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May 16, 1952 – Studebaker & Porsche sign development deal

porsche studebaker car

An unusual automotive partnership formed on this day in 1952 when Studebaker and Porsche signed a contract to co-develop a new model for the American automaker. The partnership began with the help of famed importer Max Hoffman, who suggested the Indiana based car maker could use a facelift with the help of Dr. Ferdinand Porsche. Ensuing conversations led to an official deal. Porsche soon delivered its first idea, essentially a four door Porsche 356. The Indiana boys were less than thrilled with the concept, but not totally dissuade. They sent Porsche back to the drawing board. Their next attempt, code named by Porsche as the Type 542 and by Studebaker as the Z-87, saw delivery of three prototypes in 1953. The timing could not have been worse.

Porsche 542 and 1953 Studebaker

While Porsche constructed two versions with unique engines, one air-cooled and one water-cooled, many elements of Studebaker remained. Sitting on a 111 inch wheel base, the body on frame cars featured Porsche styling and engines, but maintained Studebaker drum brakes, electrical systems and steering system and transmissions. Under the hood sat a 186 cubic inch V6 that pumped about just over 100 horsepower.

studebaker porsche 542 engine
Porsche 542 engine designs
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Unfortunately, by the time the cars landed back in Indiana, Studebaker sat on uneasy ground. The Porsche-Studebaker fell to the wayside in the midst of a merger with Packard. Once that deal was done, Studebaker management and engineers, including John DeLorean, took a closer look at the car. What could have been influential in 1954 seemed decades old in 1956. The entire program ended up in the scrap yard, as did the three prototypes, apparently.

porsche 542 rear
Porsche 542 / Studebaker Z-87

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