By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Bob Holden says his remarkably preserved 1947 Studebaker sedan is not just green, or light green, but “light Shenandoah green.”
Hoping to compete with the Fords, Chevys and Chryslers of the auto world, the Studebaker brand underwent a dramatic redesign and incorporated an array of groundbreaking innovations after World War II to attract the notoriously fickle car-buying public.
“Their slogan was, ‘First by far with a post-war car,’” Holden explained of Studebaker.
Although Studebaker fell short of the giants of the auto industry and went out of business in the 1960s, Holden is helping to keep the brand in the public eye all these years later with his green, er, light Shenandoah green beauty.
“I’m not in it for the prizes. I’m in it for the education. I want people to learn about Studebaker,” said Holden, a 67-year-old retired teacher who lives in Upper Township.
Auto buffs were indeed able to learn all about Holden’s Studebaker Champion on Sunday during Sea Isle City’s vintage auto show that featured more than 100 classic cars and trucks and was the highlight of the annual Skimmer Festival Weekend summer celebration.
Sea Isle canceled the Skimmer Festival’s traditional seaside market, food court and amusement rides this year because of the pandemic, but was still able to stage the antique auto show by spreading it out on the oceanfront Promenade to observe social distancing.
“After COVID, we are so excited to see people back in Sea Isle and to have our events returning. I’ve heard so many wonderful things from a lot of folks,” city spokeswoman Katherine Custer said of the importance of the car show.
The vintage car show and auto parade through town that follows are traditionally among the major attractions of the two-day Skimmer Festival. The more than 100 classic cars and trucks that were entered this year fell just short of the all-time record of 108 vehicles for the show, Custer said.
Cars and trucks from as far back as the 1920s lined the Promenade, drawing admiring looks from a steady stream of spectators who were out enjoying a sun-soaked Father’s Day.
Mike Fehr, who was spending a memorable Father’s Day with his 8-year-old son, James, called the car show “unbelievably awesome.” Both of them marveled over a white, 1971 Corvette Stingray.
“It’s the best day I can think of,” Fehr said. “I can’t possible think of a better Father’s Day.”
Fehr, of Downingtown, Pa., drove to Sea Isle on Sunday with his family for a weekend getaway at the shore. When they arrived in Sea Isle, Fehr and James accidentally discovered the car show.
“It’s fun,” James said of the show.
Fehr’s wife, Sarah, 5-year-old daughter, Leighton, and 3-year-old son, Nathaniel, also made the trip to the shore.
While the 1971 Vette was the favorite car for Fehr and his son James, 65-year-old Tony Ferrara of Hamilton Township, N.J., was attracted to a 1955 Packard Clipper resplendent in chrome bumpers, white wall tires and a two-tone blue color scheme.
“I really like this,” Ferrara said. “It’s got beautiful two-tone color. The chrome is beautiful.”
Ferrara noted that his brother, Larry, once owned a Packard Clipper in the 1960s or ’70s. He took cellphone photos of the 1955 Packard to send to his brother.
“These are the classics. They don’t make them like this anymore,” Ferrara exclaimed.
Meanwhile, Bob Holden was busy ticking off all of the cutting-edge innovations that defined his Studebaker when it was made in 1947, including its transmission and clutch systems.
“This was the first car that was totally redesigned after World War II,” Holden said. “Studebaker realized after the war that if it was going to make it in the market it would have to do something radically different.”
The strategy, though laudable, didn’t work. Studebaker failed to solve chronic postwar cash problems and manufactured its last car in 1966.
Holden said his Studebaker Champion Regal Deluxe model is one of only 47 of the original 30,000 cars of its type still known to exist in the United States. The light Shenandoah green is the original color, although the paint is newer.
Holden, who has owned the Studebaker for three years, declined to put a value on it. He made it clear that it is not for sale.
“It’s my baby. It’s got its own personality,” he said, smiling.