Studebaker Stories:

I Found My Old Studebaker!

by Russ Ohnstad

My story starts back in the 70’s when I was living in Nebraska. Right out of college. I found a car in a little town of about 100 people not too far from where I lived, and had to have it. It was a 1953 Studebaker Champion coupe. The guy that had it was hard to deal with, and was asking $250. I haggled with him for a while and split the difference between offers more than once, and ending up buying the car for $237.50. I worked on it enough to get it running, then moved from Columbus Nebraska to Omaha, and then shortly after to Yankton. I didn’t have a place to keep it, or work on it, or tools to use or skills needed for that matter, so about a 2 or 3 years after I bought it, I sold it. I always kicked myself for selling that car, and kept looking for a replacement.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago. I was sitting in the barber chair listening to him tell me about some 57 Chevys that had sold for big money in a local sale. I said I used to have a couple of those, way back when. He said “I bet you wish you had them now.” I just said no….but then told him about the ’53 Studebaker I wish I had back.

He said, “I know a guy that has a 54 for sale.” I thought that might be close enough, so I got his name and number and called him later that Friday. He was too deaf to talk on the phone so his wife told me he still had the 54. I made arrangements to go see it the next day. It was on a farm in Nebraska. When I got there the wife said her husband was around somewhere, but was not able to hear her if she called him. I should just go down to the shop building and look at the car. He would catch up with me when he saw me.

2So I went down to this old metal covered building and stepped inside. There were no windows and only a little light coming in the door. After my eyes adjusted to the light I could see the front of the car facing me with the hood open. As I walked up to it I could see it was a Champion, not a Commander as the wife had stated. I really didn’t care because either one would be OK. As I walked up to it the guy came in behind me. I asked him “Is this a 1953?” He said “No it’s a 54”. I said “It looks like a 53”, and he answered, ”No, the title says it’s a 1954”. Then he offered to go in the house and get the title to show me. I thought it was still OK, because they are very similar, only a different grill and some minor trim, and either would do for me.

After he left I stepped over to the side and started down the side of the car to check it out. I stuck my head inside and looked around, and then walked to the back of the car. A little voice in my head started saying “this is my car”. I walked around the back and it was there again “this is my car”. As I stuck my head in the driver’s window it hit me for sure “This is MY car!” The same one I sold many years ago!

The guy came back in with the title and handed it to me. I read at the top, 1953 Studebaker Champion, just as I thought. As I read down farther it said who he had bought the car from. It was my name! I sold it to him in July of 1975. All he had done with the car was store it really well, and had the seats re-upholstered by a pro shop. That, and take the white wall tires off to use on a different car.

1I made up my mind to buy it, of course, but with nothing to deal with him on I ended up paying him his asking price. I now have the car home and in my shop after 34 years of not having it. I don’t know how far I’ll go to restore it, but I will fix it up to drive. It runs at least. He did a real good job of keeping it for me, and all I really paid for it was a cheap storage rate for 34 years of inside storage.

It's not often a person gets to undo a mistake so long past. I hope I haven’t used up all my karma on this deal!

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