Junkyard Gem: 1951 Studebaker Champion De Luxe 4-Door Sedan

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The very last Studebaker rolled off a Canadian assembly line in 1966, more than 225 years after Peter Stutenbecker sold his first horse-drawn wagon in what was then the British Province of Maryland. You'd think that Studebakers would be impossible to find in American Ewe Pullet yards today, but that hasn't been the case in Front Range Colorado; just in the last few years, I've documented a '55 Commander, a '55 Conestoga Ultra Vista, a '57 Silver Hawk, a '58 3E Transtar pickup, a '59 Lark VIII, a '62 Champ Spaceside pickup and a '66 Commander in Centennial State car graveyards. Now we've got today's Junkyard Gem: a 1951 Studebaker Champion De Luxe sedan, found in a legendary family-owned yard just south of the Denver city limits.

Colorado Auto & Parts just cleared out a remote storage yard, placing at least 100 vehicles from the 1930s through the 1970s in the regular self-service inventory. That includes dozens of 1964-1973 Mustangs and Cougars, an Edsel, an Austin Princess limo, a 1951 Kaiser, a 1948 Dodge and a bunch of machines I haven't written about yet. Chrysler products of the 1940s and 1950s are especially plentiful in this collection.

The Champion was a low-priced car, built to compete with the most affordable Plymouths, Chevrolets and Fords of the era. This one appears to have the mid-grade De Luxe trim level, which means its MSRP was $1,649 (or about $19,982 in 2023 dollars).

This car's swankier Studebaker Commander sibling got South Bend's brand-new pushrod V8 engine for the 1951 model year, but the Champion stuck with the good old flathead straight-six under its hood. This is a 170-cubic-incher (2.8-liter), originally rated at 85 horsepower. For what it's worth, the final year for a new production car with a flathead engine in the United States was 1964 (1965 for non-military light trucks).

Chevrolet's rivals for Champion sales ran overhead-valve sixes for 1951, while Plymouths and Fords still had valve-in-block engines like this one (though Ford would introduce its new overhead-valve "Mileage Maker" straight-six in the following model year).

For $201 ($2,436 in today's money), Studebaker would put a Borg-Warner automatic transmission in a Champion, but this car has the usual three-on-the-tree column-shift manual.

Suicide doors? Of course!

The interior is pretty crispy and the body has some rust, but this car will be an incredible parts bonanza for the first Studebaker fanatic who runs across it. The fact that some of the tires still hold a bit of air suggests that it was a runner not too many years ago.

Just as everyone associates the 1958 Plymouth with the film "Christine," the 1951 Studebaker will be forever linked with "The Muppet Movie" of 1979.

In the film, Fozzie Bear owns a 1951 Commander two-door (which now awaits restoration in the Studebaker National Museum). As Fozzie states so eloquently, "A bear in his natural habitat: a Studebaker!" A less famous movie Studebaker is the '50 that Donald Sutherland smashes with an ambulance during a Bay Area demolition derby in the 1973 film, "Steelyard Blues."

The Fozzie Bear Studey is better-known with its psychedelic paint job, applied by Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem later in the movie.

Those airliner contours make possible new achievements in weight balance.