In the late 1920s the president of Studebaker, Albert Erskine, dreamed of adding a new 8-cylinder flagship model to the range that would not only elevate 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 the lucrative, image-friendly world of motorsports. He charged his engineering team with 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 at the insubordination, Erskine promptly sacked his engineer and promoted Barney Roos, who relished the opportunity to shine. 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 standing for as many as 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. Further refinements to Roos’ engine included an industry-leading nine main-bearing crank, improved lubrication with a replaceable oil filter, a crankshaft vibration damper and improved breathing. All of these tweaks resulted in an impressive 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. In addition, the V-shaped radiator shellheavily raked windscreen, and 130” wheelbase made the Studebaker President a distinct and imposing car. These 8-cylinder President models are among just a handful of Studebakers to achieve Full Classic recognition by the Classic Car Club of America. Ultimately, a poorly-timed takeover of Pierce-Arrow led to Studebaker’s bankruptcy, and a devastated Albert Erskine died by suicide. Despite the ultimate failure, Erskine’s efforts to elevate Studebaker to the premium market produced some truly marvelous automobiles that are among the most prized in the marque’s long history.
This 1931 President 80-R Four-Seasons Roadster is a superb example of this rare, significant, and desirable Classic Era Studebaker. Wearing a very high-quality older restoration, this handsome roadster benefits from excellent care in the years since its refurbishment. Over the past few years, this car received a cosmetic freshening that included a retrimmed interior, new Haartz Stayfast top in black, restored and detailed engine bay, a new radiator, and 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 is excellent thanks to attentive care through the years. Body and panel fit are exemplary, and consistent with the overall quality of the restoration. Chrome fittings and accessories are all presented in very fine order including the distinctive V-shaped bumpers and correct “Ovaloid” headlamps. An extremely rare goddess mascot tops the radiator, and other accessories include trumpet horns, radiator stone guard, fender-mounted marker lamps, and pedestal mirrors on the dual side-mount spare wheels. At the rear, the body features a golf-bag door, rumble seat, luggage rack, and step pads for rear passengers. Blue painted wire wheels with chrome accents and whitewall tires round-out this uniquely styled Studebaker’s sporty presentation.
The light gray leather trim is in outstanding condition, remaining supple and attractive with only the slightest creasing in the seat upholstery. Door panels, carpets, and soft trim are similarly in excellent order. Instruments are beautifully restored and fitted to a centrally-mounted chrome panel in the navy blue-painted dash, which also displays original “Body Built by Studebaker” and “The President” plaques.
Beneath the hood lays Studebaker’s engineering masterpiece; the nine main bearing, 337 cubic-inch, inline-eight. It is beautifully presented and extremely well-detailed, displaying excellent painted and enameled surfaces, correct fittings and tidy wiring and plumbing. The factory-correct oil filter housing is in place and 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 President Four Seasons Roadster is a beautiful example from Studebaker’s high-water mark in the pre-war era, and with a CCCA Premier award-winning restoration, it is in beautiful condition and is ideally suited for CARavan touring or display in shows and concours events. The President remains one of the most important and desirable models in Studebaker history, and with just 54 Four Seasons Roadsters known by the CCCA and Studebaker Club, this gorgeous example stands as one of the finest of the type.
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