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Studebaker Thinks Big for the 1934 Century of Progress International Exposition

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  • From the “Country Gentleman” Magazine of July, 1934

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.

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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.

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  •                An unusual cleaning crew dusts off the giant Land Cruiser

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.

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8 Responses to Studebaker Thinks Big for the 1934 Century of Progress International Exposition

  1. Donald Ellis says:

    I wonder why Studebaker had such a bad case of “gigantomania”? I wonder what happened to to 1934 behemoth after the fair?

  2. chris says:

    French maid outfits on the women would have been a nice touch but
    you can’t have everything

  3. jsfury says:

    Gene, this is mind blowing stuff here. Studebaker took a huge gamble doing this, and indeed it’s impressive display. My question is how much did this cost the company to pull this off? Was this gamble the proverbial nail in the coffin for Studebaker?

  4. Richard Bartrop says:

    Citroen had them beat. In the 1920s, they even had their own factory for producing toy Citroens.

  5. Les Warner says:

    It took 50 years to restore my 1933 Studebaker Regal 56 ( of course many of those years was just thinking about it, now it is done ) I wonder how long it would take to restore one that big?

  6. Igor says:

    Studebaker had form in this line of exhibitionism. They had already built a 1931 President 8 Four Seasons Roadster in such a massive scale. It was on display on a hilltop overlooking a highway running past their South Bend proving grounds.

    Sadly, with a few souvenir bits removed, the rest was torched in the 1930s when the model (one can’t call it a ‘miniature’) no longer represented the company’s current products.

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