A hood with a bullet nose says ‘Studebaker,’ but how to explain the louvers?

Studebaker made some good-looking cars in the postwar period and some that were just, ah, interesting. Part of one is now for sale in a shop called Hedge, located in the Cathedral City Art & Design District, as a 58-by-45-inch wall sculpture with an asking price of $2,400.

As I was failing in my attempt to identify the hood’s model and year, I sent this picture to Bob Merlis.

“Bullet nose,” he responded.

Merlis would know. During his youth in Brooklyn, he persuaded his father to take him around to Studebaker dealerships in order to stock up on sales brochures. Nowadays his collection includes several examples of the make from South Bend. He explained about the bullet-nose cars back in 2009 for the late and much-lamented Automobile Magazine.

“Truly a Buck Rogers vision of the future, Studebaker’s gamble with aircraft design vocabulary paid off for two glorious years starting in 1950,” Merlis wrote.

Raymond Loewy and Virgil Exner executed the design of the all-new postwar Studebakers in 1947, but by 1950 Exner had moved on and Bob Bourke stepped in.

“After the launch of his postwar design, Exner left the South Bend fold, so the very talented, but largely unsung, Bob Bourke did the heavy lifting for Loewy on the redesign. With fighter-plane styling in the front and streamlined-railway-car “Vista Dome” treatment in the back, there’ve been few cars as stunning before or since.”

Word among the proprietors of Hedge was that the louvers were a hot-rodder’s work.

I’d never thought of the possibility of a car’s hood as a wall sculpture, but Christmas shopping takes me to the Palm Springs Vintage Market and to resale shops–in which the Palm Springs area is particularly rich–and I’ve found quite a mix of dismembered parts and pieces for sale.

Yes, we can figure for inflation and all, but it just seems crazy that the asking price for the Studey bonnet exceeds the $2,187 factory price of a 1950 Commander Land Cruiser, the range-topping model on a 124-inch wheelbase.

Just to show how little attention I’ve been paying to the collectibles market, I have to confess that the tags on even such artifacts as old license plates knocked me over. Even a die-cast model of an Isetta bubble car is out of my grasp.

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