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The Story of the 1963 Studebaker Sceptre, the Futuristic Concept You Never Knew Existed
Introduced in 1962, the Studebaker Avanti is commonly known as the car that should have saved the company. But the sports car that broke 29 world speed records at the Bonneville Salt Flats wasn't Studebaker's only attempt to create an outstanding product in the early 1960s.

The Story of the 1963 Studebaker Sceptre, the Futuristic Concept You Never Knew Existed

1963 Studebaker Sceptre concept car1963 Studebaker Sceptre concept car1963 Studebaker Sceptre concept car1963 Studebaker Sceptre concept car1963 Studebaker Sceptre concept car1963 Studebaker Sceptre concept car1963 Studebaker Sceptre concept car1963 Studebaker Sceptre concept car1963 Studebaker Sceptre concept car1963 Studebaker Sceptre concept car1963 Studebaker Cruiser concept car1963 Studebaker Cruiser concept car1963 Studebaker Cruiser concept car
Bleeding cash and facing stiff competition from Detroit, Studebaker was hanging by a thread in the late 1950s. The failed merger with Packard and the industry price war between Ford and GM had pushed the company on the brink of bankruptcy. Making matters worse, Studebaker had no new products in the works.

Yes, Brooks Stevens managed to revive both the Hawk and the Lark with minor and inexpensive changes in the 1960s, but it wasn't enough for the ailing brand to stay afloat. That's when Studebaker's then-new president, Sherwood Egbert, called Raymond Loewy to design the Avanti.

A critically acclaimed car that became America's fastest in supercharged form, the Avanti prompted Stevens to fight back with a brand-new design. One that would be far more radical than the Avanti and, hopefully, help save Studebaker from going under.

He set his sights on a replacement for the Gran Turismo Hawk, the company's range-topping model, which he had redesigned for the 1962 model year. Aiming for a futuristic two-door that had nothing in common with any of the existing Studebaker nameplates, Stevens envisioned the Sceptre, a grand touring coupe aimed at the Ford Thunderbird.

Designed around a spacious and premium-looking greenhouse, the Sceptre employed never-before-seen styling cues that made all Studebakers look dated. Okay, maybe not the Avanti, but it was decidedly more futuristic.

Stevens gladly embraced the Space Age themes that influenced the auto industry at the time and went with full-length headlamps that stretched over the entire width of the fascia.

However, the lights were nowhere near as spectacular and intriguing as the electric-razor-like insert that adorned the upper front section.

With no room for a traditional emblem on the nose, Stevens placed an oversized version on the center of the hood. The emblem itself was a brand-new design, featuring a three-sided "polo mallet". The badge also found its way on the wheel covers and the steering wheel.

The Sceptre's rear fascia wasn't as intricate as the front end, but it retained the full-length light-bar theme. Mounted deep into the fascia, the taillights had large "Studebaker" lettering. The Dodge Charger debuted with a similar layout about three years later.

The Sceptre's interior was more in line with the premium American cars of the era, but Stevens kept things flamboyant with gauges covered in transparent bubbles (yet another Space-Age cue) and a slide-rule speedometer placed high above the dash. He also included a large glovebox that slid back toward the front passenger.

Built by Sibona-Bassano in Turin, Italy, the Sceptre cost Stevens about $16,000, which converts to almost $156,000 in 2022. He took delivery of the concept in April 1963 and immediately presented it to Studebaker.

While president Sherwood Egbert liked the idea, the project was never greenlighted. And Studebaker disappeared altogether soon after.

But the Sceptre wasn't Stevens' only proposed concept car. Knowing that Studebaker needed more than just a flagship car to survive, he also envisioned a replacement for the Lark. Called the Cruiser, this prototype had a four-door layout and showcased a more down-to-earth design. But Stevens also designed it with identical front and rear doors, which made them interchangeable diagonally.

Also built by Sibona-Bassano, the Cruiser had the same fate as the Sceptre, being turned down due to lack of funds. Both cars remained with Stevens and were displayed in his museum for years.

The concepts are now on display at the Studebaker National Museum. Do you think the Sceptre would have saved Studebaker from going under?

Editor's note: For illustrative purposes, the photo gallery also includes images of the Studebaker Cruiser concept car.

 
 
 
 
 

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