The FREE Complete Bay Area Auto Enthusiast Guide

By KENNETH HALL – Motoring Tampa Bay correspondent
Even though the design of Bob Bourke for the 1953 Studebaker coupe was applauded by industry peers and championed by his boss, Raymond Lowey, car buyers were not impressed and Studebaker sales continued to decline. Today, the 1953 Studebaker coupe, with its low-slung European-influenced styling is considered a true classic and it influenced the later demand for personal luxury coupes.
Benny Jordans1955 Studebaker President Speedster, based on the 1953 design of Bourke, is an American automobile of truly rare and exceptional beauty. Jordan comes from a family of Studebaker enthusiasts. “My father owned a 1950 and a 1951 Studebaker, was well as a 1953 Studebaker pickup truck. My brother owned a 1955 Studebaker President. They were great cars and we got really good service out of them,” he recalls.
For a long time, Jordan wanted a 1955 Studebaker President like the one his brother had. In 2000, a friend located a special one for him in a cow pasture in Zephyrhills. Studebaker produced the President Speedster only in 1955 and a mere 2,215 were built. The Speedster was an upgraded version of the President with an array of standard features, including power steering, power brakes, a four-barrel carburetor, dual exhaust, dual back-up lamps, a 160 mph speedometer and 8000 rpm tachometer, tubeless whitewall tires and simulated wire wheel covers. The upholstery featured shoemaker-stitched top-grain leather on the seats and rear deck panel. Jordan saved the car from an uncertain future.
“The previous owners had started to take all the molding off of it because they were going to customize it without all the chrome, but they had kept the chrome,” Jordan says. “I wanted to restore the car back to the way it was when it was new. It was a numbers-matching car, 99 percent rust-free and the engine had never been out of it.”
With help from his children, Jordan took the body off the frame, then did all the restoration work himself, although Phantom Auto Works in Tennessee provided the accurate reproduction of the leather upholstery, which Jordan and his wife installed.
“I rebuilt the 259 cubic-inch, 175 horsepower Passmaster engine and the Borg-Warner automatic transmission.” Jordan adds. “Everything was cleaned up, including the chrome and stainless steel and I installed new wiring and brakes. The original colors were coral and gray, which I did change, but with colors that were originally available on Speedsters.”
The lovingly-restored 1955 President Speedster of Jordan is a stunning piece of automotive history. Of the original factory run of 2,215, fewer than 200 are known to still exist. At a recent car show at Veterans Park, in Tampa, his Studebaker won the first place award for best in show, considerable recognition of the rarity of the car and restoration work by Jordan.
Jordan maintains that “the Speedster was popular when it was introduced in 1955, but at almost $3,400, it was expensive. At the time, you could buy a new Ford or Chevy for $2,000 to $2,500. I heard somewhere that the 1953 Studebaker was voted the most beautiful car ever. I cannot recall where I read that or heard that, but they were beautifully-designed cars, and the President Speedster was based on that design.”
The 1955 President Speedster turns heads and piques the interest of people who have no idea what kind of car it is.
“I get a lot of thumbs-ups and cameras sticking out the windows of other cars when I am driving it. People do not know what it is and I often get asked who makes Studebaker,” Jordan says. “It will go 130 miles-per-hour, I hear, but I do not know that from experience. I have had it up to 100 miles-per-hour and it had more to give. It is a lot of fun to drive even though it steers like an old car.”

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