The 40-Foot Studebaker President

Aug 5, 2019 0 comments

wooden Studebaker president

Few companies escaped the Stock Market Crash of 1929 that plunged the United States and much of the western world into an abyss of economic recession. One of the worst hit was the automobile industry—because obviously it was hard to sell cars to people who were out of work.

Prior to the market crash, sales had been booming for the American automobile manufacturer, Studebaker. The company was comfortably placed with three large plants spread over 225 acres manufacturing more than 180,000 cars per year. When the Great Depression hit, Studebaker, like many other companies responded by reducing the scale of their operations and laying off their workers. The company barely survived the depression. The chairman of the board committed suicide. A series of bad decisions throughout the 1930s and the 40s, and tough competition from Ford and General Motors sealed their fate.

In the midst of all these difficulties, the Studebaker orchestrated one of the biggest automobile stunts by building an enormous replica of the Studebaker President out of wood.

The President was one of their premier models. Released in 1926, it had a 5.8 liter six-cylinder engine (later models had a smaller 5.1 liter engine) capable of delivering 122 horsepower that made it a king in land speed records. It had modern filters for air, oil, and fuel, an improved thermostat, and a Lanchester vibration damper.

wooden Studebaker president

wooden Studebaker president

In 1931, in order to promote sales, the company constructed a huge wooden replica of the President—two and a half times larger than its production counterpart. The model measured over forty feet long and fourteen feet tall. It weighed over 5.5 tons and had a body constructed of white pine. The wheels, supplied by the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, measured seven foot across.

The giant car was assembled near the main gate of the Studebaker Proving Grounds, just outside the automaker’s home town of South Bend, Indiana. The display generated a fair share of publicity for the company, and became an endless fascination for residents of the area and tourists passing through. The car also appeared in a ten-minute-long Studebaker promotional film entitled Wild Flowers.

Unfortunately, few measures where taken to protect the all-wood construction from the ravages of the harsh winter. The car survived until the spring of 1936, when the company decided to burn it to the ground because it was in such a sorry state.

wooden Studebaker president

Studebaker’s fascination with enormous vehicles didn’t die with the wooden President. At the 1933 Chicago World's Fair, Studebaker erected another giant—a model of their Land Cruiser, 80 feet long and 28 feet high—out of plaster over a wood framework. Below the running board, a door led visitors into an auditorium where films were shown extolling the virtues of the new Studebakers. The car was dismantled after the exhibition ended.

wooden Studebaker world fair


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