Studebaker Scotsman

The Scotsman was an automobile series produced by the Studebaker Packard Corporation of South Bend, Indiana during model years 1957 and 1958, and also as a low-priced series of pickup trucks in 1958 and 1959.

Automobile

When Studebaker-Packard's financial situation worsened in 1955 and 1956, company leaders decided to dump their earlier attempts to meet the "Big Three" automakers head-on and explore other market niches, specifically in low-priced, basic transportation.

The Scotsman was key to this new approach. Using the Studebaker Champion's two- and four-door sedan and two door station wagon bodies, the company created, essentially, a vehicle which could undercut the Chevrolet 150 and Chevrolet Delray, the Ford Custom, and the Plymouth Plaza in price, all of which were price-leader models themselves with minimal frills.

To reduce the price of the Scotsman (a name based upon the stereotype that implies Scottish frugality) the cars were built with minimum options. Hub caps and grilles for the cars were painted; buyers paid extra for a basic recirculating heater for the passenger compartment, as Studebaker's famous "Climatizer" fresh-air heater was deemed too expensive an option for the car. Interiors were fitted with painted cardboard panels – the only upholstery available was gray vinyl. In place of carpeting, Scotsman models were equipped with rubberized floor coverings. The only chrome to grace the car was carried by the front and rear bumpers and on some minor interior parts; painted bumpers, however, could be specially ordered and reduced the cost of the car even further. On two-door models, even the rear windows were fixed in place and did not roll down, which, although common today, was unusual in the 1950s. Windshield wipers were standard, although only because they were considered a safety feature. The only apparent frill was Studebaker's heavily promoted "Cyclops Eye" speedometer, which itself was the same as that used on the 1956 Studebakers (the rest of the '57 models received a wider, restyled speedometer housing).

The car reminded many of the "blackout" cars of the shortened 1942 model year that removed all chrome trim for cars due to war materials rationing.

The number of factory-installed options available on the Scotsman was purposely limited, with Studebaker officials even going so far as instructing dealers to avoid installing extra-cost accessories on the cars. The prevailing opinion was that if a buyer wanted frills on an economical car, he or she could spend an extra $200 and buy a regular Champion.

Priced below the competition starting at a patriotic $1,776 for the two-door sedan, Studebaker officials projected sales of 4,000 cars for the short 1957 model year. To their great surprise, they sold over 9,000 -- more than twice what they had hoped. To the company's surprise, the car did not appeal only to the frugal or those unable to afford something fancier. Such wealthy notables as former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt were all too pleased to make the Scotsman their car of choice.

Despite its austerity, the Scotsman delivered exceptional value and economy. The small six-cylinder engine delivered a claimed 30 miles per gallon of gasoline when the overdrive transmission was chosen. This was unheard-of mileage for a car of its size in 1957, although it came at a price: With only convert|101|hp, the Scotsman was by no means a rip-roaring performer. It took about 20 seconds to reach 60 miles per hour from rest, at a time when sub-10-second zero-to-60 times were becoming more common, even among the low-priced field. However, it appears that few complained about poor performance in the early days of the Interstate highway.

Following up on the initial success of the first Scotsman, the 1958 models were changed little. An ever-so-slightly altered grille and round taillamp lenses were adopted, which allowed the company to keep prices as inexpensive as possible. Although the 1958 Champion received added-on tailfins in the back and fender-mounted pods up front to accept four headlamps (two per side) as was the trend in '58, the Scotsman remained finless in the rear and kept the old dual headlamp system.

In a push to increase fleet sales, Studebaker also offered the Econ-o-miler in 1958, based on the body of the 120½" wheelbase President sedan. The Econ-o-miler used the Scotsman's frugal exterior and interior elements and was pushed as a taxi model. In addition, Studebaker's police-package cars in 1958 were often Scotsmans with Commander and President V-8 engines.

The Scotsman, which got off to a great start for '57, continued its success in 1958, outselling the Champion, Commander and President lines "combined". The Scotsman proved that Studebaker need not attempt to follow the styling trends of the rest of the industry. Building on the Scotsman's clean-lined look, Studebaker engineers and designers took the next step, creating a new compact car, the Lark quickly and on the cheap for 1959. The Lark would not be nearly so austere as the Scotsman, but the concept of a car that could seat six adults in a package markedly different from those offered by the other U.S. automakers would continue to find favor, at least for a while.

Truck

With the success of the Scotsman car, Studebaker officials believed that there could likewise be an untapped market for a low-priced, basic pickup truck as well.

To serve this market, the basic pickup was given a restyling of its own, going back to the 1949-53 style of grille and front-end sheetmetal, with a few modifications.

If the Scotsman car was austere, the truck was positively barren. Most trucks in the 1950s came standard with one taillamp, one sun visor, one windshield wiper, and one arm rest -- all on the driver's side. The Scotsman followed this philosophy with one exception: There was no arm rest. Such frugality would extend outside as well. Most trucks had little chrome in those years, but the Scotsman had none. Simple plaid decals with the Studebaker name graced the hood, dashboard and tailgate.

Stripping the basic truck to an even more basic level did allow Studebaker to advertise the lowest-priced pickup in the U.S. in 1958; it cost less than $1,500 to drive home a standard Scotsman pickup.

Although the general auto and truck market was down in 1958, Studebaker's little rig sold reasonably well; in fact, if it were not for the Scotsman pickups, Studebaker's truck division, which had a bad year, would have shown positively frightening results.

The Scotsman truck, unlike its car namesake, would continue in 1959, exchanging its plaid decal nameplates for chromed "S" and "Studebaker" emblems. An inexpensive "Deluxe Equipment Group" enabled buyers to fit their Scotsmans with the same grille and front sheetmetal as the regular Studebaker trucks. Two new models were added as well, although these were comprised simply of additional engines from which to choose. Again, the pickups sold well, outselling the standard "Deluxe" line of trucks handily.

The Scotsman was replaced for the 1960 model year by the Studebaker Champ pickup, which was based on the truck chassis with a cab derived from the contemporary Lark four-door sedan.

Resources

The Standard Catalogue of American Cars 1946-1975, John Gunnell, Editor. Kraus Publications, 1987. ISBN 0-87341-096-3

Studebaker Cars James H. Moloney. Crestline Books, 1994. ISBN 0-87938-884-6

Studebaker, The Postwar Years Richard Langworth. Motorbooks International, 1979. ISBN 0-87938-058-6


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