Gear Head Tuesday – George Krem’s ’64 Studebaker “Plain Brown Wrapper”

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Hat tip today to “Chris-to-Fear” who owns “Uncle Tilden“, an original, unrestored ’55 Studebaker Champion.

Studebaker Challenger Plain Brown Wrapper

An amazing story of a record-breaking Studebaker is that of George Krem’s “Plain Brown Wrapper” – a 1964 Studebaker Challenger that continues to set speed records on the drag strip 55 years after it was built! This car is testimony to what Studebaker’s stout little V-8 in Avanti R-3 tune was – and still is – capable of!

An article in Hot Rod Magazine dated October, 1963 states that George Krem worked for Studebaker in the Summer of 1963 demonstrating the Avanti.
Bob Palma, who was at one time the Technical Editor for the Studebaker Drivers Club magazine Turning Wheels, wrote in 2010 that George Krem was his cousin and filled in some of the story about this speedy Stude:

“I am George’s 4-years-younger cousin; he is 67 and I am 63. When he was 22 and I was 18, we together found this 1964 Challenger brand new on the rear sales storage lot of Studebaker Indianapolis in Summer 1964, and, subsequently, I was with him when he bought the car brand new.

He and I together uncrated and installed the R3 engine less than a year later at my father and our mutual Uncle’s Ford/Mercury dealership in Ottawa Illinois.

It has been our privilege to watch Ted Harbit wring more speed out of this car at the annual Pure Stock Muscle Car Drag Race than either George or I could do if we had 100 years to practice!”

From the article at American Torque:

“Purchased new in 1964, this car was selected because it was lightweight with no options. It did not come with carpet – only a rubber floor mat, and it came with only one sun visor and one armrest. The goal was to make the fastest Studebaker possible using all factory parts. Later an R3 engine was purchased from a Studebaker dealer for $725, complete except for the Paxton supercharger.”

This car is raced at the Pure Stock Muscle Car Drags, and has posted 12.85 seconds at 111 MPH, running a T-10 4-speed and G70-15 Firestone street tires.

The T-10 has just been replaced with a Powershift automatic. Traction is a real problem and the hope is, with an automatic, better 60′ times can be had.”

An article in Hemmings about the Plain Brown Wrapper informs us:

“At the 2004 stock drags, Steve Clay, owner-operator of a portable dynamometer, hooked up Krem’s car, and the results astounded all the doubters. Krem’s humble Stude delivered 365hp to the rear wheels at 5,895 rpm. That’s 30hp more than Studebaker claimed for the R3 in 1964. In 2004, the car ran against 20 more celebrated muscle cars and won 17 times. The three losses came at the hands of either supercharger belts slipping off or losing traction so badly that Harbit had to back off the accelerator.”

Watch the “Plain Brown Wrapper” in action:


Did you note that in the text about the Challenger having only 1 sun visor and 1 arm rest? Studebaker found itself having to dive into its back of tricks that had worked in the past trying to stay relative in the present. The one sun visor and one arm rest trick was first used on the 1939 Champion, a car that took Studebaker into the low price field for the first time. The ’39 Champion also only had 1 tail light. It was what we call today a real “stripper” – it had been stripped of all frills. It worked and sold in great numbers for Studebaker.

'39 Studebaker Champion

1939 Studebaker Champion

Desperate to stay alive, Studebaker repeated that trick in 1957-1958, when they stripped the Champion down to the Scotsman, which like the original Champion, sold well for Studebaker. The success of the Scotsman helped Studebaker put the Lark into production, though the Lark was never as spartan as the Scotsman. As the competition took sales from the Lark, in 1963 Studebaker once again put a stripped down car in the catalog to try to gain volume. This mid-year offering was called the Standard which became the Challenger for the 1964 line up.

Thus George Krem’s choice of a ’64 Challenger was the right car to rocket down the drag strips all these years later, showing the world what a Studebaker can do on the drag strip. 


Avanti R-3 in the “Plain Brown Wrapper”

Studebaker S logo

While we are on the subject of ’64 Studebakers, here’s a Studebaker TV ad.  How times have changed! Ad writers would never get away with the attitude about women that is expressed in this ad! In that context, it’s all the more fun to watch:


Let me guess – this “Gear Head” was also a Chevy man:

Hat tip: “B-Squared”

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  1. Just a note that Bob Palma is still the Technical Editor of Turning Wheels, the monthly magazine of the Studebaker Drivers Club.

    Liked by 1 person

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