Last updated 5-21-2011 -
Last updated 5-21-2011
A website for the 1952 or 1958 Studebaker hardtop.
Like Coupe or Sedan, Hardtop is an often misused automotive term. All it really means is a body style where the B pillar has been removed to simulate the roof line of a convertible with the top up. Indeed, “hard top convertible” is the real origin of the word.
The first production hardtops came out of Harley Earl’s GM styling department for the 1949 Buick, Olds, and Cadillac. The sporty, open look was an instant success. Buyers in the post-war era loved the styling moves GM was making, and so predictably all auto manufacturers were soon offering hardtops and sprouting tailfins.
Studebaker delivered their first hardtop for 1952. Even though styling at Studebaker was handled very capably by the Raymond Loewy studio, Earl’s hardtop had proven to be no passing fad. Hardtops were already an entire market segment. And as the body platform first introduced for the 1947 Studebakers had already included a convertible, adapting a hardtop roof wasn’t really a major undertaking. Suitable doors and framed windows already existed thanks to the convertible, and it also supplied the extra underbody bracing that a hardtop often needs to add rigidity to the body.
Coincidentally, 1952 represented the centennial year for the Studebaker corporation. 100 years had passed since the Studebaker brothers had started their South Bend, Indiana blacksmith shop. An all new model would have been a nice way to celebrate, but couldn’t be made ready in time. So along with a nice facelift to the front end, the hardtop added a little pizazz to the 1952 showroom offerings. Studebaker even found a flashy name – Starliner – to advertise these models with. It fit in nicely with the existing Starlight Coupe model.
Those all new models did finally show up for 1953. And while a hardtop style was included, it was a roof variety on the fabulous new coupe design. These low slung beauties hardly needed a missing B pillar to stand out in a crowd ! The casual observer might not even notice the difference between the coupe and hardtop. A more stodgy looking sedan was also a part of the 1953 lineup. But no effort was ever made to add a hardtop to the sedan body, and in fact the convertibles were also discontinued. The 1952 sedan-based hardtop ended up being a one year only model.
The 1950’s were terrific times for the automotive industry in general. But not so much for Studebaker and the other independents. Studebaker sales were miserable by 1958, but there was one bright spot. A beautiful new hardtop appeared based on the full size 2 door sedan. Then came 1959, and Studebaker wisely retooled for small car production in an effort to survive. The cute new lark was offered in several models, including a hardtop, and for a time sales were good. But it left the 58 hardtop model, like the 52 before it, as a one year only design.
Studebaker never sold in quantities like Ford or Chevy. The 1952 and 1958 hardtops were unique models even when new, and are now relatively rare to find. This website is dedicated to documenting data on these cars, as well as registering the survivors. If you own a 1952 or 1958 hardtop, please contact me. Any story or picture about running or non-running cars is of interest.
All parties interested in Studebaker are encouraged to join the Studebaker Drivers Club. For more than 40 years
The club has brought together Studebaker enthusiasts via local chapters, national meets, and the monthly
magazine ‘turning wheels’.