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Thread: Porsche-Studebaker Type 542/Z-87 Prototype 1952

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    Porsche-Studebaker Type 542/Z-87 Prototype 1952

    The Type 542: Porsche's Studebaker
    Studebaker-Packard Corporation was in dreadful shape by the start of 1956. Studebaker sales had all but collapsed in the wake of the dramatically different and, alas, disastrous 1953-series models that were still in production. The 1955 model year had been a good one in terms of product acceptance by the public, at least initially, but the effort had been crippled by manufacturing problems that bred massive quality control lapses. The result was far fewer cars built than could have been sold, a financial loss overall, and car buyers who were beginning to wonder if it was worth considering anything built by the company anymore.

    As the cash situation worsened, many interesting engineering ideas fell by the wayside. There was a rush toward fuel injection throughout the industry. Studebaker's engineering staff in South Bend was working on a Bosch and Simmonds system, but the effort was aborted for lack of development money. The same fate befell programs to develop aluminum brake drums, disc brakes, and rack-and-pinion steering. Increasingly, Studebaker engineers were faced with having to make do with what they already had.

    The most intriguing might-have-beens were a couple of engineering proposals from Porsche. The company of Dr. Ing. h.c.F Porsche AG was formed in 1931 as "designers and consultants for land, sea and air vehicles," by Ferdinand Porsche. It was Porsche's son, Ferdinand "Ferry" Porsche, though, who steered the company into becoming one of the world's leading automotive engineering design companies and specialist manufacturer of sports cars. From the time he designed the first Porsche, the Type 356 in 1948, it was Ferry's personal involvement that made Porsche the internationally-renowned company it is today.

    For fifty years, Porsche has been famed with the general public for its sports cars, but, within the industry, it has also been known for its consulting work with other manufacturers, one of which was Studebaker. In 1952, Porsche had undertaken to develop a prototype for a possible Studebaker sedan. Completed in August of that year, the Type 542 was known around South Bend as the "Z-87" car. It used a 120-degree V6 engine and four-wheel-independent suspension. The engine was designed to be either air- or water-cooled, with air-cooled cylinder heads and water-cooled cylinders. This proved to be entirely too complicated in practice, so the 542 was supplanted by two alternatives 542L (luft/air) for air-cooled and 542W (wasser/water) for water-cooled.

    A running prototype was built in Germany and shipped to South Bend for testing, but met with a decidedly cool reception. It was not until early 1956, in fact, that Studebaker (by then Studebaker-Packard) got around to seriously considering it. A report was prepared by Studebaker-Packard engineering under the aegis of the director of experimental engineering, John Z. DeLorean. Yes, that would be the same John DeLorean who later built his OWN sports car and, whatever his other failings, DeLorean was, by all accounts, a brilliant engineer. He was also an American in an era when American car people tended to give short shrift to ideas that ran contrary to prevailing practices in Detroit.

    In this vein, DeLorean's report was highly critical of everything about the Porsche prototype that was distinctively European: "Some excessive vertical shake was noted...There still remains considerable lateral movement and rear-end steering, with undesirable amounts of oversteer noted in moderate to hard cornering. There is uneven tire wear...The car steers quickly, but hard, and requires constant attention and correction for road wander. Cross-winds and slippery spots make driving tedious and rather dangerous..

    "The radiator, grille, hood and deck slopes are quite steep and not in keeping with current American boxy-styling. The car is full width but rather short...It appears small and bug-like due to the sloping hood and squeezed-in rear fender treatment... "This vehicle has a large amount of technical appeal, but a number of items need refinement to increase its overall appeal as a small car to the average American car buyer…

    So, as might have been predicted, the Type 542/Z-87 went nowhere. Porsche also proposed a compact car much like the "square-back" Volkswagen that was built in the latter 1960s. It, too, failed to spark much interest in South Bend and that the end of the fruitless relationship between Porsche and Studebaker.

    source: studebaker-info.org
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    Last edited by Man of Steel; 09-21-2019 at 07:50 AM.

  2. #2
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    It looks fine. And could've been interesting.
    Lack of charisma can be fatal.
    Visca Catalunya!

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