1953 Studebaker Commander Paul and Betty Gilliam | Johnson's Hot Rod Shop

1953 Studebaker Commander: Sensational Stude!

The 1953 Studebaker Commander model line was known as “The new American car with the European look,” because of its low height and smooth, sleek lines. At the time they were unlike any other American car on the market.

Builder Alan Johnson decided to build upon the sleek foundation and used three cars to bring Paul & Betty Gilliam’s “Stude” to life. Today, Johnson’s vision paid off and the black beauty becomes Vintage Air Custom Rod of the Year and the final car of Goodguy’s Top 12 award winners for 2016.

1953 Studebaker Commander Paul and Betty Gilliam | Johnson's Hot Rod Shop

Modifications to this one’s body are extensive including a wedge-chopped roof, widened rear quarters, relocated wheel openings, handmade bumpers and much more. All of the trim was handmade at Johnson’s before getting dipped in nickel plating. Other bespoke items include the grille, the headlight bezels, and the taillights. Flawless, laser-straight black paint is from PPG.

Paul Atkins handled the custom leather upholstery and reworked the original seats while Johnson whittled out a steering wheel and one-off moldings for the modified dash. The gauges are from Classic Instruments.

Power is in ample supply here as a massive big block Chevy by Keith Dorton rests beneath the liquid smooth hood. No LS motor here! Ride quality is just as superior as the fit and finish of the swoopy Stude. Johnson’s used an Art Morrison front clip for a hot rod rake then made the rest of the chassis. Those hot rod inspired wheels are patterned after Halibrand Champs and were made special for the project by Evod.

Congratulations to owners Paul & Betty Gilliam and builder Alan Johnson for their 1953 Studebaker Commander. Crafting an American beauty with a classy, European flair.

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