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Highway 61 1:18 1951 Studebaker Champion

Reviewed by:   John Richards
     
  Highway 61 1:18 1951 Studebaker Champion diecast car
 
 
 

Studebaker had a solid trust and reputation among American drivers, befitting the country’s oldest automobile maker with roots in the mid 19th century making carriages and wagons! The South Bend, Indiana-based company’s transition to car production was a fascinating one, involving many innovations, partnerships and mergers. Its failure to survive the ‘50s and the Big 3 onslaught do nothing to diminish its legacy as one of the great American automotive marques. During the ‘50s, the Champion was one of its most popular cars, though much was often derisively made of its “is it coming or going” styling. This was accentuated by the oft criticized “bullet nose” front end, introduced in 1950 and shared by its somewhat upscale stablemate, the Commander. The public didn’t seem to mind; the feature was actually refined somewhat in ’51…hardly the “horse collar” grill debacle that plagued Edsel.

Riding a 115 wheelbase (a slight downsize from the Commander) and weighing 2700 lbs, the Champion was designed and built as a value-oriented car, but one with its own distinct character. Though rarely seen today, the Champion, which traces its design roots in 1939 to Raymond Loewy, was one of Studebaker’s most important cars. By the early ‘50s, its design was unique even in the panoply of the era, when designers seemed unafraid to try anything.

Highway 61’s model has many interesting external operating features…a working fuel door, a retractable antenna, poseable vent windows, a driveshaft that rotates with the rear wheels and opening vent doors in the front fenders. The car was powered by a 169.6 c.i. 6-cylinder engine, delivering 85 HP. The hood opens properly to a fully wired depiction of this simple power plan; nothing fancy, just an accurate, honest depiction, right down to the battery cables.

Fit and finish are first class, which can almost be taken for granted with H61, even though this was one of their earliest releases. The Rio Green paint says “ ’50s” and reflects one of H61’s insights as a manufacturer; you simply don’t see colors like this anymore. There’s no tire branding, but the wheels are otherwise outstanding with great rims, hubcaps with crests and valve stems. Well-defined welting lines along the rear fenders add a classy finishing touch to the bodylines. And if you look carefully, you’ll see the Studebaker name delicately applied to each side of the leading edge of the hood. Another example of subtle, telling detail that makes this image come alive.

The spartan interior commands your attention just because, like the rest of the car, nothing is simply “tossed off.” So the door panel hardware, detailed dash, simple folding front seats, carpeting, working visors and carefully scaled steering wheel impress as an intricate, engaging ensemble. It’s more than just competent…it’s almost artistic.

Everything about this little car is unassuming, but Highway 61’s loving attention to its charming character, period-defining details and styling cues makes it, for me, one of their very best replicas. It’s a model that I’d cite along with the ’52 and ’53 Hudsons as Highway 61 at the top of its game.

(10/25/2007)
 
 
   
 
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Highway 61 | 1:18
Highway 61 1:18 1951 Studebaker Champion

Highway 61 1:18 1951 Studebaker Champion

 
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