- The Washington Times - Friday, August 9, 2002

Money was in short supply in the mid-1960s for teenager Randy Denchfield. The young student at Woodrow Wilson High School in Northwest had just acquired his driver's license and was anxious for his first set of wheels.
He wanted something with style yet he had to be budget conscious. A mid-1950s Studebaker coupe seemed to fit the bill, offering the most car for the money. "They all had a great look and were affordable," Mr. Denchfield remembers.
Robert Bourke, chief designer of Raymond Loewy Studios, actually was responsible for the stunning design. It was hurriedly designed as a special show car. Instead, the Studebaker proved to be so desirable it was put into production.
While the search for a good, used Studebaker progressed, Mr. Denchfield learned that his older brother, Richard, was about to trade in his 1962 Chevrolet Impala convertible on a new Oldsmobile. The brothers worked out a deal and Mr. Denchfield's first car was that Chevrolet, with the desire for a Studebaker temporarily placed on hold.
Within a couple of years Mr. Denchfield received greetings from his draft board. After a stint in the military, life kept getting in the way as he was making plans.
Finally, about six months ago Mr. Denchfield's long-dormant dream was rekindled when he saw an ad offering a 1955 Studebaker Champion coupe for sale in Manassas.
The sleek, light-yellow Studebaker had hardly been driven in the last dozen years after undergoing a professional restoration in Richmond.
"I've been wanting one since 1966," Mr. Denchfield comments. He bought the Studebaker in February 2002.
Although the aerodynamic Studebaker is about 7 inches lower than other 1955 cars, it is surprisingly spacious inside. The 6-foot, 2-inch owner is comfortable in either the front or rear seat.
Mr. Denchfield decided to drive his newfound prize home to Chevy Chase over the objections and warnings of the previous owner. He cautioned Mr. Denchfield that the roadworthiness of the coupe was untested as it had spent the past decade as a show car.
Nevertheless, Mr. Denchfield's enthusiasm couldn't be dampened and he settled himself behind the steering wheel on the fabric-covered seat and, with the help of a jump-start, fired up the eager 185-cubic-inch, six-cylinder engine. He noticed that the temperature gauge wasn't working and made a mental note to address that problem later.
Power from the 101-horsepower engine is channeled to the rear wheels via an optional automatic transmission.
The lengthy 120.5-inch wheelbase is supported by 15-inch white sidewall Allstate tires. Mr. Denchfield, thoroughly enjoying his drive home in the clear wintry weather, was on the Capital Beltway heading for Maryland when he noticed moisture on the windshield.
"You know that you're in trouble when you see antifreeze on the windshield," Mr. Denchfield said.
He quickly left the Beltway and drove straight to a friend's house in nearby Falls Church. No one was home. After locating a garden hose and with the engine still running, he gave the overheated engine a drink of cooling water.
With the temperature once more under control, an investigation by Mr. Denchfield revealed a hole in the radiator. He had hoped for a faulty hose or clamp. The car completed the trip home on the back of a truck. Following the installation of a new radiator and a working temperature gauge, the problem was solved.
The 2,790-pound coupe is equipped with turn signals, heater, AM radio and fresh air vents on the sides of the front fenders.
With a nod to the 110 mph speedometer, he said, "That's funny." However, Mr. Denchfield remarks, "It'll do more than 70. It goes just fine at 55 to 60."
When new, the Studebaker had a base price of $1,875, quite a bargain when compared with the competition from Ford, Chevrolet and Plymouth.
"It has been called the 'best designed car of the 1950s,'" Mr. Denchfield reports. He concurs with that observation.
"It's a really neat car and we're having a lot of fun with it," Mr. Denchfield said.

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