summertime cruiser, and it’s priced a lot less than some other ’50s classics in this condition. Even after all these years, Studebaker gets no respect.

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Honestly, I prefer the Commander to the President; it has less bulky brightwork. The President’s grille looks a little heavy to me. Still, it’s a great-looking car, and I hope it finds a new owner who appreciates it.

1957 MGA  Mk1 Roadster – $18,000

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Engine/drivetrain: 1.5 liter overhead valve inline 4, four-speed manual, RWD

Location: Somewhere in Washington State

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Odometer reading: not stated

Dad’s actual car: 1961 MGA 1600 MkII Roadster, also red

MG had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the post-war styling era. The T series retained the basic appearance of the 1936 TA Midget all the way until 1955. There were advances along the way: the MG TD brought independent front suspension and rack-and-pinion steering to the mix, and the TF  featured headlights that were smoothed into the front fenders – but it still had separate fenders. The MGA finally embraced the ponton style that had been adopted by nearly everyone else. Its design was based on a 1951 streamliner MG TD built to race at Le Mans.

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The MGA also saw a switch to the BMC B-series engine from the Morris-designed XPAG/XPEG engines. This car features a 1490 cubic centimeter version of the B, with a three-main-bearing block. Its fed by a Weber DGV downdraft carburetor, but the original side-draft twin SU carbs are included in the sale. I’ve never understood the Weber swaps on MGs, frankly; SUs are easy to rebuild, easy to tune, perform well, and look correct. I mean, putting a Weber on the later MGBs with that awful Zenith-Stromberg carb, sure, but an MGA? Blasphemy.

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This car does run and drive well, even with the wrong carb setup. It’s not perfect; the seller has been driving it a lot, so expect some scratches and rock chips here and there. It also needs a new top, unless you’re going to only take it out on nice days and say to hell with the top, and who could blame you?

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It also has regular old four-lug steel wheels, which I like. Lots of folks prefer wire wheels, but honestly, I’m not overly fond of the look, and they’re a pain in the ass. The spokes loosen, the splines wear out, and the whole thing just becomes a wobbly sloppy mess. Oh, and they require tires with tubes, too. I’d rather just have the steelies. I do wish this one had its hubcaps, though.

So there they are: reasonable stand-ins for two cool cars my dad had before I was born. (OK, technically, the MGA belonged to my grandfather, but the VW Golf that I drove in college technically belonged to my dad too, so what comes around goes around, I guess.) Both are ready to go, and both seem like fair prices to me. Which one strikes your fancy?

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Oh, and because I know someone out there is curious, here are the rest of Dad’s cars (and the ones he picked out for my mom), as far as I can recall:

1951 Packard Patrician, 1955 Plymouth station wagon, 1963 Plymouth Valiant, 1967 Plymouth Barracuda, 1968 Ford Fairlane, 1966 Triumph Spitfire, 1971 Opel Manta, 1969 VW Beetle, 1965 Triumph TR4A, 1974 Ford Pinto Squire wagon, 1976 Dodge Aspen, 1979 Fiat 128, 1980 VW Dasher diesel, 1983 Dodge 600 ES sedan, 1985 VW Golf, 1987 Audi 5000S, 1984 Cadillac Cimarron, 1986 Audi 5000CS Turbo, 1983 Audi 5000S Turbo, 1992 Ford Taurus SHO (while living in Winnipeg, Manitoba), 1990 BMW 730i (while living in Germany), 1999 Toyota Camry, 2002 Ford Escape, 2003 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder, 2006 Chrysler 300C, 2013 Chrysler 300C (this last one is the one to be washed/waxed on Sunday).

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there!

(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

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Myk El
Myk El
11 months ago

My dad’s preference would be a two door hardtop 1954, but that ’55 is close enough. I know my vote. I’d take that car to see my friend in Fresno.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LwM8lQJziRs

Martin Ibert
Martin Ibert
11 months ago

There is a Father’s Day here too, but it’s on a different day. It’s the Thursday 10 days before Whitsun.

Greg Smith
Greg Smith
11 months ago

M G A…also Hiatt – bring the family – song 8 – I mean…come on

Freelivin2713
Freelivin2713
11 months ago

Studebaker! Yeah, Boston has some really great songs

Dodsworth
Dodsworth
11 months ago

I’ve got to go with the Studebaker. If you don’t mind a suggestion for extremely sentimental song, Leader of the Band by Dan Fogelberg.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
11 months ago

I will take them both especially after yesterday take neither. And these are both cheaper than either of yesterdays crapheaps.

Olaf Hart
Olaf Hart
11 months ago

Father’s Day is the first Sunday in September.
I think my dad would have gone for the Studebaker, and it is a wonderful thing to look at.
As a toy car, I would rather drive the roadster, and the MGA is a lovely thing.

Miss you Dad.

Martin Ibert
Martin Ibert
11 months ago

Father’s day in The Free World (TM) was on Thursday, May 18th, 2023. It’s one of a bunch of holidays that travel with Easter, essentially.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
11 months ago

I really like the look of the Studebaker. It’s rather sleek and not too overly-chromed. But it’s only got 185hp—and that’s strangled by a 50s era automatic in a 3100+ lb car. I had to vote for the open 4-speed manual.

Last edited 11 months ago by TOSSABL
AlterId
AlterId
11 months ago

A very difficult choice. My dad “fixed up” to driver status a 1968 Datsun 1600 roadster for me (sadly, I didn’t inherit his wrenching skills and interest like my brother did), so the MGA pulls a couple of heartstrings. But I always liked the Lowey Starliner and gradually warmed to the pillared Starlight and later Hawk derivatives, and it looks like the rear quarter-panels of this one are a step toward the squared-off and dechromed (compared to those of the late ’50s, especially the Packard versions that closed out the marque) Hawk of 1962. Happy birthday, Mr President, and I don’t see any harm in meeting up with you and your brother at Peter’s beach house for a nightcap.

Camp value or shock value would make a base trim version attractive if Studebaker had retained the model hierarchy of the ’30s that descended from premium President to mid-grade Commander to Dictator, the value model. They changed that to “Director” for some export markets, but they used it from 1927 to 1936. Maybe they were going for the disillusioned fascist-friendly buyer.

ADDvanced
ADDvanced
11 months ago

My dad has a speedster, fully restored. Thing is nice enough to eat off of, and it only sees sunlight a few times a year. Going w the stude for sure.

Note: Missed opportunity to educate the unwashed masses (non designers) on Raymond Loewy. 😛

Last edited 11 months ago by ADDvanced
Inthemikelane
Inthemikelane
11 months ago
Reply to  ADDvanced

Non-designer here, made me look up Loewy, glad I did!

ADDvanced
ADDvanced
11 months ago
Reply to  Mark Tucker

I used to write for Amazon’s carlustblog.com and Exner’s son contributed a lot as well. Cool guy. I bet he has some stories.

Ricki
Ricki
11 months ago

Blue Stude for me. My dad just couldn’t handle foreign cars.

FloridaNative
FloridaNative
11 months ago

Both great choices, but since my DD is a drop-top, I’ll take the Studebaker. It is a looker!

Steve Pugh
Steve Pugh
11 months ago

As a father of two, I gotta go with the car i can take both kids in, so the Studebaker gets my vote. Both are really nice looking cars, though.

XLEJim700
XLEJim700
11 months ago

Love hurts, love scars / Love wounds and marks

Reading today’s S/S is like watching those old Doublemint commercials with two equally-beautiful gum snappers.

Saying yes to one is saying no to the other.

Time to man up: Studebaker

Ooh, ooh love hurts

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
11 months ago
Reply to  XLEJim700

Fun fact there were actually 13 sets of twins that portrayed the Doublemint twins.

Jason Roth
Jason Roth
11 months ago

The Studebaker is awesome, but this MG is one of the only cars that could beat it for me. My mom’s first car was a red TR3, and she always said that real sports cars don’t have glass in the doors, so the MGA would count as a delayed Mother’s Day memorial for me.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
11 months ago
Reply to  Jason Roth

Now that’s a true Cool Car Mom

Gary Lynch
Gary Lynch
11 months ago

Both nice cars,but I agree that Stude’s need way more love than they are getting.

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