YOUR NEW PRESIDENT FOR 1928

The Model FA & FB

by Bill Cannon & Richard Quinn

 

            The Roaring Twenties was a decade that witnessed great technical evolution in the automobile industry, including the almost universal adoption of four-wheel brakes, higher compression ratio engines, mechanical fuel pumps, pressure lubrication, balloon tires, and improved headlamps.  There was also a trend toward engines with greater horsepower output and more cylinders.  Except for the very lowest price cars (such as Ford, Chevrolet, Overland, and Durant) most of the major manufacturers had abandoned the four-cylinder engine due mainly to its problems of inherent vibration.  Several manufacturers in the medium price field (Studebaker included) and the high price field had developed large six-cylinder engines to power their heavy cars.  Many of these engines were now becoming obsolete in light of the numerous technical developments in automotive engineering.

 

            The Big Six and Special Six engines, which Studebaker had relied on for so many years, were rapidly reaching the point of diminishing returns by the late twenties, and it was time for Studebaker to make a decision about what sort of powerplant it was to develop next.  Delmar “Barney” Roos, who had joined Studebaker in late 1926 to revive its faltering engineering department, was no stranger to the straight eight engine (see Review for Nov./Dec. `98).  He had served stints at Locomobile and Marmon where he had designed straight eights, so it was no surprise that he would do the same at Studebaker in spite of opposition from Guy Henry, former chief engineer of the firm.

 

            Also on the engineering team to develop the new eight were W. S. James, formerly of the National Bureau of Standards, K. M. Wise, a metallurgist, and E. C. Newcomb, a carburetion expert.  New ultra-modern laboratory facilities had been constructed at South Bend, and now Studebaker had once more the aggressive, competent, forward-thinking research staff it had lacked since the departure of Zeder, Skelton, and Breer in 1920.

 

The Model FA President

            The car, which ultimately arose from their efforts, was the Model FA President introduced at the New York Auto Show in Jan. 1928.  The engine was a 3-3/8 bore by 4-3/8” stroke L-head straight eight displacing 313 cubic inches and rated at 100 hp at 2700 rpm.  A compression ratio of 4.9 was used.  The sturdy 2-5/8 inch diameter crankshaft was carried on five large bronze-backed main bearings.  Lubrication was force-fed to all main, connecting rod, and camshaft bearings with spray lubrication to the cylinder walls and piston pins.  A crankshaft torsional vibration dampener was located inside the crankcase just aft of the No. 1 main bearing.  The water pump was mounted at the front of the engine and driven by the fan belt.  A Schebler air-valve carburetor was used, fed by an AC mechanical fuel pump.*

            *In later years Studebaker claimed that it was the first American manufacturer to use a mechanical fuel pump on its production cars.  I have been unable to verify this claim from any other source, but it is true that Studebaker replaced the conventional vacuum tank with an AC mechanical pump on late production Model EW Commander roadsters only in 1927.  In 1928 the entire Studebaker line was equipped with AC pumps (except Erskine cars), this at a time when many more expensive cars were still using vacuum tanks.

 

            The chassis and bodies of the Model FA cars resembled the earlier Model ES Presidents with some new features added.  The frame was exceptionally rigid with eight-inch deep side members and six cross members.  The three-speed transmission was a conventional Warner Gear unit and the clutch was by Long.  Semi-elliptical suspension was used with an exceptionally long springs base – five feet long at the rear and 38 inches long at the front.  Monroe hydraulic shock absorbers were standard equipment.  A Ross cam and lever steering gear was used with 16:1 ratio.  Brakes were new – Bendix three-shoe internal expanding mechanical on all four wheels.  The wheelbase on all FA models was 131 inches.

 

            Taken as a whole it cannot be said that the FA President had anything new or startlingly different from other contemporary cars of its price class, but sound engineering practice, which had been previously proven, was used throughout.  The body designs of the five- and seven-passenger sedans were quite pleasing with little of the boxy bulkiness evident in many large contemporary sedans.  A trapezoidal inset painted in a contrasting color formed a beltline, which added a touch of distinctive styling.  New design headlamps, cowl lamps, and bumpers were used.  All exterior brightwork was finished in chrome plating (first used on Studebaker cars in July 1927).  A distinctive “8” emblem in a circular wreath was fitted to the fender crossbar to proclaim to the world that this new car was definitely an eight.

 

            Interior appointments were of the finest quality, equal or superior to those found in many cars costing hundreds or thousands of dollars more.  Fabrics were two-tone Bedford cord or broadcloth or mohair.  In keeping with their quest of giving the customer what he wanted, trimming in muslin or all leather was also available at extra cost.  Window frames were finished in walnut with etched silver medallions at the center of the lower edges.  The instrument panel was a completely new design in two-tone walnut.  Standard instruments included an 8-day clock, speedometer, electric gasoline gauge, ammeter, oil pressure gauge, and engine temperature gauge.

 

FA Body Styles

            Initially the FA models included a regular and State sedan for seven passengers, and a regular and State sedan for five passengers.  A few weeks after production started, a seven-passenger Limousine with a divider window was added to the lineup.  The regular five- and seven-passenger sedans were priced at $1985 f.o.b. factory, while the State five- and seven-passenger sedans were $2250 f.o.b. factory.  The State Limousine sold for $2450 f.o.b. factory, the highest priced model in the Studebaker line.  Several months later (ads first appeared regularly in May and June, 1928), the FA President lineup was expanded to include a State Cabriolet, listed at $2195 f.o.b. factory.  Unlike the later convertible cabriolets, the top of the FA cabriolet did not fold.  All regular models were equipped with wood wheels and spare mounted at rear, while State models included six wire wheels and side mounted spares.  All five-passenger sedans were factory equipped with a trunk, while seven-passenger State models were fitted with a folding trunk rack.

 

            Open touring cars (phaetons) were fast falling out of favor with the American buying public, but there was still some demand in the overseas market.  In April 1928, the sales department notified dealers that they would start production on phaetons in June.  The cars were described as follows: “They will have entirely new body design and will be of the latest sport type – low lines, striking color combinations, compactly folding top, windshields folding flat to the cowl are a few of their features.  Various color combinations will be available.”  Because of the low volume anticipated for this body, Studebaker contracted with the Locke Body Company of New York to build them.  List for the State Phaeton for seven was $2250 and for the regular Phaeton $2085.  Further sales dept. correspondence indicates that the entire June production was subscribed by overseas orders, and that if domestic dealers wished to stock one of these units, orders would have to be placed 60 days in advance.

 

            Outsourcing of special low production bodies was not new to Studebaker, but it was somewhat uncommon.  In the teens, various companies made closed bodies for Studebaker including Willoughby and Fischer, who made the Big Six coupes and sedans in the early 20’s.  A few custom bodies were also executed by LeBaron in 1925-26 and the Pioneer Body Company of Lima, Ohio in the same years.

 

Contemporary Straight Eights

            In the late 20’s, there was a trend toward eight cylinder cars in the fine car field.  The strength of the demand was readily seen in the number of eights making their appearance on the market.  During the four-year period from 1924 to 1928, there was a 50% increase in the number of manufacturers producing eight-cylinder cars.  At the Paris Auto Show in 1927, twelve makes of eights were displayed, in 1928 the number jumped to 36!

 

            Studebaker’s entry into the straight eight field was well planned but somewhat late, as there were numerous other manufacturers who already had eights in production.  However, Studebaker’s close competitors, Chrysler and Buick, were even more tardy and did not field eights until 1931.  Packard, Duesenberg, Stearns, Sayers and Scoville, DuPont, and Stutz had built eights for a number of years, but these cars were in the high price field and cost hundreds or thousands more than the FA President.

 

            Auburn had introduced a Lycoming straight eight in 1925.  By 1928 it offered two eights which were selling approximately in the FA President range, but the Auburns were not in the quality class of the Studebakers.  Chandler started an eight in 1927, but it was in trouble in 1928 and was taken over by Hupp.  The Chandler was nearly in the price range of the President, but its limited production posed no serious threat.  Graham-Paige had an eight in 1928, but it was priced several hundred dollars more than the President.  Likewise for Gardner with its Lycoming eight, which was priced at least $200-$300 more than the President models.  Hupp had introduced an excellent eight in 1925.  By 1928 the Hupp eight was priced a couple of hundred dollars more than the FA President.  Kissell had three eights (Lycoming powered) in 1928 – priced well above Studebakers.

 

            Locomobile started its Junior Eight in 1924.  In 1928 it offered its Junior Eight and a larger eight by Lycoming.  Only the Junior Eight was in Studebaker’s price class, but it was a small car with only 122-inch wheelbase that lacked the quality of the FA.  The Marmon Little Eight of 1928 was actually priced lower than the Studebaker President Eight, but it was really a small engine with about half the horsepower of the FA and carried on a 114-inch wheelbase chassis – not a serious competitor to Studebaker if viewed side by side.

 

            It may be said in summary that Studebaker certainly did not pioneer the straight eight, but it made a large, luxurious eight affordable to a much wider range of buyers.  The success of the venture may best be appreciated by noting that within two years, Studebaker became the world’s largest manufacturer of straight eight engines.  In the year before Studebaker introduced its new engine, only 3.2% of all new car sales were eights (49.7% fours and 47.1% sixes).  By 1932, 28.2% of new cars were eight cylinder equipped.

 

The Model FB President

            In mid-year 1928, Studebaker completely restyled its entire line of motor cars – President, Commander, Dictator, and Erskine.  At the same time, the President Eight engine was redesigned with a larger bore; displacing 336 cubic inches and rated at 109 horsepower.    Other modifications included moving the generator and water pump to the side of the engine and increasing the cooling system to five-and-one-half gallons.  The ignition system was also modified to include the use of two coils, each coil firing four cylinders of the engine through separate contacts and distributor breaker points.  Engine I.D. numbers incorporating these changes were given a prefix of FB, whereas all the 313 c.i. early series cars had a prefix of FA.  All the Presidents assembled after the July `28 changeover used engines with an FB prefix even though the longer wheelbase (131”) models continued to be referred to as Model FA.  (Engine numbers are stamped in the block on the top of the fan boss.)

 

                                                Concurrent with the engine redesign, a new President model was introduced at this time – the Model FB President Eight with a 121-inch wheelbase chassis selling in the range from $1685 to $1850.  Bodies were restyled with a polo cap visor replacing the old visor which was an extension of the roofline, a new radiator was fitted, and redesigned headlamps were adopted with a winged motif at the top.  The winged styling was also carried over in the cowl lamps and radiator cap.  The Atalanta radiator cap, which had been featured on 1927 and early 1928 models, was discontinued.  The main chassis alteration – other than the larger engine – was the introduction of Fafnir ball bearing spring shackles on all Studebaker cars (except Erskines).

 

            Body styles available initially on the new 121-inch wheelbase Model FB Presidents were limited to State and regular five-passenger sedans.  Shortly after production started, a State Victoria, a State Cabriolet, and a State Roadster were added to the lineup.  The FB closed car bodies and chassis were identical in every respect to the Model GH Commander Big Six except for the eight-cylinder engine.

 

Model Year Assignments

            The complete styling revision at mid-year 1928, accompanied by the introduction of three new model designations, the Model FB President, the Model GH Commander, and the Model 52 Erskine, has caused problems in model year identification, which have never been resolved to everyone’s complete satisfaction.  Ordinarily, when a new model is introduced at mid-year, the industry practice is to assign the model year of the following calendar year to it.  This causes no confusion if the model is in production for a full year extending into the next calendar year.  But production of the FA, FB, and GH cars was terminated before the end of 1928, and if we were to assign 1929 model years to these cars, it would cause much confusion with the true 1929 models – the FE/FH President and the GJ/FD Commanders, which are radically different from the earlier cars.  It’s certainly not a desirable situation when two identical model years are assigned to quite different models.

 

            To get around this predicament, some writers have assigned 1928½ model years to the FB President and GH Commander – not a bad approach, but it’s artificial, and to the best of my knowledge was never used at the time these cars were in daily use.  In keeping with the practice used in non-factory parts books, interchange manuals, and post-production shop manuals, I will continue to refer to all FA, FB, and GH cars as 1928 models, since production did not continue into 1929.  The GE Dictator and Model 52 Erskine from mid-year 1928 on will be referred to as 1929 models because production of these cars extended into the 1929 calendar year.  Not everyone agrees with these designations, but I believe they will lead to the least confusion.  In any case, when discussing cars of this era, the model designations are more important for identification purposes than any arbitrary model year assignments.  As usual, Studebaker itself was non-committal on these points.  It refused to recognize model years in this era.  In reference to the two series FA Presidents, Studebaker referred to the early series (i.e. those made from January to June 1928) as First Design and those made subsequent to that Second Design.

 

            In measuring the relative success of Studebaker’s new eight, we should keep in mind that there is some buyer resistance attached to any completely new product.  Even with that, however, we would have to qualify the experiment to be quite successful.  Between Dec. 1927 and Oct. 1928, a total of 26,434 Presidents were produced and sold.  This includes all FA and FB models built in Detroit and Walkerville.  During the same eleven-month period, 25,802 Commander GB and GH models were sold.  Since the Commander was a less expensive car and had an engine of proven design, one may logically conclude that it would be a much better seller, but the fact is the President Eight outsold it!

            Of course, this fact was not lost on Studebaker executives and soon the engineering department was at work on eights for the Commander and Dictator line.  These were introduced in January and May 1929 respectively.  By this time, Studebaker could lay claim to being the world’s largest producer of eight-cylinder engines.

           

            As we know, research and development continued on the 336 c.i. President engine and improvements in carburetion, manifolding, compression and valve timing continued to be made through 1933.  By that time, the horsepower of the Speedway model had been increased to 132.  Studebaker’s last straight eight, the 250 c.i. version, was built in 1942.

 

RUNNING CHANGES DURING PRODUCTION

            Compared to some other Studebaker models, relatively few running changes were made during production of the FA and FB President cars.  The more important ones, which may affect authenticity or interchangeability, are discussed below, but the list is far from complete.

Changes made in FA chassis

            1.  Rear engine supports equipped with rubber cushions at Serial No. 6,003,876.

            2.         Crankshaft redesigned to make vibration dampener hub integral with crankshaft at Engine No. 2,398.  Before that, vibration dampener is keyed to crankshaft.  Redesigned crankshaft may be retrofitted to earlier cars if new vibration dampener parts are used.

            3.         Connecting rods bushed at piston end before Engine No. FA-2,487.  Later type used clamp type rod with bushings in piston.  Pistons changed simultaneously.  New piston and rod assemblies will fit older models.

            4.         Several changes were made in the transmission at Serial No. 6,004,343.  Details are unknown.  Parts may not interchange, but complete transmission should.

            5.         Rear axle was changed from integral to split type carrier at 6,006,187.

Changes in FA cars with FB engines and FB cars

            1.         Purolator oil filter discontinued at 6,011,559 and 7,007,428.  Thereafter Handy oil filter was used.

            2.         Oil filler plug on fan relocated at approximately Engine No. FB-14,615.

            3.         Brake control shaft trunnions changed at 6,009,298 and 7,003,382.  Effect on interchangeability is unknown.

            4.         Rear spring changed from 10 leaves to 12 leaves in W body cars only on 121” wb cars at 7,008,765.

5.                  Hood support brackets added at 6,010,202 and 7,006,233.

6.                   

TRUNK INFORMATION

            The trunk furnished as standard equipment on the FA 5-passenger sedan is 42” long, 18½” high, 10½” wide at the top, and 16-17/32” wide at the base.

            A trunk 33½” long, 19½” high, and 15½” wide could be furnished as an extra cost option for seven-passenger FA cars with folding trunk rack.

 

COLOR INFORMATION

Early FA Cars

            Color information on the early FA cars is very sparse.  Sales literature published by Studebaker shows color photos of various models but does not describe exterior finished other than to say, “…exterior is finished in harmonizing tones of lacquer – rich, deep, and lustrous.”

 

            The Studebaker sales brochure (“Studebaker’s New President Eight,” Serial 464, 12-27) indicates that the 5-passenger FA sedan was available in two color options.  Illustrations show cars in brown with a red beltline, and blue with a gray beltline, so it is surmised that this may be the color options referred to.  In both cases, the window reveals are finished in the contrasting beltline color.  Fenders and splash aprons are black.

 

            The sales literature cited does not indicate how many color options were available on the 7-passenger sedans.  Only one example is shown which is finished in a plum color with a gray beltline panel and window reveals.  Only one color photo of the State Limousine is shown which is finished in a greenish-gray with a reddish-brown panel and window reveals.  All models are striped on the upper and lower molding surrounding the belt panel with a single stripe continuing to the radiator shell.  Regular sedans with wooden wheels have a stripe pattern on the spokes.

 

            An advertising illustration for the FA President State Tourer states that the standard color is Molite Brown body with Sandor Tan belt panel.  No information at all had been discovered on the color of the State Cabriolet.

 

Late FA and FB Cars

            When the new FA and FB models were introduced at mid-year, it was announced that eight body color options would be available, although it is impossible to say that all colors were available on all body styles.  Body colors included Autumn Brown, Deauville Sand, Duskblu, Burgundy, Suede Gray, Damson Plum. Spirea Green, and Port Wine.  Belt panels were finished in Antique Ivory, Deauville Sand, or Dauphine Red.  The most complete and comprehensive color information ironically is offered in the dealers’ newspaper The Studebaker News.  During that era, this publication was sent to dealers on a weekly basis and every few months an entire page would be devoted to specific paint color information on all cars being produced.  Your editor’s collection of these is not complete, but we do have the issue for Sept. 10, 1928 and reproduce same on p. __.  Studebaker reserved the right to change these colors at will.

 

            At any rate, it is impossible to match these colors today exactly from subjective descriptions, color names, or formula numbers.  The finish of an original car may in some cases be rubbed out to reveal the original color, even if repainted at one time.  The color may be matched then in modern acrylic lacquer, otherwise it is recommended that the owner approximate the original color from the above descriptions.

 

ORIGINAL EQUIPMENT

            Generator:  FA – Delco Remy 949-U.  FB and FA with FB engine – Delcy-Remy 955-C.

            Starter:  Delco-Remy 724-H.  Gear reduction drive to flywheel with over-running clutch and starter button mounted on floor.

            Fuel System:  AC mechanical pump.  Electric fuel gauge on FA and King-Seeley hydrostatic fuel gauge on FB.

            Brakes:  Bendix three-shoe mechanical internal expanding on all four wheels.

            Brake Control:  Rod type mechanical with parking brake contracting on transmission drum.

            Cooling System:  FA – Belt driven via fan pulley on front of engine.  FB and FA with FB engine – Pump on left side of engine driven through generator shaft.

            Carburetor:  Schebler S-3 air valve type.

            Ignition:  FA – Single coil twin breaker points.  FB and FA with FB engine – Dual coil and breaker points.

            Transmission:  Standard three-speed non-synchromesh.

            Front Suspension:  Rigid front axle with semi-elliptical springs.

            Rear Suspension:  Hotchkiss drive with semi-elliptical springs.

            Wheels:  Wooden spoke, demountable at rim or wire.

            Standard Tire Size:  31 x 6.20

 

 

 

“8” EMBLEM

            The FA cars were initially fitted with an “8” emblem with circular wreath (Fig. 1 below) attached to the fender cross bar.  After Serial No. 6,002,765 the “8” emblem was relocated to a headlamp crossbar (Fig. 2).  This change necessitated a change in headlamp design.  All FA cars with FB engines and FB cars (starting Serial Nos. 6,008,601 and 7,000,001, respectively) were fitted with an “8” emblem on the headlamp crossbar with an oval surround (Fig. 3).  Conflicting information furnished in Book G (President Eight Chassis Parts Catalog) is believed to be erroneous.

 

 

FACTS AT A GLANCE

1928 Studebaker President 8 Cyl.  Model FA

 Production started December 1927

  Production ceased October 1928

 Total production all FA:

 Detroit. . . . . . . . . . . 12,787

Walkerville. . . . . . . .     399

   TOTAL. . . . . . . . . . 13,186*

 *Of this total, about 8,800 were first series FA's and the remainder, or 4,386, second series. 

 

U.S. serial first series. . . . . . . . . . . .  6,000,001 to 6,008,600

U.S. serial second series. . . . . . . . .    6,008,001 to 6,013,000

Canadian serial first series . . . . . . . .  6,950,001 to 6,950,350

Canadian serial second series. . . . . .  6,950,351 to 6,950,500

 Engine nos. first series. . . . . . . . . . .   FA-1 to FA-8,925

Engine nos. second series. . . . . . . . .  FB-1 to FB-17,775

8 cyl. bore and stroke first series 3-3/8" x 4-3/8" displacement 313 c.i., 100 h.p.  

Second series 3½  x 4-3/8" displacement  336 c.i., 109 h.p.

131" wheelbase; tires 19 x 6.50

 

Body Style                                               Body Symbol                       1st Series                   2nd Series                                                              

Sedan for five                                                W3                                  $1,985                          N.P.

State Sedan for five                                      S1                                     2,250                        $2,250

Sedan for seven                                             W3                                    1,985                          2,085

State Sedan for seven                              W1-W2                                   2,250                          2,350

State Limousine for seven                              M                                       2,450                          2,450

State Cabriolet for four                                  E                                        2,195                          2,250

*State Tourer for seven                                 T2                                      2,485                          2,485

*Tourer for five                                             T1                                      2,285                          2,285

 

*Bodies by Locke

All State models supplied with six wire wheels.   Bumpers  $65 extra.

 

 

FACTS AT A GLANCE

1928 Studebaker President 8 Cyl. Model FB

Production started June 1928

Production ceased October 1928

Total Production all FB: 

Detroit……………. 13,248

Walkerville……….      138

TOTAL……………13,386

 

U.S. serial number 7,000,001 to 7,013,500

Canadian serial number 7,950,001 to 7,950,200

8 cyl. bore & stroke 3½ x 4-3/8”; displacement 336 c.i..

Max. horsepower 108

121” wheelbase; tires 19 x 6.50

 

Body Style                                           Body Symbol                                       Price

State Sedan for five                                W1-W2                                          $1,850  

Regular Sedan for five                               W3                                                1,685   

                        State Victoria                                            C1                                                 1,850

                        State Cabriolet for four                               E                                                  1,850

                        State Sport Roadster for four                      J                                                   1,850

 

 

 

 

 

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