Having A Studebaker In Common With A Legend Prompts A Sherlockian Pursuit.

The Kircher Studebaker dealership in Detroit in the early 1950s. The car on the left is clearly a ’50 or ’51 bullet nose model, even though only the back of the car shows here. Those are the only years this model was made.

Stein Eriksen bought a new Studebaker in April 1953. That much is certain. I’d like to know which model Stein bought, what happened to it, and if there is a photo of Stein with the car.

Why? Because my father-in-law bought a Studebaker that same spring, and my wife Judy and I have had it restored. Is it possible that we own a close match to Stein’s Studebaker?

Stein bought his in Detroit from the dealership owned by Everett Kircher, founder of Michigan’s Boyne Mountain ski resort. Judy’s dad bought his from a dealer in Benton Harbor on the other side of the state. Studebakers, seniors may recall, were manufactured in South Bend, Indiana. The company folded in 1966.

Car salesman Don Thomas, also a weekend ski patroller at Boyne, met Stein through mutual Norwegian friends when he attended the 1952 Oslo Winter Olympics. When Stein came through Detroit en route from Sun Valley where he had been training. Thomas invited him to dinner and introduced him to his boss.

Everett Kircher offered Stein a job at Boyne, but Stein wanted to compete in the 1954 FIS World Championships before turning pro. He took the job the next year and spent two seasons at Boyne before moving on, ending up at Deer Valley. But he did buy that Studebaker in 1953.

Various sources describe the car as a “sports car,” a “sports coupe“ and a “graceful 1953 Studebaker coupe.” These ’53’s were a sleek breakthrough concept by the Raymond Loewy design team at Studebaker, coming between the “bullet nose” models and the later Hawk series.

A 1953 model might be the hardtop “Starliner” version or the “Starlight” coupe (our car) which has a pillar supporting the roof. Either version came as either a 6-cylinder “Champion” or a V8 “Commander.”

In an interview, Don Thomas described the car as a “five-passenger coupe,” which could fit either model, although it seems likely a salesman would refer to a hardtop by its proper term.

Once at Deer Valley, I was able to ask Stein about his Studebaker. I was in the singles line at the Northside quad when Stein approached the lift with a couple of celebrity guests. He gestured for me to join them.

I had met Stein a couple of times before, so I used the typical Norwegian greeting for acquaintances, “Goddag, og takk for sist.” Then I asked him about his Studebaker. “Ja,” said Stein, “that was the one that looked like an Italian sports car. I took it with me to Oslo and sold it.”

That’s all I learned straight from the source. But Stein remarked as we got off the lift, “Brunvand, you should speak better Norwegian!”

Since then. I have queried Stein’s son Bjorn, Kircher’s daughter-in-law Molly Clark Kircher, and a Norwegian Studebaker club member, hoping to unearth more information.

The closest I’ve come is finding a 1950’s-era photo of Kircher Motors in the Boyne archive at the Bentley Historical Library in Ann Arbor. Oh, how I wish someone had posed Stein there with his new car for another picture.

Likely Stein’s Studebaker was eventually junked, but it’s barely possible that someone somewhere has the car, perhaps unaware of its past connection with skiing royalty. I plan to keep on searching.

Correspondent Jan Brunvand with his 1953 Studebaker Starlight coupe. In the background, early snow on the Wasatch mountains. Credit: Jan Brunvand

6 Comments

  1. Hi Jan,
    I found this one interesting for a couple of reasons. My second car was a 1953 Studebaker sport coupe bought used in 1960. Had I known about Stein’s I would have asked him about it when I skied with him in Norway the year before the Lillehammer games. I’m sure mine has long since been junked, but I remember it as a fun car to drive. Your restored model looks great. I can also attest to Stein being one of the nicest guys I ever met in my fifty plus years of writing about our sport.

    • Jan Brunvand says:

      CORRECTION: (of me, not you, Dave).
      In my article I mixed up the Starliner (hardtop) and Starlight (pillared coupe) models. I can’t believe I did this, as it’s a serious matter among owners of ’53’s Do you have a photo of your ’53, Dave? I wonder which model, engine, and color you had. These cars are lots of fun to drive as you get many honks, waves, and thumbs-up from other motorists.

  2. Tor Brunvand says:

    Jan … call or email Trygve Berge @ 970 389-3007 or email at trygveberge@yahoo.com. Trygve was with Stein in Mich. … Tor

  3. Jan Brunvand says:

    Thanks, brother (literally, my brother Tor). I’ll “Try” that. (Try is a typical nickname for people named Trygve.) Great idea. Many my search will make some progress again.

  4. What a beauty! Congrats for keeping and restoring it, rather than sending it to the scrapheap, clearly the more economical alternative.

  5. Jan Brunvand says:

    We could never junk our Studebaker, since my wife was driven to our wedding in this car. That was in 1956 when the car and both of us were a lot younger. It sat in her dad’s barn for about 35 years before we pulled it out and had it restored. There is a very active international Studebaker Drivers Club, and we belong to a local chapter here in Salt Lake City. And—would you believe?—parts are available for many models. I was offered a vintage ski rack for the car, but we never drive it in the winter and certainly not with skis loaded that might scratch the finish.

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