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Charlie Stuart’s 1953 Studebaker Commander Hoosier “100” Pace Car

In addition to running the Indianapolis 500 race which is held yearly on Memorial Day weekend, in 1953 the AAA, the sanctioning body of the National Championship Trail Races added a second race date to the calendar in Indy, the Hoosier “100.” This race was held in mid-September on the one-mile dirt track at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, also in Indianapolis.

Previously, Studebaker constructed a running prototype 1953 Commander convertible which never made it into production. Indianapolis Studebaker dealer Charlie Stuart also modified one of his own Commander’s into an open car without a top that was similar the Automaker’s test mule for the “100.”

Charlie Stuart’s son Chuck Stuart sent in these photos of the Pace Car and wrote: “Charlie Stuart was my father and he told me (I was 10 at the time) he didn’t realize how much the car would change when he cut the top off the car. That’s why they had to reinforce the frame, also there wasn’t a top for it.”

You can learn all the details of this one-off custom and view a third image of the car in a November 1953 “Popular Science” article “Altered Studebaker Coupe Becomes Fast Sports Car.” Complete with a “hopped-up” engine the car was capable of traveling 120 m.p.h.

12 responses to “Charlie Stuart’s 1953 Studebaker Commander Hoosier “100” Pace Car

  1. Very cool. I never actually knew Studebaker bothered with an actual `53 cvt.; even a prototype, but given the times it makes sense. Too bad their coffers couldn’t support mfr. of such a car. This ‘dealer made’ cvt. only needs a folding top to look factory made! The `53-`55 models would have made very handsome cvts., even more so than the `59-`63 models did.

  2. Great looking car, in fact a stunner. I like it a lot but NO mirrors. Not on either side nor on the windshield or dash. Not sure that would fly in most states these days.

  3. The second photo of the convertible in Charlie’s car lot has the grille inserts used for the 1954 Studebakers.
    Dad, being a salesman on the road, had a new Studebaker for 1953,54, and 55. The last two being the Conestoga Wagon. All of which I got to do my early driving.

    • No, but the factory prototype does! It has recently changed hands. While in decent shape, I believe a full restoration is planned.

  4. The Studebaker V-8 engine was a “Formidable Opponent” in many successful Modified up to: Full Race configurations, especially in earlier Ford Coupes: One 1940 Ford Coupe, (circa: 1956) , had a Full Race Stude. V-8, E- Jaguar Gear-box, a “De- Dion” style Independent Rear Suspension – Fabricated by the : (Notorious for Fast!) “Cook Machine Shop”, and a tubular V-8 60 Front Ford axle, all 4 brakes ventilated , Scintilla Vertex Magneto – and plenty of places to Road Race! This car belonged to a true Hot Rodder in my neighborhood , who was not afraid to Make it perform! Sometimes, — “The right Combo. of Everything” comes about ! This car was One of them! So was: Denny Claremont, its Driver, Designer, & Home – Garage Builder! Great care was taken to make it Look like: a very clean “Stock” 1940 Ford El- cheap-o V-8 60 “Economy Car”! It wasn’t! Edwin Winet.

  5. The 1953 Studebaker hardtop coupes were gorgeous indeed – my boss at the time had one and I rode it in many time – but early production models had structural rigidity problems – doors flying open on bumpy roads – so a convertible without a hard roof for additional support would have been an engineering challenge for sure. An overbuilt V-8 – the best in the industry, some people say – contributed to nose-heaviness too.

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