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Rob Ballard thought he may never find another 1955 Studebaker President Speedster after he passed up buying one from a seller in Australia because shipping would be so costly.
In a curious twist, however, that experience eventually led him, via e-mails from England, Holland, Australia and Texas, to another Speedster in California. By then, he said, he had learned not to quibble, and he snapped it up.
Ballards fascination with this rare Studebaker coupe started when he first saw one about five years ago. I just fell in love with that car, he said. The Studebaker coupe, designed by Raymond Loewy in 1953, is an icon. Loewy was an industrial designer who also penned the Lucky Strike package and logos for Shell, Exxon, Greyhound and Nabisco.
Loewy’s 1953 Studebaker coupe is touted as one of the top auto designs of all time, and his 1963 Studebaker Avanti has always been given high praise as well. Ballards Speedster has the distinctive profile and shape of the 1953. Priced at $3,253, it was the most expensive Studebaker until the supercharged 1957 Golden Hawk.
Ballards Speedster has Stewart-Warner gauges, a turned-metal finish on the instrument panel and diamond-tufted leather upholstery. The engine, sourced from Packard, is a Passmaster 259-cubic-inch V-8 with 185 horsepower.
Ballard said that of the 2,215 Speedsters produced, only 424 had this color scheme.
His car was originally a gift to actress Mary Brian from her husband, George Tomasini. From the 1920s through 1947, Brian appeared in 87 movies, including Front Page and Blessed Event. Tomasini, a film editor who gained renown with Alfred Hitchcocks Rear Window, Psycho and The Birds, died at age 55. Brian drove her Studebaker until age 87. Then she gave the car to her godson, Stuart Erwin, Jr., and he restored it. Ballard bought it from him. Brian died in 2002 at age 95.
Ballard owns a number of collectible cars, and he said each one is an affair of the heart. It’s easy to put too much money into restorations, he said, and you don’t often come out ahead on value. He owns classic cars and motorcycles because he loves them. He laughs when he says that everyone should own a vehicle from each decade of their life. And while he’s not quite there, he’s close. For Ballard, owning classic cars is all about enjoyment, and that’s why his grin is so wide when he drives them.