YOUR NEW PRESIDENT FOR
The Model FA & FB
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Hood support brackets added at 6,010,202 and 7,006,233.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
Studebaker President 8 Cyl. Model FA
started December 1927
Production ceased October 1928
production all FA:
. . . . . . . . . . 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 Symbol 1st Series
Sedan for five
State Sedan for five S1
Sedan for seven
State Sedan for seven
State Limousine for seven
State Cabriolet for four
*State Tourer for seven
*Tourer for five
*Bodies by Locke
All State models
supplied with six wire wheels. Bumpers $65 extra.
FACTS AT A GLANCE
Studebaker President 8 Cyl. Model FB
Production started June 1928
Production ceased October 1928
Production all FB:
serial number 7,000,001 to 7,013,500
Canadian serial number 7,950,001 to 7,950,200
bore & stroke 3½ x 4-3/8”; displacement 336 c.i..
wheelbase; tires 19 x 6.50
Body Style Body
Sedan for five
Regular Sedan for five
State Cabriolet for
State Sport Roadster