Gear Head Tuesday – 1 of NONE – ’64 Studebaker Commander R4

Gear Head

Readers' car series

64 Commander R4-fr
We have seen reader Bruce S.’s ’56 Packard Four Hundred project >>HERE<< and we got a preview of his ’64 Studebaker Commander R4 project >>HERE<<. (The story at that link details his objectives with this project.) The R4 is the rarest and hottest of the Avanti engines. Bruce’s Commander is DONE! What he built was a One of NONE ’64 Commander R4. Studebaker didn’t build a Commander powered by it’s Avanti R4 V-8, so Bruce built it himself!

“After 10 years I have finally completed this one-of-none ’64 Commander R4.
It looks in every way, shape and form as though it was built by Studebaker.
Every visible piece, part and assembly is 100% Studebaker, even down to the
date code on the engine. It’s a piece of work, I’ll tell you! I have to keep going out in the garage to look just to make sure I hadn’t been dreaming that it was finished. It has been a journey!”

We were hoping Bruce would be able to provide us with aBring-a-Trailer“-style driving video, but he was “camera shy”. 😊

64 Commander R4-LF

Here’s more of the story from the original post:

“The year was 2008 when, finally, I was able to go to a SDC national meet that was held in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. It was a very well attended event and there were lots of Studebakers including more Lark-bodied cars than I had ever seen in one place. They were all lined up like Studebaker’s in a dealership car lot such that it was nearly sensory overload. Suddenly something strange caught my eye as I walked up to a freshly painted Ermine White 1962 Lark two-door sedan. The strange part was the funny looking black and white round badge with a lazy “S” and the symbol R4 attached to the front grille. Under the bonnet was all Studebaker, a built 304 cubic inch V-8 with an aluminum intake and a pair of Carter AFB four barrel carburetors and the whole business was connected to a Borg-Warner T-10 four-speed and dual exhausts with two and one-half inch tail pipes. Aside from the obvious built-in power, it otherwise looked like grandma’s grocery getter.

All I could think of was that I wanted one and the one I was looking at wasn’t for sale. A whole lot had to happen before I was able to get one and the first step was to find a V-8 donor car. That led me to the Studebaker forum where I was eventually connected with a pleasant gentleman in Nevada who owned a Bordeaux Red with red interior v-eight 1964 Commander two door sedan which I bought, minus the engine. Then I got with Dave Thibeault who proceeded to build an engine with similar characteristics and power components of what Andy Granatelli designated to be installed in the Super Larks.+

64 Commander R4-LR

64 Commander R4-RF

64 Commnader R4-LR2

64 Commander R-4 RR


“Ajay” provides us with this video clip of a self-parking ’30s Packard:




The inventor of this device lived in Piedmont, CA in the hills above Oakland. He tried again twenty years later with the device installed on a contemporary Cadillac and on a ’53 Packard Cavalier. Why didn’t this catch on? As “Ajay” writes “too much equipment, added weight and expense for the benefit. Learn to drive and park!”


Add yours →

  1. The Undertaker 05/11/2019 — 03:52

    And ‘who’ is this ajay person? He has demonstrated Maxwell Smart smarts in providing top-secret goodies for all of us. Do you have said ajay penned-up? Do not allow him to escape. Vital to the Big Plan!

    Liked by 1 person

    • … heh heh … I don’t exactly have Ajay penned up, but I was pleased to learn that he lives not terribly far away and I have been able to visit him and see his AMAZING collection of auto literature. YES, he is vital to the BIG PLAN! 😊


  2. Well done! (and I should be…)

    As you and others have pointed out, Studebaker didn’t have the resources to make big-block and small-block V8s so it made its best guess and thought that with the possibility of increasing compression ratios displacement wouldn’t be that important. I don’t know if a big-block V8 would have saved Studebaker. Of course, Chevrolet’s first modern V-8 was a small-block and its big-block architecture didn’t debut until 1958.

    Liked by 1 person

    • One key reason the Studebaker V-8 was limited in capacity – and limited in ability to be expanded – was when it was designed, Studebaker engineers were working off of projections from the Kettering Institute predicting that coming engines would develop their power from high compression rather than from cubic inch displacement alone. Thus the engine was designed from the beginning to handle compression ratios of up to 14-1, but the trade off was the block, being designed to be rugged, was designed with limited space for displacement increase. As Michael Cenit points out above, Studebaker HAD a big block with the Packard V-8. See my reply to Michael, the main points of which you and I have corresponded about. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  3. michael cenit 05/11/2019 — 05:11

    Great car, but Studebaker at one point did have a big block, didn’t they…they put it in the 56 GH.

    Liked by 1 person

    • … heh heh …

      Indeed! That would be the Packard 352. As you and I have corresponded previously, with Packard having that new engine and transmission plant in Utica and the Packard V-8 block having massive capacity, I have long thought it to be a travesty that in the Curtiss-Wright deal Studebaker-Packard didn’t arrange to lease back from C-W the engine/transmission portion of the plant. Even with Packard in Detroit closed, this would have given Studebaker a competitive engine right up to the end. Everyone knew that the Studebaker V-8 was at its practical capacity limit at 289 cubic inches, never mind that otherwise it was one of the best and most advanced V-8s of the era. The smallest of the Packard V-8s at 320 cubic inches would have been a natural segue for Studebaker from the 289. The Packard block could have been expanded to at least 440 cubic inches, perhaps more.

      We know that the unbuilt ’57 Senior Packards were slated to get a 440 V-8.


      • Actually the biggest engine Packard had at the time (1956) was their 374 CID. Back in the day my dad had a ’56 Golden Hawk. In 1962 he was offered to purchase by his mechanic friend who ran the shop for Almyra Packard (Brooklyn NY) a new long block 374. They pulled the 352 and literally shoehorned in that 374………..I do not remember what the conversion cost my dad, but I will tell you that car was legendary in our town……….LOL……….dad kept a bag of 100 pound cement in the trunk to “quell” some of the wheel hop………car was three speed with OD.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, the 374 was the standard engine in the ’56 Senior Packards. The 352 was the standard engine in the Clipper and was the block used in the “56J” Golden Hawk. Interestingly, because the Studebaker V-8 was so beefy, there was only some 60 +/- pounds difference in weight between the Packard 352 and the Studebaker 289. The external dimensions of the Packard 352 and 374 blocks were the same. The room for the displacement difference was built into the internal dimensions of the engine. The Packard block could have been expanded to at least 440 cubic inches and likely even more. A 374 in a Golden Hawk would be spectacularly fast! 😊
        Thank you for your visit and comment!


  4. Gary Lindstrom 05/11/2019 — 09:55

    Interesting car. I take exception with your statement the R4 was the “…hottest of the Avanti engines.” An R3 has a higher horsepower rating than an R4.


  5. I love your vehicle shares.❤️☕️

    Liked by 1 person

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