1951 Studebaker Commander Starlight Coupe

Tom Mills
South Bend, IN

The story about this mild custom Coupe starts in a field in New Mexico, where it had been sitting for 25 years and was the local hotel for a herd of prairie dogs. Tom said it was pretty sad looking but there was no rust in it so he bought it and hauled it back to his body and paint shop in Indiana.

Tom started by removing the body and modifying the Studebaker chassis by adding a K-member and additional bracing for rigidity. Up front he installed tubular style control arms and coil springs, power rack and pinion steering and power disc brakes. Out back is a Dana 44 Twin Traction rear axle with traction bars and finned drums, mounted on leaf springs. Power comes from a GM ZZ4-355 HP crate engine with an Edelbrock 600 CFM carburetor and Sanderson cast headers. The transmission is a GM 200-4R OD unit. A custom aluminum radiator and shroud keeps things cool.

While the body was off, it was completely reconditioned on a rotisserie by Jefferson Auto Collision Service in Mishawaka, IN. The body was shaved and filled and a 1950 bullet and 1952 Studebaker headlight rims were added to the front end. Out back a bumper from a 63 Lark wagon was narrowed and then lengthened on the wraparound ends using parts of the Studebaker “wing guards”. The Lark also donated the bumper guard/license plate surround and the valance panel under the bumper, which was modified so it would flow into the rear fenders. Remote power windows and entry were installed and it was painted Torch Red with Glasurit Urethane basecoat/clearcoat.

Tom installed a full custom leather and cloth interior, featuring Lincoln Mark VII power bucket seats up front, with custom 3 point seat belts, and a modified Lincoln seat in the rear. The tilt-telescopic Cadillac steering column was mounted in a Studebaker housing and cruise control was installed. Other driver comforts include the custom built front and rear heat and air conditioning system and the Autosound radio with a 10 disc CD changer. The cool looking dash has color matched gauges by Classic Instruments. American Racing provided the chromed five spokes, 16" up front and 17" in the rear.