Monday, March 9, 2015

15k: Goose Song: 1964 Studebaker Wagonaire Daytona

About a year ago, I posed the question of which Brooks Stevens designed wagonish vehicle would be best for your Daily Turismo - the Jeep Wagoneer with an AMC 390 V8, or the Studebaker Wagonaire with an ancient inline six. The slding-roof Stude has a certain presence all its own, but 112 hp is far from inspiring and $6k was kinda steep. Fast forward to last August, and DT Head Honcho Vince examined a far nicer, later, and V8-ier Wagonaire with an "R1" engine swap and a nice price of $7500. Today we go all the way, with a top-shelf Wagonaire Daytona to find out if an al fresco rear end and your Golden Lab's eternal happiness are worth almost twice as much as the last one. Find this Studebaker Wagonaire Daytona for sale in Santa Cruz, CA for $14000 via craigslist. Tip from the one & only Kaibeezy.

It is unfortunate the pictures aren't any better in this ad, because the paint looks really decent on this red rocket. When Studebaker introduced this proto-XUV, the marketing guys did some cool stuff with their literature, showing different configurations and happy '60s people hauling tall stuff around (think of what Top Gear had to do to try to haul a small tree around in their road test of a couple of cars) and even climbing around back there as if it were a pickup.

As a company, Studebaker failed, even though it was coming out with really innovative product. They were far more "right sized" than most cars of the time.  While Ralph Nader was ripping GM's engineering staff over their design of the Corvair, the Studebaker Avanti marked the zenith of the Loewy design period and was available with a relatively small displacement supercharged V8 and sans huge grille in the front which was a kind of hallmark of the sporty Studebakers. In 1963 the standard, more pedestrian models of Stubebaker were still using grilles that Mercedes-Benz would have been proud to adorn their cars with; by 1964 they were given a more stylized front end which was probably an easier grille to manufacture and install, as shown on the car here.

If a station wagon is to have any true function, think of it with a trailer hitch on the back of it. Now consider how you almost always have to wire up lights to see the brake lights of the car doing the towing. Now jump ahead to 1985 when the industry had to incorporate center high-mounted stop lamps (elegantly acronymized to CHMSLs). Look at the taillights on this thing. They're sufficiently elevated and at the very widest point of the rear so that they are incredibly visible without being huge - perfect for towing a small camping trailer or dinghy to the seaside.

Of course, like any good covertible trucklet, the tailgate swings down instead of up like a hatchback. The stylish crease line at the bottom of the tailgate is more than just styling here - form follows function in that the indentation actually nestles over the bumper and overriders to allow the tailgate to lay flat. The roof slides forward manually which makes sense - if you're going to be out and about with a sliding roof, you don't want to take your chances with sketchy electrics and the possibility of not being able to close it up.

Look at the switches on the dash. Who, other than Studebaker would offer those types of rockers? What about those gloriously old-timey floor mats? The bittersweet aspect of this nice old wagon is that by 1964 the company probably knew they were going to be disappearing, but they kept building good, rather than average cars. They were innovative for the time and paid great attention to detail, when compared with the Big 3 or even AMC.

The question now is - what's a nice driver quality Daytona worth? This was the top of the line trim level, with either a 259 or 283 cubic inch V8 (4.2L or 4.6L). This seller doesn't specifiy but we can see it's not the top-spec supercharged R2 289. Either way, right around 200 hp and over 260 lb-ft of torque (SAE gross) will make this a nice cruiser, appropriate since it also has a slushbox. A bit of underhood cleanup is in order, but you could fix it while you drive it and rest easy knowing that you're in one of the coolest classic wagons around.

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  1. 283? Uh...let's not do the apples-and-oranges thing.

    Most of the Stude V8s of that vintage were 289s. There were a few 304s (the Avanti R3 engine.)

    Eventually Studebaker quit building engines, and their cars went out the door with - yes - a 283ci Chevy.

    So a 'real Stude' engine is a 289 or 304, or somewhat earlier a 259. They're all the same size, all fairly heavy, but Real Stude.

    If it's a 283 it's a Chevy and installed during the Imminent Demise of Studebaker.

    1. That also make it easier for Nate (Altman?) to pick up the Avanti tooling and build a trickle for the next ten years with Chevy engines, and then for someone else about whom I know nothing to pick it up after that and continue until smog and safety regs drove the car off the market.

    2. Ah yes - the 283 is the SBC. Thanks for the reminder. This car certainly looks to have a Stude V8 so I'm going to guess it's the 259. The 289 was the "R1" engine with 4-barrel carb. I suppose it could alternatively be that engine, but would think the seller would indicate it as such.

  2. Oh, and as far as this car goes: yeah, like it, but not fourteen grand worth.

  3. Way to go, Kaibeezy! Nice one.

    The engine mix-up is hugely understandable, given the choices in the sedan over the wagon. The 289 was available in the 62-64 four-door, with or without the supercharger. That last option was really destined for the Avanti and I’ve never actually seen one in a wagon. I doubt any were actually installed. And despite his typically delicate and highly respectful delivery, mrkwong is correct; the 283 was only available in the 65-66 wagons. According to my records, the engines available for the 63-64 were the 169, 259 and (theoretically, at least) the supercharged 289. The 65-64s could have a Chevrolet 194 or the 283 SBC.

    I think it’s probably safe to say that our featured car has a 259, assuming it hasn’t been swapped.

    There is no doubt that if the car were a “fine” example it’s worth every penny of the asking price. Prices have steadily crept upward over the years and while this will never be a blue-chip car, you’re not going to lose money if you buy wisely. And for those that are curious, the 63-64 models are worth more than the 65-66.

    While this Daytona model is the most desirable, the 63-64 were also available in Standard and Regal trim. There was a Commander trim added for the 65-66 models, which was a bit more luxury-oriented. Just don’t expect GPS and air-conditioned seats.

    All of the 63-66 Wagonaires were built in the Hamilton plant in Ontario, Canada. The Studebaker story is a fascinating one and I enjoyed reading “More Than They Promised: The Studebaker Story” by Thomas Bonsall. If you’re interested in this wonderful make, then do yourself a favor and get a copy of this book. It’s a gorgeous book, too. That's just one of the many excellent books detailing the history of the brand.

    Avanti bodies aside, the main problem with all Studebakers is rust. My old Alfa Spider and my buddies’ Lark seemed to be in a contest as to who would rust out first (my Italian beauty won). Parts are also quite hard to come by and the rusting issue is even worse in the retractable-roof Wagonaires just as you’d imagine, as they apparently all leaked even factory-fresh.

    Fear not sports fans, because GM liked the retractable cargo roof so much that they unearthed its rotting, stinking, maggot-eaten corpse four decades later (arguably better, if you factor in the “MidGate” and flexible tailgate opening features) in the snappily-named GMC Envoy XUV (which sounds to me like you owe it alimony and child support). Just as with the same design in the Studebaker, the market voted with a thud and GM did what the company does best – abandon a decent ship like a rat instead of sticking it out and fixing the freaking marketing.

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    1. I guess the XUV was a 'Well, the Avalanche sells, let's try this!' and they had the production capacity to spare, but unlike BMW who seems happy to sell two hundred units of each of a dozen differently-shaped versions of each of their platforms GM's never happy if anything sells in less than six-figure quantities from the day it's released, so...

      The whole GMT360 family was a bit of oddball product planning, from the Atlas six that was physically larger and more costly to build than the LS1-family V8s and fit nothing else in the GM family, truck or car, to the aesthetically and dynamically challenged foot-long wienerdog EXT versions that competed with nothing on the market so directly as the much nicer Tahoe/Yukon next to them in the showroom.

      I recall the first time I looked over a Trailblazer, I opened the rear hatch and noted a pair of little stamped-metal brackets with rubber bumpers on them sticking out into the opening, one on each side, carefully placed to snag and gouge any rectangular cargo an owner might want to put in the rear. Guess someone had phoned in the body engineering.

    2. I agree that they were always a bit oddball and seemingly less than thoroughly and thoughtfully designed. And yet they stuck around for a decade and were even followed up with a successor. Just goes to show that not all buyers are's that for an understatement? I certainly wouldn't kick an SS out of my garage. If only I had a garage. Here's a picture of me thinking about the fact that I don't have a garage. I gotta start a Indiegogo so that I can build a garage on my property. Alms for the garage poor!


    3. They did hang around for a long time, though to my recollection there was no direct follow-on, the Acadia and its twins were more of a descendant of the Aztek/Rendezvous.

      The Acadia is a pretty nice vehicle, though it doesn't seem to have gotten quite the market traction of the MDX or the current, similarly car-bottomed Explorer.

      Here's one for the "we'll always find a use for our fully depreciated tooling" crowd: the Buick GL8:


      The old GM minivan platform that went nowhere in the US, with just about the most shameless Honda Odyssey reskin imaginable.

    4. The Uplander and the Trailblazer were officially replaced with the Traverse, with the Lambda "minivan" platform still in use to this day. The China-only GL8 is indeed a mistake on GM's part, in my opinion. But with Honda and Toyota's domination of the market, it's not hard to see why they made that decision. Starting with the GMT 199, I don't think I'd say that the platform went nowhere for GM. They got huge mileage out of it and the modified versions that followed, dating back to the 90s and it exists in various forms even today. They definitely got their moneys' worth.

  4. My dad squirreled away a '62 in the garage when I was a kid. I never saw it move, but I spent a lot of time playing in it. Ours was black over red, definitely had a v-something motor with chrome valve-covers. It was mostly made of rust by then, I think they guy who bought it pulled the motor for a sporty Studebaker project.

    1. Hmm, probably it was a '63...

    2. Scot, you'll know precisely which V8 was in your dad's car based on what I detailed above. What else did you dad have? This would be a really cool post topic Vince for all the DTers to answer; what did your dad drive (WDYDD)?


    3. Misspelled your username, sorry about that Scott.

    4. I think it must have had a 259.

      I got curious and googled it, sounds like they put the supercharger in 15 wagons, wonder how many are left? I found two of em that sold in the last 5 years without looking too hard.

    5. You're surely right about the 259. Anent the s/c 289s; those are likely the last two!

  5. I'm not so sure that folks understand how rare these cars are getting. I did a quick search and found a total of one other for sale. I'm sure there are more for sale out there, but that gives a pretty good, albeit surface, indication of the situation (conjunction junction, what's your function?).

    1965 Studebaker Wagonaire for sale in Astoria, New York

    1. May be a bit off topic but, can you find a 1994-1998 subaru impreza L 4 door sedan for sale? (Not the WRX or STI)

      Almost impossible, there are tons of impreza wagons for sale, but hardly one sedan.

      I think it's interesting to compare apples to oranges when it comes to rarity of cars.

    2. Hiya timbuck2; nice username!

      Interesting observation. It may be true that there are no 94-98 Impreza sedans in your neck of the woods, but they're definitely still around. There are a number of reasons why you're not seeing any and they may include the fact that these were cheap(ish) cars when new and you're talking 20 years later. Also, many Subaru owners hang onto their cars. While I've got no scientific proof of that, it's been something I've seen many times. Anyway, I found so many sedans that I can't possibly list them all. Still, I think you're on to something; I'm sure they will get rarer and rarer. I haven't hyperlinked any of these. If you want to see them, just copy and paste them.

      I have no doubt I could find many, many more.


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