By GARY FONVILLE
Forgotten NY correspondent
In 1963 or so, Studebaker joined a long list of automotive names that no longer exist. Names such as Edsel, Pinto, Corvair, LaSalle, Desoto and AMC (American Motors Corporation) exist now only in people’s memories. Studebaker did relatively well in competing with other independent car makers and the Big Three (Ford, Chrysler and GM) until the early 1950s. Even though they were known for well engineered autos , the company succumbed to many managerial missteps. Studebaker’s labor costs were the highest in the industry and they took their eyes away from insuring quality control. In addition, Studebaker could not compete with the Big 3 being, especially when they, the Big Three, were embroiled in a price war. With sales plummeting rapidly, cash flow was a problem, causing them not to have enough in reserve to develop new models. During that period, Studebaker did produce some models that were stylistically competitive in the auto industry.
Personally, I can say without a doubt that these cars have been sitting here on the south side of Clermont Parkway, between Boston Road and Crotona Park East since at least January, 1983. I know this because three months after I began my career at the MTA as a Bus Operator, I was assigned to the old West Farms Depot, a former trolley barn, that was located on the east side of Boston Road, between East 175th and 176th Street at that time. I remember seeing these two Studebakers and would wonder what were these car’s stories – who owned them? when were they abandoned? when were they manufactured? and why was there no attempt to restore them? As of this writing in July, 2015, they’re still sitting there rotting.
Upon research I found that the black StudebakerStudebaker Commander or Champion, circa 1950. Upon closer examination, it was purchased, either used or new, from a car dealer named Dee in Springfield Gardens, Springfield Gardens, L.I., NY.
The Studebaker Lark, the red one, dates from circa 1961. It was manufactured when Studebaker was in the depths of financial distress.
Perhaps, even though they have deteriorated greatly, they could be restored to their original beauty.
I am open to any corrections, if needed, on the identification of the models’ names and years. As I’ve always said, FNY has many knowledgeable fans who will point out any miscues.