My two 1954 Studebaker Commanders are a dream come true

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Courtesy Justin Cole

I grew up in South Bend, Indiana, and my parents took me to my first Studebaker show in May 1984, when I was 18 months old. As they tell it, I’d walk up to various Studebakers and critique them. My dad’s friend, Paul, was a big Studebaker guy and had a red and white ’53 Commander, which is the very first car I remember. I spent the next 35 years dreaming of the day I’d have my own Studebaker.

In 2007, while I was home from grad school, Paul, my sister, and I went to the Studebaker Swap Meet. As was tradition, Paul bought us T-shirts and barbecue sandwiches. At the nearby Osceola Dragway, a black ’54 Commander Starliner caught my eye. Built with a Corvette 327 by hot-rodder Dick Steinkamp, it was the coolest car I’d ever seen. It turns out that “S2D,” as it was called, was fairly well-known; it had been in the Grand National Roadster Show and had won trophies elsewhere.

Studebaker Commander rear three-quarter
Courtesy Justin Cole

A decade later, at a car show in Baltimore, I met a guy named Ed Ellis, who brought two gorgeous ’53s with him. He mentioned he had a 327 Corvette–powered ’54 back home. I asked if it was S2D, and he was astounded that I knew the car. We exchanged information and he offered to stay in touch.

By early 2020, I was finally ready to buy a Starliner of my own, and I purchased a mostly original yellow and green ’54. I emailed Ed to tell him, and he asked if I also wanted to buy S2D. I was floored. We negotiated a price, and a few months later, I had a second Studebaker.

My mom was on hand to see the yellow ’54 delivered and said it reminded her of that day in 1984. When S2D arrived, I wore the T-shirt Paul had bought me, and my friend and I went out for barbecue sandwiches, just like Paul would have wanted. Buying these Studebakers was truly a dream come true.

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