By 1957, Studebaker had run head first into the classic problem eventually faced by all the independent automakers: how to offer fresh, competitive models from an aging and obsolete product line. One common strategy among the little producers was to pile on added features and gimmicks, but in this instance, the South Bend product planners took the opposite course and stripped their base model Champion to the bone. The result was the Scotsman, and at $1,776 it was the cheapest full-size American car on the market in 1957.
Offered in basic two-door sedan, four-door sedan, and station wagon body styles, the Scotsman took its politically incorrect name from a popular stereotype, the alleged frugality of the Scottish people. Except for the bumpers, there was no exterior chrome at all—even the dog-dish hubcaps were painted body color. Inside, the door panels were cardboard and the floor covering was black rubber. A heater was optional at extra cost and there were no factory radio options listed. Dealers were cautioned not to load up the Scotsman order forms. If buyers wanted more goodies, they were to be coaxed up to the senior Champion and Commander lines.
In keeping with the austerity theme, just one powertrain was offered, the old 185 CID Champion flathead six coupled to a three-speed manual transmission, a setup good for only 101 horsepower but capable of wringing up to 30 miles from a single gallon of gasoline. In the advertising materials, it’s evident that Studebaker was pitching the car not just to the poor but to the cheap—those who took pleasure in squeezing a nickel for all it was worth. The Scotsman was a dream car for cheapskates.
While the sackcloth-and-ashes approach to marketing sounds like a recipe for failure, especially in an age of excess like the late ’50s, the Scotsman actually did fairly well. Sales comfortably exceeded the company’s modest first-year targets, and the model was continued for 1958. A Scotsman pickup was then added as well—a market segment where the low-price/minimal equipment strategy makes even more sense. It’s said that Studebaker’s success with the Scotsman helped to point Studebaker toward the lower end of the price range as the automaker developed its next product: the 1959 Lark.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.