Surely one of the greatest automobile related exhibits at any World’s Fair ever, this enormous replica of the Studebaker streamlined 1934 Land Cruiser in many ways represented the company’s optimistic forward outlook at a time when their future seemed less than bright. They had fallen into receivership early in 1933 but, rather than be forced to liquidate, Paul G. Hoffman and Harold S. Vance convinced the bankruptcy court that the organization would have a better chance of paying off creditors if it was allowed to stay in business than if the company was dissolved.
Studebaker had merged with Pierce-Arrow in 1928 and shared engineering and styling talent through 1933. In a move calculated to capitalize on the attention that their Pierce Silver Arrow had attracted at the fair in 1933, Studebaker embarked on a crash program to develop a similarly futuristic design on a less exclusive chassis for 1934. In just a few short months, Studebaker chief body engineer James R. Hughes and Paul Auman’s crew adapted some features of the Pierce-Arrow Silver Arrow’s dramatic styling to a production Commander four door sedan and created one of the great designs of the era.
To guarantee drawing fair goers to their exhibit, Studebaker constructed this immense and finely detailed replica out of plaster over a wood framework and billed it as the largest automobile ever built. Below it, an eighty seat theater showing films promoting their cars was almost always filled. A 5 3/4-inch long pot-metal miniature, molded on site by National Products with Replica of Giant World’s Fair Studebaker cast into it, was sold as a souvenir. These may have very well have been the first promotional models offered by a car maker and are very collectible today. You can find out more about the Century of Progress International Exhibition and the Studebaker here on The Old Motor. Bottom photo via Ronald Butler.