In Diamonds Are Forever, Felix Leter picks up James Bond outside the Plaza – near the horse-cabs – in what Bond believes is a black Studebaker convertible. After Leiter gives Bond a demonstration of the abilities of the vehicle, Bond is impressed.

“Well I’ll be damned,” said Bond incredulously. “But what sort of a car is this anyway? Isn’t it a Studebaker?”

“Studillac,” said Leiter. “Studebaker with a Cadillac engine. Special transmission and brakes and rear axle. Conversion job. A small firm near New York turns them out. Only a few, but they’re a damn sight better sports car than those Corvettes and Thunderbirds. And you couldn’t have anything better than this body. Designed by that Frenchman, Raymond Loewy. Best designer in the world. But it’s a bit too advanced for the American market. Studebaker’s never got enough credit for this body. Too unconventional. Like the car? Bet I could give your old Bentley a licking.”

Growing up, I had assumed the Studillac was a Fleming creation – something that perhaps existed, but not in any real volume. My dad had put a Chevy 350 engine into a Pontiac Grand La Mans, so I knew that this type of thing was possible, but not on the scale of the Studillac, which was a small sensation back at the time of this book.

 Taking advantage of the gorgeous design of the Studebaker body, which as mentioned was designed by Raymond Loewy – “The Father of Industrial Design” – the Studillac built on that with the addition of the V8 210-250 HP Cadillac engine which gave it the performance that Bond witnessed.

The small firm that turned these out was Bill Frick Motors:


Bill-frick-motors3(Hey – Marchal Headlamps!)

The car was reviewed in a number of automobile publications, including Mechanix Illustrated and Popular Science:

1953-07 PS Studillac1

1953-07 PS Studillac2

1953-07 PS Studillac3

1953-07 PS Studillac4

1953-07 PS Studillac5

1953-07 PS Studillac7

8 thoughts on “Studillac

  1. I know the site wants to deal with Mr. Fleming’s books exclusely but it might be interesting to note that Mike Grell’s character Jon Sable drove a Studillac also. Grell also wrote the James Bond graphic novel “Permission to Die”

  2. Ian Fleming ordered and took delivery of a new black 1963 Avanti. He had planned on putting James Bond in it for his next novel, but he met his demise before it was finished.

  3. Our dad spoke of the Studelac frequently when we were little kids growing up in the 60’s. Great stories but never saw a photo. Thank you publishing the story with images!

    And then there was the Packard Hawk. Packard engine, supercharged…. plus, it’s got fins!

    Good stuff!

  4. @ Tom H: The Packard Hawk (made only in 1958) had asupercharged Studebaker 289,V8, same engine as in the 1957 and 1958 Golden Hawk. The 1956 Golden Hawk did indeed have a Packard 352 V8, without a supercharger. The Packard engine proved too heavy, and it was replaced with the Studebaker supercharged 289 V8 for 1957 and 1958.

  5. My dad; Daniel Spooner, was the first (before Frick) to put a 1955 Cadillac engine in the 1953 Studebaker Starliner. It had a hydromatic transmission, 4 Double Eagle nylon tires and a second battery in the trunk that added extra power through a solenoid switch under the dash.

  6. Realizing this is a very old post, but it was great. I haven’t thought of my ’55 Chevy lately. It was in 1967. It had a 1950 Cadillac (I think 1950) engine, a Ford 4-speed transmission, and a custom made drive-shaft. I remember the engine had come stock with two 4 bbl carburetors. Mine also had tube headers and a performance cam. I didn’t make this thing. I traded for it. The installation was not elegant. It was fast, VERY hard to drive, and the torque frequently broke parts here and there all over the car. I was kind of happy to get rid of it when I did, although it’s nice to say I had one.
    Apparently I was wrong about a piece of history concerning Studillacs in general. I heard Studebaker hired an ex-GM engineer, and he designed an engine for them that had the exact same mounting points as some Cadillac engines, so the swap was relatively easy, notwithstanding the driveshaft and probably exhaust header routing.
    I remember also this fun fact: the Cadillac engine had, stock, 2.25″ intake valves–bigger than Chevy’s hi-po 327 heads. Also, with the cam, and all that carburation, it was a relatively high-rev engine, something that seemed counter-intuitive. I was told the original 1950 Cadillac, with that engine, stock, turned 16 second quarter miles, which is about what a stock ’64 Impala with a 250 hp 327 engine could do.
    This wasn’t my first car, but close. My last car was a small Ford SUV that was lucky to get out of its own way.

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