The Star Cars Of SpeedWeek Are... Studebakers?
While SpeedWeek has changed much since a 1953 Studebaker coupe made its first official run across the Bonneville Salt Flats, one thing remains constant: Studebakers are STILL making and breaking class records a half-century after the company itself went out of business.
SpeedWeek, for those unaware, is an annual summertime tradition at Bonneville. Hundreds of cars from dozens of classes compete to reach the highest speed in a wide range of categories, and you think vehicles (cars AND trucks, by the way) from a manufacturer that went belly up back in 1964 appear merely as novelties, think again: in 2010, no less than 14 Studes punished the salt as speeds of up to 250mph! We're checking out some of the best images of some of the cleanest, leanest and meanest Studebakers ever to break it bad at Bonneville!
Number One With A Bullet
While the sleek, streamlined 1953-55 Studebaker Champion and Commander coupes and hardtops styled by Raymond Loewy are the most common Studebakers to make the SpeedWeek scene, other members of the storied marque make their presence known. Take this 1950 Studebaker convertible coupe... if it was good enough for Stanley Ipkiss, it's good enough for the salt flats.
A Kansas farm truck at Bonneville? You betcha, Toto! In 2010 Norris Anderson's Chevy-powered '49 set a record in AA/MP class, powering down the line at 219.331 mph and shattering the old record by nearly 18 mph.
“Nasty on Nitro” reads the hood graphic on Bob Drury and Old Stud Racing's seriously modified '53 Champion coupe, and there's no reason to doubt it. In 2010 this screamin' yellow sled led the A/cF ALT category posting top speeds in the range of 225 mph.
Chopped Not 'Shopped
What Raymond Loewy began, SpeedWeek speed demons finish. A little off the top here, a lowered suspension there, and a few subtle wind-cheating mods like fixed plexiglass windows, solid disk wheelcovers and mirrored headlight caps make Blue Beauty, Gord Driedger's cool '53 ready to rumble in class XF/GCC.
Bob Weaver's 1953 Studebaker Coupe shows off the clean lines and wind-cheating shape that stunned car-buyers in the fall of 1952. Show's one thing; go's another: this mellow yellow veteran harbors a Chrysler Hemi engine under its hood.
Boys & The Hood
Your eyes aren't deceiving you, the above Stude's enormous hood scoop really does top out level with the roofline! So, did this rodder's modder raise the scoop or chop the roof? Maybe a little of both so the twain shall meet. One thing beyond debate is the fact this radical Stude set the B/BGCC class record at 249.945 mph at the 2008 SpeedWeek.
The 1963 Studebaker Avanti dropped car-fans' jaws in much the same way as its Starlight predecessor did a decade earlier and, no surprise, both cars were styled by Raymond Loewy. The Avanti boasted OEM get-up-and-go along with its stunning good looks, though the example above has been extra-fortified for its salt flats debut.
Salt, Not Snow
SpeedWeek has become an international phenomenon attracting participants and onlookers from around the globe. The smooth coupe above hails from Canada (note the small flag sticker in the window) and sports a Hemi motor under the hood.
This year SpeedWeek runs from August 9th through 15th and you can be sure the usual Studebaker suspects (and, chances are, a few old-school newcomers) will be strutting their stuff on the salt. One way or another, there'll surely be a Champion in the mix! (all images via MyRideIsMe and especially Grease Girl, who appears at top with her 1955 Studebaker Champion Coupe)