The Studebaker Commander
Why was the Studebaker Commander the first production sports car? In 1935, the car company emerged from receivership. The Commander was a popular model, and sales doubled the year before. It also set several speed records, and was one of the first cars to use free-wheeling brakes. In the 1930s, Studebaker added new innovations like a silent gear transmission and improved steering gear. Its President model, which was built in 1931, broke all stock car speed records in California. Its Commander sedan was also an excellent vehicle, and was also the first Studebaker to use a fender-side vent on the front fender.
The 1941 Commander was powered by a six-cylinder engine with a Rockne 65 six-cylinder head. The engine was displaced at 221 cubic inches and produced 103 horsepower. Its crankshaft possessed nine main bearings, which was a feature shared with the Packard and other high-end cars. It had mechanical brakes with a standard power assist system and Free Wheeling, which eliminated engine braking. The car was also equipped with a startix system, which allowed the car to start with the turn of the key, and restart if the engine should die.
The 1953 version of the Commander was also available in more options than before. Despite its new name, the Commander still retained the pre-war 119-inch wheelbase. It was available in two-door and four-door sedans, and a three-seater coupe. The Starlight coupe was also offered in two-door and four-door models. The four-door sedan, meanwhile, was priced at $1,348 while the five-door Commander cost $2,638. In 1947, Studebaker returned to profitability, earning nearly $9 million on higher sales in the same year.