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New test drive of a '58 Studebaker Scotsman

Many forum members, and particularly Triedag, should be interested in reading this article, in the May, 2012 issue of Hemmings Classic Car magazine.

For the younger members who are not familiar with this model, for the '57 & '58 model years, Studebaker stripped-down their low-priced Champion sedan and came up with the lowest-priced US-made car of its time, the Scotsman–and priced it at an astonishing $1,776. While it was possible to bump-up the sticker price with options, the options list was so short that the most the price could have gone up was–maybe $150. Even a radio was not available from the factory, although most folks probably did install one on their own, after delivery.

The price was held down by substituting a rubber mat for carpeting, and by eliminating sound insulation. The only chrome on the car was on the bumpers, as the hub caps, grill, and some trim pieces were painted. Overall, the car was truly bare-bones, but it was still a full-sized car. The Scotsman did not continue into the '59 model year because that was when Studebaker introduced the compact Lark, and they didn’t need any competition within their own model line for Lark sales.

The most astounding thing about this full-size, 6-passenger car was its fuel economy. The Scotsman routinely gave 30 mpg on the highway, and with the optional overdrive, it was capable of 40 highway mpg!

Some of its European rivals could boast of similar gas mileage, but none of them could carry 6 people and a full load of luggage. If someone wanted to give up some of that fuel economy, one of the few Scotsman options was a V-8 with 189 hp. There was even a Scotsman pickup truck–complete with V-8, that sold for about $200 less than the sedan.

If you want to read this interesting article, you can find the magazine at Barnes & Noble and–possibly–some other retailers with very large magazine racks.

Thank you for citing the article in “Hemming Classic Car” . I remember going to see the newly introduced Studebaker Scotsman in the spring of 1957 when I was in high school. The Studebaker Scotsman had a 186 cubic inch engine which was designed before WW II in a 169 cubic inch form. While the engine was economical, I don’t think it routinely gave 30 mpg on the highway and the Scotsman must have been going downhill to achieve mileage like that. I know that the 1959 Studebaker Lark with the 6 cylinder engine in its original 169 cubic inch engine and the three speed manual with overdrive did well to get 22-25 mpg. The 259 cubic inch V-8 engine with the same transmisison got virtually the same mileage.The Studebaker 6 cylinder engines were inline flathead engines, which were not as efficient as overhead valve engines. In fact, in 1961, Studebaker converted the flathead 6 to an overhead valve engine. Scotsman did build a few cars with the Studebaker 289 cubic inch V-8. This was meant for police use, but as anxious as Studebaker was to sell cars, I am sure anyone with the money could purchase one.
What fascinated me about the Studebaker company is that they did quite a lot with very little. The 1953 Studebakers were a really new design and there were actually 2 distinct cars. The coupe later became the Hawk. The 2 door and four door sedans were a different car. These cars had the styling modified through the years. Even the 1959 Studebaker Lark was just a shortened version of the 1953 Sedan. The passenger compartment was the same which gave the Lark quite a bit of interior space.
I liked the Studebaker Scotsman. It offered a 6 passenger car comfortable car without frills and was the lowest price full size car offered in the U.S. The Scotsman reflects my family when I was growing up. We didn’t have a lot of money for frills, but we lived comfortably and happily with what we had.

My Godfather always bought Studies in the early 50’s. He had the car and the truck. I always thought they were neat looking and drove smooth. We had a Lark for a second commuter car in the 60’s but I’ll be danged if I can remember what year it was. I remember I had to do a little body work to fix the rust on the fenders on it. One day my dad came home and it was running terrible. I took a look at it and discovered the vacuum line had come loose. That’s the only problem I can remember with it.

In 1963, Studebaker did offer a stripped down Lark that was like the Scotsman. It did have a heating system that brought in fresh air as opposed to the recirculating box that hung down under the dashboard as did the Scotsman. Also, the Lark had an automatic choke as opposed to the manual choke that was used in the Scotsman. I think that the stripped 1963 Lark may have also had electric windshield wipers. The engine was the 169 cubic inch 6, but had been converted to an overhead valve engine.
The dealer where my Dad did business had been a DeSoto/Plymouth dealer, but gave up this franchise in 1960 and picked up the Studebaker franchise, the Checker franchise and also Morris/Austin franchise. He had a brand new black, stripped 2-door Lark on the showroom floor priced at $1495 in the summer of 1963. The only brand new car that he had for less money than that was a Morris 850 (the forerunner of the Mini Cooper), and that Lark was a 6 passenger car. I would have bought the Lark, but I was in graduate school at the time and would have had to borrow $1000 and I would have wiped out the $500 I had in savings. I was earning $2000 a year as a graduate assistant at the time and a $1500 car was not in my budget.

In the PC world of today, could a car company offer the “cheap” model and name it “Scotsman?” I feel sure no one would name the cheap model “Kosher” these days.

@Rod Knox–I am certain in today’s world of political correctness, the “Scotsman” name wouldn’t be acceptable. Incidentally, the best selling Studebaker Scotsman model was the station wagon. The full sized, 2 door station wagon sold for under $2000 in 1957.

Studebaker sure had some ‘interesting’ model names, like the '37 ‘Dictator’:

Regarding the $1,495 '63 Lark. That was a fair amount of money back then. The '72 Duster (no options) I got used had the window sticker in it, $1,800 new in '72. So $1,500 in '63 wasn’t real cheap.

@Triedaq Your probably right, but you can still buy “Scotch” tape which was named for the same reason…it’s makers supposed cheap ways.

Studebaker Hawk - great sounding name.
Studebaker Avanti - great looking car.