Studebaker Starlight Coupé “Black Bart”

As a base car for creating a custom car that will be a head turner there are few that can match Raymond Loewy’s design of the Studebaker Starlight coupé. This five passenger two door car with it’s styling that makes it look like it’s doing a hundred miles per hour even when it’s parked was controversial when released, but like all Loewy’s designs it stands the test of time.

Designed by renowned American industrial designer Raymond Loewy the Studebaker Starlight had a front end reminiscent of the streamliner trains Loewy also designed.

Designed by renowned American industrial designer Raymond Loewy the Studebaker Starlight had a front end reminiscent of the streamliner trains Loewy also designed. (Picture courtesy wheelsage.org).

Raymond Loewy was a designer not only of cars but even of railway locomotives. When the New York Central Railroad came out with their new Henry Dreyfuss streamlined locomotives for their New York to Chicago train the Twentieth Century Limited the New York Central’s main competitor could not just do nothing. So they approached Raymond Loewy to create something startling for them. He did, and the locomotive he designed looks modern and impressive even today. It is one of the iconic Art Deco steam locomotives of the twentieth century.

The duplex locomotive Raymond Loewy designed for the Pennsylvania Railroad. The influence on the design of nose of the Studebaker Starlight is apparent. (Picture courtesy streamlinermemories.info).

The S1 duplex locomotive Raymond Loewy designed for the Pennsylvania Railroad. The influence on the design of the nose of the Studebaker Starlight is apparent. (Picture courtesy streamlinermemories.info).

One reason the Studebaker Starlight’s design was controversial was that it broke a few of the conventions of American automotive design. The rear was long and the rear window wrapped around creating an unusual effect such that some commentators joked that you couldn’t tell which was the front and which was the back of the car.

The wrap around rear window of the Studebaker Starlight is an unusual but attractive feature.

The wrap around rear window of the Studebaker Starlight is an unusual but attractive feature.

If you remove the front and rear bumpers and get some wide wheels and tires on a Studebaker Starlight you are already looking at one rakish automobile. Put in a muscle car engine and tweak up the interior and you’ve got a custom car that is an impressive rolling work of art.

Custom motorcycle maker Tony Carlini branched out to do a couple of custom cars. His Studebaker Starlight based "Black Bart" is a superb example of his work. (Picture courtesy Barrett-Jackson).

Custom motorcycle maker Tony Carlini branched out to do a couple of custom cars. His Studebaker Starlight based “Black Bart” is a superb example of his work. (Picture courtesy Barrett-Jackson).

Custom motorcycle maker Tony Carlini has only done two custom cars to the best of my knowledge and the Studebaker Starlight based “Black Bart” is one of them. It surely is a car that Bart Simpson would want to have as his first car.

Tony Carlini ripped out the original but boring Studebaker engine and dropped a balanced, blueprinted and detailed 462ci Chevrolet big block in its place. (Picture courtesy Barrett-Jackson).

Tony Carlini ripped out the original but boring Studebaker engine and dropped a balanced, blueprinted and detailed 462ci Chevrolet big block in its place. (Picture courtesy Barrett-Jackson).

As Tony Carlini got busy on the Studebaker he removed the original Studebaker engine and transmission and replaced them with a balanced, blueprinted and detailed 462cu in Chevrolet big block V8. I can’t think of a better choice of engine. The Chevy V8 was mated to a GM Turbo Hydramatic 400 transmission which can happily handle all the horses the V8 can throw at it. The differential is also not the original Studebaker one but has been replaced with a Currie 9″ posi-traction unit with a final drive ratio of 3.25:1. Rear suspension is a four link arrangement. Brakes are power assisted discs all around and the steering is by rack and pinion for excellent feel and control.

The interior of "Black Bart" is modern, ergonomic, and stylish. (Picture courtesy Barrett-Jackson).

The interior of “Black Bart” is modern, ergonomic, and stylish. (Picture courtesy Barrett-Jackson).

Tony Carlini’s design for the interior of “Black Bart” is really impressive. It is a design one might expect from one of the high end European design studios with it’s unusual minimalist steering wheel, fully instrumented but almost austere dashboard, and seating that is at once comfortable and fully supportive in case you spend some time using the power of that Chevrolet V8 to the full. The interior color goes beautifully with the car’s black exterior creating a light atmosphere in the car and emphasizing its spaciousness.

The Studebaker Starlight's aerodynamics and that ability to look fast even when standing still make "Black Bart" an unconventional looking custom car. (Picture courtesy Barrett-Jackson).

The Studebaker Starlight’s aerodynamics and that ability to look fast even when standing still make “Black Bart” an unconventional looking custom car. (Picture courtesy Barrett-Jackson).

“Black Bart” is coming up for sale by Barrett-Jackson at their Las Vegas auction to be held 13th-15th August 2016.

You will find the Barrett-Jackson sale page for this car if you click here.

With its blending together of striking Raymond Loewy styling and modern engine, transmission and suspension, this has become an outstanding Art Deco car of the twenty first century.

(Picture courtesy Barrett-Jackson).

(Picture courtesy Barrett-Jackson).

Tony Carlini himself has passed away but the company he founded continues today as Carlini Design.

You will find their web site if you click here.

(Picture courtesy Carlini Design).

(Picture courtesy Carlini Design).

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