In the late 1920s, the president of Studebaker, Albert Erskine wished to develop a new 8-cylinder flagship model that would not simply raise the marque’s standing in the market, but be nothing short of the finest automobile available on American roads. While the six-cylinder President model had been available since 1926, Erskine believed a prestigious 8-cylinder car would drive showroom traffic and give Studebaker a tool to use in motorsports competition. He charged his engineering team with the task of developing a new straight eight capable of standing with the best in the industry. Curiously, his chief engineer refused, insisting the current inline-six was more than sufficient for a top-of-the-line model. Understandably annoyed, Erskine promptly sacked his engineer and promoted Barney Roos, who relished in his new responsibilities. Roos designed a gem of an engine; a 313 cubic inch, 5-main bearing, L-head straight eight with gear driven cam and an impressive 100 horsepower output. The engine debuted in 1928 for the newly revamped President line.
While smaller than the outgoing six, the new eight was notably smoother with superior refinement. For 1929, displacement increased to 337 cubic inches and power increased to 115 horsepower. Erskine strongly encouraged Studebaker’s involvement in motorsport, and with the new 8-cylinder President in the hands of the deeply talented Ab Jenkins, a number of speed records, endurance records and racing successes would follow; with some records holding for a full 35 years! Top results at the Indianapolis 500 and Pikes Peak Hillclimb would further cement the President’s reputation for performance and reliability.
1931 marked the arrival of the finest all the 8-cylinder Studebakers. Roos’ engine was further refined with and an industry-leading nine main-bearing crank, improved lubrication (including a replaceable oil filter), a crankshaft vibration damper, and improved breathing, with output raised to 122 horsepower. On track success continued, with a Studebaker-powered special taking a surprise pole-position at the 1931 Indianapolis 500. 1931 also saw the addition of the unmistakable “Ovaloid” headlamps which distinguished the President on the road, and with its V-shaped grille and heavily raked windscreen, and 130” wheelbase, the Studebaker President is no doubt a very special and imposing car. The President line would only be available through 1933, as Studebaker was plunged into a financial crisis, ultimately leading to the company going into receivership and Albert Erskine taking his own life. But his legacy lives on as the 1928-1933 President is the only Studebaker to achieve the coveted recognition as a CCCA Full Classic and remains one of the most prized models in the marque’s long history.
This 1931 President 80-R Four-Seasons Roadster is a superb example of this rare, important and desirable Classic Era Studebaker. Wearing a very high-quality older restoration, this handsome roadster has received excellent care in the years since. Most recently, the car was treated to a cosmetic freshening that included a retrimmed interior, new Haartz Stayfast top in black, restored and detailed engine bay, and a new radiator. Since then, the car has been extremely well-preserved in excellent condition. The paint scheme is quite lovely, with the dove gray body accented with navy blue feature lines, fenders, and wire wheels. Paint quality remains excellent thanks to light and careful use through the years. Body and panel fit is exemplary, in keeping with the quality of the restoration. Chrome fittings and accessories are all presented in very fine order. The distinctive V-shaped bumpers are excellent, as are the signature “Ovaloid” headlamps. Other accessories include dual trumpet horns, intricate radiator stone guard, a very rare and beautiful goddess mascot, fender-mounted marker lamps, and pedestal mirrors on the dual side-mount spare wheels. In the rear, the body features a golf-bag door, rumble seat, luggage rack and step pads for rear passengers. The car rides on blue-painted wire wheels with chrome trim rings, chrome center caps and whitewall tires giving it a delightfully sporting look.
The light gray leather trim remains in outstanding condition, remaining supple and attractive and appearing to have seen very little use since being restored. Door panels, carpets, and soft trim are similarly in excellent order. The dash, which is finished in navy blue, features a plaque that proudly proclaims “Body Built by Studebaker” and another that simply declares it “The President”. Instruments are beautifully restored and mounted in a centrally mounted chrome panel as original.
Beneath the hood lay Studebaker’s masterpiece; the nine main bearing, 337 cubic inch, inline eight, serial number P 9230. It is beautifully presented and very well detailed with excellent paint quality, correct fittings and tidy wiring and plumbing. The original oil filter housing remains in place, properly finished with a decal instructing users to replace every 12,000 miles. The engine runs beautifully, delivering its ample power with signature smoothness and finesse, making this President an outstanding driver’s car.
This example’s CCCA Premier award-winning restoration remains in beautiful condition, ideally suited for CCCA CARavan touring, or for proud display in shows and concours. This President Four Seasons Roadster is a beautiful example of the high water mark for Studebaker in the Classic Era. The President remains one of the most important and desirable models in Studebaker history, and with just 54 President Four Seasons Roadsters known in Classic Car Club of America and Studebaker Club ranks, it is likely to be the only one at virtually any event.