How To Turn A Studebaker Into The Most Expensive Car Ever Made: Dip It In 24KGold

Awhile back, I wrote about the extravagant 1917 St. Louis auto show and some of the fine automobiles on display such as offerings from the Ben Hur Motor Company.  That auto show included another noteworthy and opulent entry, a gold-plated car that was, at that point in time, the most expensive ever built. 

The car was a Studebaker Series 18 seven passenger touring car with a Victoria top and a 6-cylinder engine, and it must have been an absolute vision in gold and white.  The chassis was gold plated as were the other metal parts including the radiator, springs, lamps, wheel hubs, door handles and running boards.  The body was gold and glistening white enamel.  The Victoria top was made of the finest white leather with gold brackets.  The upholstery was also white leather.  The steering column, clutch, accelerator, emergency brake and other metal parts inside the car were also coated in gold.  Even the speedometer was white with gold numbers.

 In total, 400 ounces of 24-karat gold were used to gild the stunning Studebaker, and that much gold was valued at more than $30,000 in 1917.   The Detroit News-Tribune effused, “That Croesus chariot – the golden car –  gleams its prosperous presence behind a gold railing,”  and it did draw a crowd.  The floor of the display was covered with a rich velour, and on top of that sat on a huge French plate mirror. The Studebaker was parked on the mirror which reflected the chassis construction.

After touring the United States, the gold car went overseas, heavily guarded and even more heavily insured. After traversing the globe, the car was delivered back to South Bend, Indiana, via Pacific Mail steamer in 1919.  It was reported that, “For the benefit of all posterity it will henceforth repose in all its golden splendor in the famous museum maintained by the Studebaker corporation at South Bend.” So is it still there? Perhaps someone from the museum can weigh in . . . .