1958 Studebaker Scotsman Wagon
America’s most affordable car in the late 1950sby Ciprian Florea, on
The Scotsman arrived in 1957, in a time when the
Packard alliance was still struggling to recover financially after a couple of disastrous years with slow sales and numerous disputes within the company. Fearing bankruptcy, Studebaker-Packard decided to no longer try and meet Ford,GM, and Chrysler head-on on the market, but compete with low-priced cars instead. Using the existing Studebaker Champion’s bodies, the company created the Scotsman, a no-frills, no-nonsense car that had minimal convenience features and very few options to choose from. It was so spartan that its name was based on the reputation of Scottish frugality. The Scotsman was offered as a two- and four-door sedan, as well as a two-door wagon.
Built until 1958, the Scotsman was an unexpected success. Studebaker sold more than 9,000 units for the 1957 model year, against initial predictions of 4,000 examples. Its success continued in 1958, when it outsold the Champion, Commander, and President models combined. But, despite proving that Studebaker did not need to follow the flamboyant automotive trends of late 1950s, the Scotsman’s success wasn’t big enough to save the Studebaker-Packard alliance, which came to an end in 1962. Four years later, Studebaker was discontinued altogether after more than 50 years on the market.
2016 marks exactly 50 years since Studebaker was shut down completely, an event that calls for a closer look at some of the company’s most important models. Although far from fancy, the Scotsman Wagon was one of them, and we’re going to have a closer look at a rare model being sold by Mecum Auctions in August 2016.
Continue reading to learn more about the Studebaker Scotsman Wagon.
Styling-wise, the Scotsman was heavily based on the 1956 Champion sedan. Although it retained the overall shape and body features, the Scotsman was an extremely stripped down version of the Champion. In order to cut pricing as much as possible, Studebaker removed most of the chrome. Apart from the front and rear bumpers and "Studebaker" lettering, there was no other chrome plating on the body.
The Scotsman's limited color palette contributed to the car's dull appearance.
The taillamp and license-plate lamp housings were painted silver, as was the one-piece grille stamping. Customers who didn’t like the silver grille could opt for a black one, as seen in the model here. The Scotsman also lacked the chrome details around the windscreen and side windows, which only had black rubber molding for surrounds.
The color palette was also limited to only a few hues. Making matters worse, they weren’t the brightest of colors. In an era when automakers offered many bright colors and contrasting two-tone finishes, the Scotsman’s limited color palette contributed to the car’s dull appearance.
Only gray, blue, and green were offered for 1957, while the 1958-model-year update added white and black. The wheel hubcaps were painted the same color as the body.
Although it wasn’t exactly attractive compared to the flamboyant, chrome-loaded designs of the 1950s back in its day, the Scotsman eventually found a following, although it was mostly due to its low price tag.
The interior was as spartan as the exterior. The simple and glossy dashboard features a flat, plastic instrument panel with water temperature and fuel gauges flanked by amperage and oil-pressure lamps. Although the model shown here has its finished in one color, the standard models came with a tan front section and a black top. The speedometer gauge was located atop the instrument panel and rotates as the car’s speed increases. Called a "Cyclops Eye" speedometer, it was a rather exotic feature and the Scotsman’s only noteworthy interior feature.
Called a "Cyclops Eye" speedometer, it was a rather exotic feature and the Scotsman's only noteworthy interior feature
The upholstery was as plain as it got with the door panels made from vinyl-covered cardboard and no decorations whatsoever. The seats were wrapped in gray fabric, with no other options available. There weren’t any floor carpets either, with the Scotsman being fitted with rubber mats. The car even lacked a radio and door armrests, which were available on even the more affordable vehicles of the era. However, many owners installed them from other Studebakers.
The Scotsman’s trunk also lacked the usual mat or covering atop the floor pan, as well as any noise insulation between the storage area and the passenger compartment. Needless to say, Studebaker did everything in its power to keep the price as low as possible.
At launch, the Scotsman was offered with Studebaker’s then-smallest engine, a 3.0-liter, flathead, six-cylinder with a single-barrel carburetor. The mill produced just 101 horsepower and 152 pound-feet of torque, enabling the Scotsman to hit 60 mph from a standing start in around 20 seconds. In an era when some cars covered the same benchmark in less than ten seconds, the Scotsman was incredibly slow.
The Scotsman was good for nearly 40 mpg on the highway when equipped with the overdrive transmission.
However, the lack of performance came with a major advantage. The small inline-six was able to return almost 30 mph combined, and some claim the Scotsman was good for nearly 40 mpg on the highway when equipped with the overdrive transmission. This was unheard-of mileage for a car of its size back in 1957 and makes its engine the most fuel-efficient flathead of all time.
For 1958, Studebaker introduced a 4.2-liter, overhead-valve V-8 with a Stromberg two-barrel carburetor. This unit was good for 180 horsepower and mated to the same three-speed transmission as the inline-six.
Now that we’ve reviewed the Scotsman’s standard drivetrains, let’s have a closer look at what motivates the model seen here. Yes, this wagon is some sort of restomod, having received a more modern engine later in its life. The unit in question is a 5.7-liter, small-block V-8 with a Demon Tri-Power setup backed by a Turbo 350 automatic transmission. There’s no word on output, but it should send more 200 horsepower to the wheels. It also has Wilwood four-wheel disc brakes behind Rocket Racing wheels wrapped in Silvertown wide whitewall tires. Other upgrades over the standard factory setup include an Air Ride suspension and power steering.
The Studebaker Scotsman retailed from $1,776 for the 1957 model year, a sticker that made it the lowest-priced American car at the time. The second lowest-priced car, the Rambler 6 Deluxe, retailed from $1,961, which placed the Scotsman in a price range of its own. For $1,776, customers took home the two-door sedan version. The four-door sedan retailed from $1,826, while the station wagon was priced from $1,995.
Until 1958, Studebaker built around 30,220 Scotsman examples, including sedans and wagons. The company also built an extended-wheelbase model called the Econ-O-Miler, that was used primarily for taxi service, and a special police version called The Marshal.
Although that’s relatively low production run, the Scotsman is far from expensive for a 1950s car nowadays. Well-maintained models do fetch around $30,000, but others can be had for under $10,000.
The model shown here is estimated to change owners for $40,000 to $60,000 — probably a record for the Scotsman nameplate.
Also known as the One-Fifty, the 150 was Chevrolet’s economy model in the mid-1950s. Launched in 1953, it replaced the Special and it had a 115-inch wheelbase. Just like the Scotsman, it was offered in sedan and wagon body styles, but also spawned a coupe model. When the Scotsman arrived, the 150 was in its final model year and had received a new small-block V-8 alongside an older V-8 and inline-six "Blue Flame" engine. Output ranged between a frugal 140 horsepower to a more potent 283 horses. It was replaced by the Delray for the 1958 model year.
The Custom was a popular economy car back in the 1950s. Redesigned for 1957, it remained in production until 1959 and sold with both inline-six and V-8 engines. Unlike the Scotsman, the Custom was also produced in Europe and Australia. Body styles included coupe, sedan, and wagon. In the U.S., Ford also offered two better equipped trims, called Fairlane and Fairlane 500. In 1959, the base Custom model was dropped, being replaced by the mid-range Custom 300, leaving Ford without an economy car to match the Scotsman. However, it didn’t matter much as the Studebaker was discontinued the year before.
Chrysler also had an economy car, but with a Plymouth badge instead. Priced under the Savoy, it was Plymouth’s entry-level model offered in coupe, two-door and four-door sedan and station wagon body styles. The engine lineup included five different units from 1954 to 1958. There were two inline-six mills and three V-8 engines, including a 4.3-liter. The Plaza was discontinued when Plymouth decided to relegate the slightly larger Savoy to entry-level duties.
Aside from its incredible fuel economy, the Scotsman was far from impressive back in its day. It wasn’t exactly a looker and it was so poorly equipped that it made some pickup trucks seem luxurious. However, it was actually a pretty successful economy car and proof that there was still room for competition alongside Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler. Nowadays, the Scotsman is quite an exotic figure, mostly due to its stripped down configuration and interesting story. Granted, it’s far from being an iconic car of the 1950s, but to some extent it’s one of those "little cars that could" and an important part of Studebaker’s rich heritage.