Review: Danbury Mint 1955 Studebaker President Speedster LE

Photographed and Reviewed by Peter Brown

When the Danbury Mint introduced the 1953 Studebaker Starliner model I was floored. Brilliant design, great execution—something special to be sure. Now DM raises the stakes with their latest iteration of the Raymond Loewy inspired coupe: the 1955 Studebaker President Speedster LE. Done up in a stunning (literally) tri-level color scheme of Hialeah Green roof and lower body with a Sun Valley Yellow upper body and huge swaths of chrome, this version of the coupe has its own unique body side and roof moldings, along with a redesigned front end.

Just look at all the chrome Studebaker ladled onto this body. Starting at the top, the Speedster wears a chrome tiara—a wide targa band stretching across the roof and down each side, where it joins the trim on each rear fender top, and creates a natural break between the roof and upper body paint colors. This is in addition to the chrome trim surrounding all windows which is carried over from the original 1953 design, and DM has modeled it extremely well.

The accent line running from the side of the headlight bezel to the rear edge of the door where it sweeps downward, is now covered by a chrome strip which continues that line straight back to the end of the rear fender. As if that weren't enough, they utilized the body line's downward sweep as a starting point to create the lower edge of that knife blade of chrome banding on each rear fender.

To keep it from getting too busy looking, they incorporated the door locks, and the gold scripts and crests just aft of the doors. While it is a lot of chrome, its application in wide but clean and simple bands helps the car to retain its relatively sleek appearance when compared with its competitors from the mid to late fifties.

Up front, the Speedster gets a new hood with a chrome center spear and gold fin at the leading edge. Front fenders are also revised to fit the new bumper and grille treatment, and get their own chrome center spears at the top leading edge, each with a small, clear gun sight up front. Danbury hasn't overlooked a single detail on this gem.

The front end styling would give a hint at the Hawks to come in the following years, but in this first iteration the entire end cap is chrome plated. Not only did they make the bumper thicker, they incorporated and completely chromed the grille surround as well as the enclosures for the new marker lights below each headlamp.

The overall effect is a subjective matter as with all designs, but this one has been compared with a fish mouth by critics. I see what they mean, but when the entire car is considered as a whole, it still looks svelte, chic, low-slung, and European, just as intended—particularly when one considers the bathtub-like designs that were coming out of Detroit and Dearborn at this time.

From this low angle you can better appreciate the details on the headlight, marker light, and fog light lenses. Also note the fine lettering across the top of the grille opening, and the crest on the tip of the hood's center chrome trim, and above the V-shaped insert in the grille housing. This is all new, as are the bumperettes and the fog lights mounted below the bumper.

As you can see in the following images, she looks good from almost any angle, but scroll down to the profile and rear three-quarter views to see her from the best vantage point.

In these shots we get our first real peek at the interior with its diamond-pleated upholstery. It's a sort of mustard-like shade, neither green nor yellow exactly, yet somehow it works with this paint scheme.

Here, in profile, the Speedster reveals its long, sleek silhouette. This is further enhanced by the horizontal division of upper and lower body with chrome and by paint color as well. With enough chrome to be considered luxurious in nineteen fifties America, but with a bit of restraint in its application, more in keeping with the clean, European, underlying design.

In the close-up below, you get a better look at the broad chrome band with its scripts and emblems, and just look at those spectacular wire wheels! Incredibly realistic.

The rear, three-quarter view below is one of my favorite shots. I love the way the light reflects off of the chrome banding on the roof and body sides.

Out back, changes from the Starliner include a larger bumper, larger taillights, and the addition of surface-mounted, chrome plated, reverse light housings on the trunk lid.

Below, another favorite view. Despite all the chrome, the car still manages to look somewhat European—a real testament to the original design.

The trunk liner is replicated nicely in a green and white pattern. This shade of green actually clashes with the paint colors (to my eye), but is no doubt accurate knowing that Moe and his cohorts at the Danbury Mint were on the job. This liner was probably used by Studebaker with a range of paint colors, and matched some better than others. The removable spare tire is held in place magnetically—very cool.

Here's a closer look at the gas filler door and the trunk interior. The former operates easily, but sacrifices perfect alignment for that feature. Not a problem for me, and in truth it is magnified in these shots, but there you are. Operating features are often at odds with the highest levels of accuracy and precision in small scales like this, and the debate continues. I also have to mention here how flawless all this chrome looks in close-up.

Moving to the model's interior, we find DM's usual high standard for replicating all handles, levers, knobs, etc. The color pallet works so long as you don't look too closely, but honestly, Studebaker—dark green carpet, mustard colored seats and door panels, and a copper colored dashboard and wheel with a yellow and avocado green exterior? Of course I am applying current standards of good taste to a car made more than fifty years ago. To their credit, this mixed bag of colors still works today. Taken as a whole, the scheme is far from subtle, but it all feels right together somehow.

Another fine Danbury dashboard replication, this time with engine turned instrument panel and the usual assortment of readable gauges and controls. Even at this magnification, the separate, chrome horn rim is believable.

Next, we're under the hood with Packard's latest powerplant, the Passmaster V8, beautifully replicated here with all plumbing and wiring in evidence. I love all the tiny labels which add so much to the realism.

I couldn't resist pairing these two up. As a color reference for starters, but more to show the extent of differences between these two sisters, and that starts right here under the hood. Moe makes sure these things are correct even though many would never have known the difference. That's one of the many reasons I trust DM to get it right.

With their hoods down, the family resemblance is unmistakable. The President was clearly designed to be more upscale than its Starliner predecessor, and certainly would have been received that way at the time. Purists like me, though, will always prefer the original, clean, uncluttered lines of the Starliner.

Another flattering rear, three-quarter view. The car's low stance and clean lines combine to give an athletic appearance.

These are being produced for a limited time, with a strict maximum number of 5000 pieces. For this level of detail and quality of fit and finish, you simply cannot go wrong for $149, and you'll be adding a truly unique automotive design and color scheme to your collection. Another job well-done by the boys at DM.