- The Washington Times - Friday, September 8, 2000

Adversity often spurs us to excellence. Some of the most beautiful cars ever made were created during the depths of the Great Depression.
Studebaker manufactured 59,864 automobiles in 1934. The price-leader model "A" Dictator (all models) accounted for 45,851, while at the top-of-the-line model "C" President (all models) found 3,698 buyers. The model "B" Commander (all models) attracted 10,315 customers.
Arguably the most desirable and attractive Commander model was the Land Cruiser of which 231 were built and which carried a base price of $1,135.
Although the sleek Commander 8 Land Cruiser weighs 3,410 pounds, the 221-cubic-inch straight-eight-cylinder engine produces a silky-smooth 103 horsepower, which is more than sufficient to propel the car with authority.
One of those rare Commander 8 Land Cruisers eventually found a home in Salinas, Calif.
The Studebaker was 60 years old when Max Rubin, a dermatologist in McLean, Va., decided he wanted a 1950 bullet-nose Studebaker. A veteran antique automobile admirer, Dr. Rubin knew the best way to locate a specific car was to join the appropriate club, in this case the Studebaker Drivers' Club.
He passed the word that he was shopping and then began scouring the club newsletter for likely candidates that might be for sale. The cover story on the first club magazine he perused was about a 1934 Studebaker. He forgot about the bullet-nose Studebaker and began searching for a 1934 model.
"In the next six months," he said, "I looked at one hot rod and five wrecks before I gave up."
He knew that locating such a car wasn't impossible, but he wasn't prepared to invest any more time in the quest. Another half year passed when an unexpected call from Salinas. Word of Dr. Rubin's search for a 1934 Studebaker had reached the West Coast.
What kind of Studebaker was it, he queried?
He was told and later saw pictures of a 1934 Commander 8 Land Cruiser.
A trip to California was planned so the car could be inspected personally. Dr. Rubin was somewhat disappointed when he first saw the car. "It had been painted a 1964 Pontiac Metallic brown," Dr. Rubin reports, "with black fenders."
Despite the incorrect color the beauty of the lines of the car shown through, Dr. Rubin said. Still, he had other cars with which to contend and decided to pass on the 1934 Commander. Besides, it was at the wrong end of the continent.
After returning home Dr. Rubin received a telephone call from the California owner reminding him of the sheer beauty of the car.
For once Dr. Rubin let practicality reign supreme. He knew the car needed both a mechanical and cosmetic restoration and it was about a dozen states away and some of those states were very big.
The two men couldn't agree on a price. Finally Dr. Rubin said he was done talking and didn't want to hear any more about the car ever.
That's when the owner said, "Sold." It was June of 1995.
The Studebaker was transported cross country on a truck and was delivered to Dr. Rubin's McLean home. "I drove it the way it was for a couple of years," Dr. Rubin said. The 5.00x17-inch Firestone tires mounted on the 119-inch wheelbase with leaf springs at all four corners provide a smooth ride for the occupants.
After he could no longer put up with the brown and black colors on the car he took it to Bonnets' Up, a restoration shop in Clinton operated by Ron Naida.
There the tired old engine was rebuilt. It came from the factory with aluminum pistons and an aluminum head. Dr. Rubin bought a rusted-out parts car that still had the much-coveted original carburetor.
"It was a real problem finding parts," he recalls. Fortunately, the Studebaker must have spent its 60 plus years in California since there was no sign of any rust.
Five horizontal louvers, each one trimmed with stainless steel, stretch the length of each side of the engine hood. Those horizontal louvers indicate this car is what Studebaker called "Year Ahead Models." Until May 1934 Studebakers had a row of vertical louvers on the engine hood. Because of that, we know this was a late 1934 Studebaker. A pair of handles on each side are used to open the hood.
All four doors are hinged on the "B" pillar. Like most cars of that era, the top has a fabric insert, with all steel tops still two years away.
In a departure from the "square" body designs prevalent in 1934, the lines of the Land Cruiser were a collection of harmonious curves, all complementing one another. Even the four-piece rear window was unusually streamlined for the time.
Fender skirts were a unique feature in 1934 but the curvaceous skirts were standard equipment on the Land Cruiser. They appear to mimic the curves of the rear fender.
Studebaker offered the Land Cruisers in solid or two-tone combinations at no difference in cost. Dr. Rubin selected a subtle two-tone light-blue combination with navy blue pinstriping. The 14-spoke, light-blue Budd steel wheels are highlighted with navy blue pinstriping in a sunburst pattern around the chrome hubcap with an "S" in the middle.
Dr. Rubin points out that the accessories on his car include:
17-inch wheels.
Bird's-eye gearshift knob.
Combination mirror/clock.
Exhaust deflector with reflector.
The car has no radio although a walnut-grained dashboard panel in front of the driver's three-spoke steering wheel is there to accommodate such an accessory. A full complement of instruments surround the 100 mph speedometer in the center of the dashboard.
The freewheeling control lever is at the far left of the dashboard cleverly marked "FW".
The three-speed gearshift lever sprouts from the center of the front floor board while the hand-brake lever, also through the floor, is at the driver's left knee. Dr. Rubin's 1934 Land Cruiser is the last year Studebaker used Bendix mechanical brakes. They work really well, he said, unless they get cold or wet.
The fastback style doesn't allow much space in the trunk. Since this car doesn't have spare-tire side mounts in the front fenders, the spare tire is horizontally mounted in the trunk, consuming precious cargo space. The trunk lid is supported by two brackets.
Well away from the rear of the car is a curvaceous bumper mounted on spindly spring steel brackets. "It's a pretty fragile bumper," Dr. Rubin said.
Two taillights grace the rear fenders, each with a tag light even though only the left one has a tag. The body-colored gas cap protecting the 17 and 1/2-gallon tank is above the left taillight.
In the cozy rear seat is a fixed central armrest, effectively making the Studebaker a four-passenger car.
At each end of the back of the front seat is a chrome appliance. Both are at once, hand grips, ashtrays and anchors for the leather robe rail.
At the front of the car a pair of headlights with 9-inch lenses bracket the chrome-laden shovel-nose grille, each side having 35 vertical vanes.
When restoration of the Studebaker was completed a few weeks ago, Dr. Rubin was thrilled to take it for a cruise.
"It'll do 50," he said while getting acquainted with his car. "I'm just afraid it won't stop."
In a nod toward safety, Dr. Rubin had turn signals installed, but laments that most motorists pay no attention to them.
Now that the Studebaker Commander 8 Land Cruiser is completely restored Dr. Rubin said, "I want trim rings for the wheels," That desire simply proves that when restoring an antique car you're never done.

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