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1951 Studebaker Commander - Land Cruiser


1951 Studebaker Commander Regal Description:

Up for auction is for my 1951 Studebaker Land Cruiser, currently with 63K actual miles.

This ad is extensive, with nearly 100 photos, an in-depth description of every aspect of the car, as well as a video link at the very end. I have tried to be as thorough and honest as I can in composing this. Please be sure to look at all of the photos and read the entirety of the ad before bidding. If you win the auction and get upset because, "I didn't know it had later Studebaker brakes on it!" Well, that's on you, because you didn't read the ad!

For a little backstory, this car spent 21 years as a part of Dr. Robert Cade's Studebaker collection. While he is mostly known for leading the team that invented Gatorade in 1965, he was also an avid collector of Studebakers. At the time of his passing in 2007, he had nearly 60 of them, all "show quality" and ready to drive at a moment's notice. For several years, he kept employees working full time to restore and maintain the collection.

In 1996, the Studebaker Drivers' Club annual National Meet was hosted in Long Beach, California. The Cade contingent drove a number of Studebakers out to the meet from Florida, just as they did every year. The late Larry Johnson had a pair of bullet-noses on the show field for sale, one being a '50 Commander convertible, the other a '51 Land Cruiser. Dr. Cade was interested in both cars, but couldn't decide which one he liked better. Of course, he could've bought both, but then there was the logistics of getting two extra cars home instead of one. His wife stepped in and said, "Bob, you should buy the convertible."

Now, according to Dr. Cade's son, this was the only time throughout their entire marriage that Mrs. Cade encouraged her husband to buy a car. So, naturally, he bought the Land Cruiser and not the convertible.

At the time, the '51 had around 50K actual miles showing on the odometer, and appeared to be completely original and unrestored, aside from a prior exterior repaint in the original Black Cherry. The deal was made and the check written, and the car was driven home to Florida from Long Beach. Aside from one of the old bias ply tires coming apart somewhere in the midwest, the car performed just fine on the coast to coast drive.

As far as the history of the car before 1996, it's lost to time. Larry Johnson said that he found the car in New York (or a close-by state in that part of the country), but sadly he has since passed on and nobody else seems to know for sure.
Once back home, the car was handed over to Dr. Cade's restoration crew and brought up to snuff. The most notable work performed was on the interior. The seat upholstery and carpeting was replaced by Rene Harger of (formerly) Phantom Autoworks (now Southeast Studebaker). Rene is still in business and even today remains the premier source of authentic Studebaker interiors. The remainder of the interior, everything except the carpet and seat upholstery, is original from 1951.

The other work worth mentioning from 1996-97 was the addition of air conditioning. The compressor mount is an old aftermarket piece that bolts to the top of the water pump manifold. Converting the car to 12 volt electrics was out of the question, so a new Sanden compressor was used while the clutch coil was rewound to engage on 6 volts. The under dash evaporator was sourced from a later Studebaker and fitted with a 6 volt fan motor. The system works flawlessly; air coming out of the vents is around 36 degrees on the coldest setting.

With the car spruced up, it was driven to the 1997 SDC National Meet in South Bend, Indiana. The following year it was driven to the meet in Austin, Texas. After that, it was mostly used locally and sparingly, as there were always plenty of other Studebakers to show and enjoy. And while it didn't rack up a lot of miles, it was always maintained and kept in running order. Included with the car is a log book showing all maintenance performed on the car over the last 23 years.

Fast forward to Spring of 2018. The Cade family had decided that it was time to downsize the collection to something more easily maintained and managed. I happen to have a soft spot for the '51 models. Between not wanting to miss the chance to own one of Dr. Cade's cars, and having appreciation for mostly original Studebakers... I decided that the Land Cruiser was the one that I needed to own.

Over the last year and a half, I have spent a significant amount of time, and money, bringing this car to a level that I was happy with. My intention was not to make a show car out of it, but more something that presents itself well and, more importantly, is a nice car to drive. All of the work that I performed on the car, and money that was spent, was to make the car what I felt it should be. Resale value was not a part of the thought process and if any part on the car wasn't up to my satisfaction, it was replaced or rebuilt. Simple as that. A lot of parts on the car were probably okay as-is, but I tend to think that preventative maintenance is better practice than breaking down on the road. Either way, I had fun doing it.

Of course, now you're probably wondering why someone would go through all of that trouble on a car, just to end up selling it. And, well, let's remember that this old car hobby is just that.. A hobby. Part of my enjoyment of this hobby is that I love tinkering, improving, and investing the work to make a car just the way I want it. The downside is that I enjoy that process more than I do simply owning the car once it's done. I'm ready to slide behind the wheel of a new Studebaker, but in order for that to happen, this Land Cruiser needs a new loving home.

To put it simply, the car starts, runs, drives, goes, and stops without any issues. It'll run 85 MPH without straining, though I haven't felt the need to push it further.
Knowing what I have done to the car, I would not hesitate to replicate its 1996 coast-to-coast road trip. I feel that the car can confidently be driven anywhere without concern.

The engine is the original 232" V8 (numbers matching, if that matters), bolted up to a 3 speed standard transmission with overdrive.

This past summer, I removed the engine and transmission from the car.

The engine was stripped down to the "long block". The coolant passages were completely cleaned/flushed, all of the oil seals replaced, and the exterior was painted the correct colors.

The engine showed no internal evidence of having ever been rebuilt, and frankly, it doesn't need it. It runs out strong, makes no funny noises, and doesn't smoke or use oil whatsoever. In addition to the external oil seals, the valve stem seals were replaced. The fiber camshaft gear was replaced with NOS. The oil pressure flex line is braided stainless. New front and rear motor mounts were installed when it all went back together.

The cap, rotor, points, condensor, are all (relatively) new, though last replaced before I bought the car. Plug wires are fresh Packard brand noise suppression wires. I should mention that the starter doesn't have the typical 6 volt "sluggishness". The engine spins over as though it's being juiced with 12 volts.
Transmission and clutch:
The transmission tail shaft seal was replaced, otherwise it was simply cleaned and painted. The clutch pressure plate, disc, and release bearing were replaced with new. The U-joints, and center driveshaft support bearing have been replaced with new. The overdrive relay and kickdown switch are NOS, not reproduction. New shift linkage grommets were installed. The transmission shifts fine and the overdrive system works exactly as it should.
Rear axle:
The car was originally equipped with a 4.55 rear axle ratio. I wanted it to have "longer legs", and searched to find an axle with the optional 4.09 gears. I couldn't find one, so a spare rear end was sent to Bob Munter at WCD Garage in Boston, along with an NOS 4.09 ring and pinion set. Bob completely rebuilt the entire rear axle assembly. It has all new bearings, new seals, and even NOS axle shafts. It's as new as it gets. (Thanks again Bob, it's the nicest part of the whole car!)

When I first purchased the car, I bought a complete disc brake conversion kit from Turner Brakes. After countless hours of trying to get the system to work properly, I removed it from the car, tossed it all onto the scrap pile, and installed later (1954-66) Studebaker V8 drum brakes, front and rear. 11" drums on the front, and matching 10" drums on the rear. All of the drums, shoes, wheel cylinders, hardware, flex lines, etc, are brand new parts.

I did retain the dual master cylinder setup from the Turner kit. The metal lines are "messy" as I tried multiple master cylinders in an attempt to get the brakes to work properly. There are no leaks, so I left it alone after installing the drum brakes. There is an external reservoir for the master cylinder mounted next to the battery on the front inner fender.
I feel that the dual master cylinder requires more pedal travel than the original single reservoir unit, but it does work and the car stops. The last couple of times I've had the car out, I've experienced a slight "shudder" upon hard braking, but it seems to go away after a few stops. I think it may be something as simple as surface rust on the drums.. I know, I should drive the car more.
The fuel pump has been rebuilt with an ethanol-resistant kit, even though I only run non-ethanol fuel in the car. The carburetor was cleaned, and showed no excessive wear, so it was put back together with a fresh kit. The flexible fuel line going into the pump has been replaced, and a new inline filter installed before the pump. An NOS (not reproduction) gas gauge sending unit has been installed. The inside of the tank is clean and shiny like new. And YES, the gas gauge does work. In the pictures and video it shows "E" simply because it's low.
The exhaust system was replaced in 2004 with a system from Don Simmons (Silvertone Exhaust). It's still like-new, and quiet with a slight burble out the back, just the way the boys in South Bend intended.
All of the major wiring harnesses have been replaced with authentic, cloth-wrapped reproductions from Lark Works. The Main Chassis harness, Overdrive harness, Taillight harness, and Headlight harnesses, are all new.

The dash was removed from the car to do the wiring and while it was out, all of the switch gear was replaced with NOS. Headlight switch, heater switch, wiper switch, fog light switch, and even the turn signal switch assembly, are all NOS parts.
All of the gauges are operational. The speedometer was lubricated when the dash was out and the odometer reading is accurate to my knowledge. The only item on the entire car that doesn't work is the clock. However, I have a nice, working NOS clock that has been serviced that is included with the sale.
The horns both work, but are currently disconnected as they got in the habit of blowing whenever they felt like it. I disconnected them and forgot that they were unhooked until writing this ad.
All of the lights work, inside and out.
The only thing I haven't done to the electrical system that I wanted to, was replace the original generator with a 6 volt alternator. The generator works fine, but with the AC blowing and the headlights on, it's a bit of a strain for the generator. Though, then again, it has been working without issue for the last 2 decades. A new 6 volt one-wire alternator is included if the new owner wants it.
Wheels and tires:
The original wheels were replaced with new 15x6 steel wheels, with a fresh set of 225/75R-15 Toyo radial wide whites from Diamond Back Tires. Finishing off the new shoes is a set of reproduction wheel covers.

Steering and suspension:
The steering box is the "good" Saginaw unit. It was completely rebuilt with all NOS parts when the dash was out. Steering post and worm gear, sector shaft, bearings and bushings, etc.

The tie rod ends and reach rod are NOS. The center bellcrank pivot pin assembly has been rebuilt with a new pin and bearings. The rest of the front end has not been touched, aside from greasing. The '51 models used steel control arm bushings and they don't wear out as easily as the later rubber type.
Front coil springs are new. Shock absorbers are new all around.
When the engine was removed, all of the freeze plugs and drain plugs were removed, and the coolant passages were flushed/scraped until there was nothing left to clean.

When it went back together, I used factory original "service" plugs that are held in with a T-bolt and a nut (no chance of those falling out). The radiator is an "overkill" aluminum job from CG&J in Alabama (made in USA), along with new hoses, belts, and a new Heavy Duty water pump.

I've been asked if the engine overheats with the air conditioning on.. It doesn't. With the block flushed out and the new radiator, it runs as cool as you could ever want. Even when sitting in downtown traffic in August in central Florida.. The little 232" doesn't even think about overheating. And not once have I experienced any "vapor lock" issues. ...Really!
Air Conditioning and Climatizer:
As previously mentioned, the AC system was a custom built setup, put together in Dr. Cade's shop.

In '96, all of the components were new aside from the evaporator. The evap is from a later Studebaker, refitted with a 6 volt blower motor. Everything is wired correctly and the AC works well on both "high" and "low". In March of 2019, the front oil seal on the compressor went out (after 22 years of service), so the old Sanden was replaced with a new one. I removed the custom 6 volt clutch coil from the old compressor, installed it on the new one, and it all works fine. We pulled a vacuum on the system and recharged it. It is running R12 refrigerant and the new Sanden was ordered specifically for the R12. It has not needed anymore freon added since it was put back together, and I suspect it will be maintenance free for another 20 years.
The heater core was replaced with an NOS one earlier this year and the 4" air duct has been replaced. The heater and defroster work as they should and will keep you warm and toasty.
Overall I'd consider the car a "nice driver". It probably won't win First Place at a Concours show, but so what? It still cleans up pretty well for an old car. As a good friend of mine said, "99% of the people that see this car on the road won't know the difference between this one and a car that's undergone a $150K restoration."
The exterior of the car was repainted long ago, my guess is that the paint job is at least 30 years old, if not older. It has nicks, dings, scratches, scuffs, minor dents, etc. Some people like to affectionately call this stuff "patina". It still holds a shine well enough to be presentable, but it's imperfect enough that you won't feel bad about a rock chip or parking lot ding. The door jambs, firewall, and front inner fenders retain the original paint from the factory. It has been Black Cherry since 1951.

Most of the brightwork on the car is excellent. The front fender spears and trunk handle could stand to be replated for a show car, but they have "patina" that matches the paint.

The headlight bezels are new reproductions from Stephen Allen's. The grille meshes, taillight bezels, trunk "V8" emblem, hood "V8" emblem, stainless gravel guards, hood nameplates ('Studebaker' and 'Commander')... Are all very nice NOS parts. Do you have any idea how tough it is to find NOS hood nameplates for a '51? Well, here they are.

When I bought the car, the plastic bullet was an old reproduction that had turned yellow and developed hairline cracks. Not wanting the problem to happen again, I went through the process of reproducing the bullet myself. The new bullet was cast in clear UV-resistent urethane, cured in a pressure chamber, and painted silver on the inside. It looks exactly like the original, and will never discolor or crack. It just so happens to be the same urethane that the Shrocks use to recast all of their steering wheels (like the one on this car). Both of the chrome rings around the bullet are NOS.
Glass and rubber:
All of the glass is original.

The drivers' door glass has a horizontal crack across the bottom (mostly covered by the door), and the rest of the glass shows signs of light de-lamination and general age. I haven't had the desire to replace it, as new glass in an unrestored car is just wrong.

The rubber is also original. The front and rear window gaskets could stand to be replaced, but I didn't want to get into the whole ordeal of a new headliner. The door rubber, cat whisker fuzzy strips, window felt channels, etc are all original and still nice. I did replace the trunk lid gasket, however. The door windows go up and down easily, but ideally the regulators need to be lubricated. I felt it wasn't worth the risk of damaging the door panels, so I haven't messed with them.
Body - RUST!?
Always the big concern when buying a Studebaker. I have spent time under, over, around, inside and out of this car. The only rust that I can find, anywhere, is on the dog leg of the drivers' side rear fender. Otherwise, it's one rock solid Studebaker. It seems to have thicker undercoating than most Studebakers I've seen, maybe due to being sold new in the Northeast?

Optional equipment:
You'll notice a metal plate on the left front windshield post. The car had a dealer-installed spotlight. I removed the spotlight and covered the hole with the plate. And yes, I do have the spotlight (it works) and it is included with the car.
The Fog Lights are NOS units that I installed earlier this year; same goes for the back-up light kit.

The radio is original to the car, and I it was professionally rebuilt by a specialist on the west coast. He replaced all of the "guts" with new, doing away with the tubes. He also converted it to play AM/FM, and added a cable to plug into your iPhone, etc. The cable stays rolled up inside of the glove box when not needed. The radio works GREAT.
By the way, the key in the ignition switch does work for both front door locks.

When I purchased the car, it had the too-much-bling "towel rack" bumper guards. I removed them and replaced the guards with NOS "standard" bumper guards. I filled the holes in the outer ends of the bumpers with small bumper bolts. Bet you didn't even notice until you read this, huh?

As mentioned previously, the seats and carpeting were redone in 1996-97 by Rene Harger.

The door panels, headliner, windlace, firewall liner, and rear package shelf are original to the car.

The headliner has come loose from the bow directly above the drivers' head, and it has been stitched up to keep it from falling further. The door panels have some stains. To me, the originality of the interior (and "patina") is a plus, so I've been careful to maintain it as-is.

The front floor mats are new reproduction Avanti mats that I altered to fit.

Below the carpeting is the original tar/felt paper installed at the factory. No pop-rivet patches here!

Why does it have a RED steering wheel? That ain't correct! That's a two point deduction!

The steering wheel was recast by David and Tom Shrock. While not original, I couldn't resist having them do the wheel in the optional-for-1952 translucent Ruby Red. The original tan wheel didn't do anything for the looks of the interior, and I feel that the Ruby Red matches the exterior paint nicely. Tom also supplied the wiper knob, shift knob, and turn signal knob in the same Ruby Red. An NOS chrome horn ring and center button were installed, too.
I also asked the Shrocks to make a pair of scale model toy versions of the car. One of them will go to the new owner.

Pretty much as it should be. The original Burtex trunk mat is in place, as are the bumper jack components. The spare tire is an old bias ply on an original wheel and does not match the other four wheels and tires.

Virtually untouched for the last seven decades. I've done nothing to clean, paint, or otherwise mask any hidden issues. Rusty? No! Greasy and dirty? You betcha. It's a driver.

Don't forget to copy/paste the following link to get an idea of what it's like to run 75 miles an hour in the rain in a '51 Studebaker with the AC blowing.
If there is anything I've missed in writing this description, PLEASE do not hesitate to inquire. I am happy to answer any/all questions or concerns regarding the car. I want any interested parties to be well informed of what they're buying before spending the money.
I will say that the reserve on the auction is significantly less than what I have spent, not counting a minute of my time. The car simply could not be duplicated for the same money. I've had a lot of fun with the car and if it doesn't meet reserve, I'll be just as happy keeping it. If you've been hankerin' for a nice '51 Land Cruiser, here's a rare opportunity for a good one. I'd like to reiterate that this is NOT a "restored" car. To me, "restored" means taken completely apart, completely refinished, and completely rebuilt. I consider this one a nicely maintained original with a few upgrades. It does have flaws, it does have rattles, it does have blemishes. It's also loaded to the gills with "personality" and, there's that word again, "patina". You won't find yourself parked next to another one like it at any Studebaker meet.
I'll also mention that if the car does sell, I'll be on the hunt for a nice '56-'59 3/4 ton Studebaker pickup with V8 and Overdrive, in case someone out there happens to have one of those that they'd like to part with.
The car is located in Alachua county Florida, about 15 miles off of Interstate 75. I have a clear Florida title and current registration in my name. Upon the auction ending, the car needs to be paid for in full within 3 business days. Bank transfer, or Certified check are acceptable. The car can stay here, indoors, for up to 30 days while the new owner arranges shipping/transport/pickup. If you are overseas, please email me to work out logistics prior to bidding.
Thanks for looking!


Item location:Newberry, Florida, United States
SubModel:Land Cruiser
Color:Black Cherry
Vehicle Title:Clean