Gear Head Tuesday – Studebaker’s Police Special: The Marshal & the Wisconsin State Police

Gear Head

night Mars

1964 Studebaker Marshal – powered by an Avanti R-1 engine.

The Studebaker Marshal with the Wisconsin State Police

As related by “Terry S.” to “Michael C.”

Commencing with the bid specifications for the 1962 model year, neither American Motors Corporation (with their Ambassador) nor Studebaker could qualify to bid on our patrol cars primarily due to their inability to meet minimum engine size, and secondly, wheel base. This did not stop them from trying. AMC tried political clout, claiming that because their product was built in Wisconsin they should be favored. Studebaker, on the other hand, had to use the persuasive sales technique.

In 1963, the Studebaker Fleet Sales Representative brought us a demonstrator to try out. It was a 1963 model 4-door built with their “Pursuit Marshal” package and was powered by the 289 cubic inch V-8 “R-2 Jet Thrust Engine”  with a Paxton supercharger as used in the Avanti. The car was equipped with an automatic transmission. I was told this particular car had been built and used as a long term demonstrator by various agencies and had spent a lengthy time with the Indiana State Police. Supposedly that was why it was painted ISP’s colors – or what remained of them. The Indiana State Police had obviously installed a red light and siren on the roof, door shields, etc., and someone had put a considerable number of miles on the car.

Studebaker wanted to demonstrate their new disc brakes which would not be out for over six months and our bid specification meeting was rapidly approaching. The Fleet Sales Representative also wanted to show off the supercharged engine. So they got the demonstrator back from the Indiana State Police and replaced the front brake system with their new disc brakes. I had the feeling this car had been modified more than once. While we had this car, it generally sat around state headquarters as no one on the staff wanted anything to do with it. It had blotches on the doors where the door shields have been painted out and a metal plate welded to the roof to cover the holes where the red light and siren had been. And it was painted a medium light blue with white doors, trunk and roof. It was an “ugly duckling” to say the least. Being a factory owned car it wore an Indiana manufacturers license plate. I had difficulty getting the building security staff to allow us to park it with our other staff cars behind the state office building.

One of the first things I did with this vehicle was to get the speedometer certified using our Trackmeter. This was one of the most accurate speedometers I ever recall seeing in a production auto up to that time. This may be due to it being calibrated and tested by other agencies before we got it. I drove this car quite a bit as it was during a time when I had to make the 200 mile round trip to the State Patrol Academy once a week. No one else would drive it, so I did. While testing this car, I found it was capable of meeting the basic patrol car specification of being able to go 120 mph while fully equipped for line patrol duty. It did not, however, meet some of our secondary specifications such as wheel base length and engine size. Mr. Bill Rank, Chief of Purchasing and Services for the Wisconsin Department of Administration, had many times told me that our secondary specs could be challenged but not the basic one. In other words, if they had pushed it, they might have gotten an exception to our bid specification. On the other hand, I never really told them what I found regarding top speed. And strangely, they never asked. The emphasis was on the disc brakes, which were impressive. After about six weeks the car was returned to the Fleet Sales Rep.

About the first of October 1963, with no advance warning, the Studebaker Fleet Sales Representative again brought us a demonstrator. This one, however, was a brand new 1964 Studebaker Patrol Marshal built to our specifications, or at least as close as possible. It was even painted our black over silver tone grey colors. He said, “Here it is. Take it and put it on the road and see what you think.” The car was powered by their “R-1 Jet Thrust” engine and to our specifications had a three speed transmission with a column-mounted shift lever. The R-1 was a 289 cubic inch, 240 horse power V-8 which employed a 3/4-race high lift camshaft, dual breaker distributor, four barrel carburetor and dual exhaust. Unlike the 1963 demonstrator with the R-2 engine, this one was not supercharged. There was no license plate on the car and no paperwork pertaining to ownership or registration. We took the car, installed a police radio, red light, siren, door shields, etc., and a pair of Wisconsin State Police license plates. We were just getting underway with our plans to get the car “out to field” when we heard that Studebaker was going to cease production in the United States. All future Studebakers would be built in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. That put an end to any real plans for testing as we were told that the State would not do business with a foreign car company. Today many of the so-called American cars are built across the river from Detroit in Canada. As it turned out, this move presented us with a real dilemma as to what to do with the car.

The car was around State Headquarters for awhile as we did some speed testing, etc., then it was sent to District No. 1 in Madison and we asked that it be used by various patrolmen to get their feedback. A few line patrol officers drove it briefly. With Studebaker’s move to Canada, Major Glen Kissinger started to become worried about the car. He instructed me to get it stripped out and return it to where it came from. The Communications Technicians stripped the car out and, with some effort, I was able to peel the door shields and lettering off. I then started trying to contact the Fleet Sales Representative or someone from Studebaker. The phone number and address I had for the Chicago Zone Office was no longer valid. However, on my first attempt to reach the Zone Office, I talked to the receptionist. She said the office was closed; she was the only one there; she was packing up all the files to be shipped out; she was on two weeks notice; and she didn’t really care what I did with that car. A relative of mine had been the Truck Manager at the Studebaker plant in South Bend, Indiana, but was now Manager of the newly created Avanti Motor Car Company. He had no idea who I could return the car to other than the local dealer.

I called Jim Smart of Smart Motors in Madison, the local dealer, and he was unaware of the car and seemed to have mixed feelings about it. He said that without paperwork (there was none) he couldn’t take the car. As a last resort, one morning I took the car to the service bay at Smart Motors. I told the Service Manager that the car was all theirs and walked out without waiting for a reply.

That 1964 Studebaker was, in my opinion, a very good handling car. I believe it performed better than some of the other vehicles we had. It was well balanced, had tremendous acceleration and good top speed, however unlike the R-2 supercharged car it was borderline when it came to meeting our basic specifications of 120 mph within two miles of a standing start while fully equipped for line patrol duty. Had I been a Studebaker dealer I would have been afraid to bid this car while posting the required $50,000 performance bond. We also had no knowledge of what maintenance would have been, but that was true of any car in any given model year. The 1962 Chevy 409s are a case in point. More importantly, there were very few authorized dealers, particularly in the northern part of the state, from whom to get authorized service.

I often wondered what happened to that 1964 Studebaker and just recently found that it had been painted solid black and in 1966 sold to a woman by Greenfield Motors, the Studebaker dealership in Milwaukee. It apparently was too much of a car for her as she drove it very little and in 1969 sold it to a Studebaker enthusiast from Malone, Wisconsin (about 13 miles northeast of Fond du Lac). This gentleman pretty much kept the car in storage. In 1979, with about 23,000 miles on the odometer and still wearing the Firestone Highway Patrol tires was sold to Mr. Michael Jenkins. Being a college student, Mr. Jenkins couldn’t devote the time and money to this project and in 1986 advertised it for sale in the “Turning Wheels” magazine (the magazine of the Studebaker Drivers Club). That advertisement resulted in the sale to its current owner, who lives in West Bloomfield, Michigan. In October of 2000, I talked to the new owner on the telephone. He has had an interesting time with the car and has spent some money restoring it. At the time, it had just over 30,000 miles on it.

After receiving the black Studebaker, he had it painted Michigan State Police colors and had a red light installed along with a whip antennae. This caused him all kinds of grief as cops would harass him about it. Having grown up in New York State, he then had the car painted black, white and green, the New York State Police colors. He said this particular car was really ugly when painted those colors so he again had it repainted, this time Ermine White with a black tee stripe on the hood. He also had a supply company in Lexington, KY manufacture a pair of five point star door shields lettered “Studebaker Plant Security”.

Studebaker Marshall

The new owner, “Michael C.”, related that one morning he drove the car to work, which he doesn’t usually do. He was driving on the Interstate highway doing about 110 mph and was pulled over by a Michigan State Trooper. The officer was more interested in the car than he was in the violation. He let the officer look the car over and then asked “what are you going to do about this?”. The officer asked “What do you mean?” and Mike said “if you write a ticket to a 51 year old man going over 100 mph in an imitation police car – and a Studebaker at that – you’ll be laughed right out of the barracks.” The officer looked at him a moment and said “keep the speed down until you get out of my sector” and left.

“Michael C.” still owns this Studebaker Marshal and provided us with today’s story written by his friend “Terry S.”

Marshall night

night Mars

Studebaker S logo

ferndale Police car show

In 1952, the police in my hometown of Lubbock, TX drove Studebaker Commander V-8s, sold to the city by Louis Kerr:

Kerr Studebaker

5 Comments

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  1. Gary Lindstrom 12/06/2018 — 07:58

    Thanks for the article.
    I believe that the model name is Marshal, not “Marshall”.
    The black, white and green sounds like New York City Police colors, not “New York State Police” colors.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Spelling error noted! Thank you! I confused the name of the car with the last name of a friend – who also likes Studebakers!
      I can’t speak to the correctness of the NY police cars – I didn’t write the story and it’s been more than 30 years since I’ve been to NY State or City!

      Like

    • Michael Cenit 12/06/2018 — 08:52

      Gary; You are correct, the story got it wrong, since I was from Brooklyn, and had just seen the French Connection……. I thought I’d try the black/green/white combo, it didn’t work out well, couldn’t get the right green.

      BTW there is a picture out there of a fleet of black/green/white pre-war Champions, that we’re released to NYC from the federal war reserve. These might be the only NYO black/green/white Studebakers put on the street. Although I think one of the 20 1964 saamples were sent to NYC, but I’ve never seen rengp@aol.comit so I’m not sure of the color combo. M

      Liked by 1 person

    • Michael Cenit 12/06/2018 — 12:06

      One last thing, in regard to the NYC evaluation car, I’ve checked back 5 or 6 years ago Forum postings, and a Marshal owner from Augusta, Maine (whom had done a outstanding job catologing the history of these 20 cars) reported that the NYC car was sold off the floor of the NY Auto Show, and when last heard of was painted white and in Florida.
      So if I were to guess, the car likely was never sent over to or evaluated by the NYPD, and also likely was in NY and displayed at the show (where it might have been a popular exhibit), and then sold off from the show floor (companies ofter sold show cars in those days).

      Liked by 1 person

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