1931 Studebaker Model 54 Once Stunned SEMA, Embarrassingly Sells for Chevy Bolt Money

There are countless ways of customizing a vehicle, but few of the industry's sub-genres are as spectacular as that of the hot rods. Tracing their roots all the way back to the 1920s, when they were forced into existence by bootleggers trying to evade the law, hot rods are unlike anything else out there in the auto industry. And that would make one believe they are quite valuable, too. One would be wrong.
1931 Studebaker Model 54 12 photos
Photo: Mecum
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Because of their niche nature, hot rods are not all that sought after. Sure, people like their extreme looks, the old-school vibes they create when they come around the corner, and the roar of modern V8s, most of the time completely visible at the front of each build.

But it's a long way from liking something to spending vast amounts of money on it. Car collectors, by definition, are more inclined to buy collectibles, cars owned by famous people, or vehicles in some way relevant to the auto industry. That's because, most of the time, they will resell them, for a profit.

No matter how extreme a hot rod is, chances are making money off of it, repeatedly, is not possible. That's why we often see such extreme builds going for far less than say a Camaro or a Firebird.

Yet, even knowing this to be a fact, seeing the 1931 Studebaker Model 54 sell for just $27,500 came as a major shock. Just think about it: that's how much Chevrolet is asking for the Bolt! And this ride is by no means a Bolt.

You're looking at a former SEMA show car. Not a recent one, but a vehicle that was displayed by Toyo Tire and Monster Energy at the Las Vegas event all the way back in 2008. Still cool, though, perhaps one of the coolest hot rods ever made. And part of its appeal is probably owed to the fact it's not based on the many Fords that get turned into this type of custom, but on something much rarer.

1931 Studebaker Model 54
Photo: Mecum
It's been over half a century since Studebaker stopped making cars, and I must say, when looking at something like this, it kind of makes me feel sad they're gone. Sure, there was nothing so extreme in the carmaker's portfolio, but the potential for customization Studebaker cars and wagons had is undeniable.

The Model 54 was put together for the above-mentioned companies by a California-based crew called Choppin' Block. These guys used a custom frame on top of which they fitted a body chopped and channeled to be so low and long it's almost scary.

It is, of course, this body that immediately catches the eye. Wrapped in a custom-blended shade of orange with just a touch of pinstriping, it is supported by four massive, solid wheels wearing, obviously, Toyo tires of the Proxes4 low-profile variety.

Not only a visual insanity, the Model 54 is also a mechanical masterpiece. To be able to make full use of its very low profile, the car was propped on an airbag suspension system with dual compressors. This allows it to be lowered so close to the ground that it effectively touches it with its underside (check the gallery to see what I mean).

In typical hot rod fashion, the engine up front is exposed to the elements. We're talking about a 350ci unit of Chevrolet make, fitted with an Edelbrock carburetor and intake manifold, and open headers. It runs a two-speed Powerglide transmission, but its output in this application was not disclosed. Most of the engine is painted in the same color as the rest of the car, making for a very clean and solid look. Ford headlights have been fitted up front, to either side of the radiator grille, and a tiny hood has been pulled over the engine, leaving it visible mostly from the sides.

1931 Studebaker Model 54
Photo: Mecum
The doors on the Model 54 open from the center, and once they're out of the way they reveal a matching orange and black interior. You know how most of the hot rods out there come as two-seaters? Well, this thing has four seats, installed in pairs front and rear. They don't look particularly comfortable (they are a blend of soft leather and hard metal), but visually they match the rest of the build to perfection.

The rest of the cabin presents itself kind of spartan, with no unnecessary fittings. There's the aluminum steering wheel, the Lokar shifter, and custom gauges in the dashboard to show relevant information about the car's performance.

The 1932 Studebaker Model 54 was listed for sale by Mecum during its Indianapolis auction earlier this month. It is there where someone paid just $27,500 for it. We don't know how much money went into making the hot rod, but it obviously was much more than that.

The name of the car's new owner was not disclosed, so we don't know what's next for the Model 54. Chances are it will end up under the hammer again, and the only question is: will the seller risk a no reserve sale as well?
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About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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