Editor’s note: Perhaps the best known of the Brooks Stevens Studebaker concepts is the Sceptre, which was on display upstairs in the Studebaker National Museum when I was there recently. It was in the museum’s basement when Marty Densch wrote up the Sceptre’s story.
This is the car that might have saved Studebaker — but it never got the chance. It is the Sceptre, referred to variously as a 1962, 1963 or 1966, depending on the reference you consult. The sign sitting in front of it in the Studebaker National Museum says 1962 so let’s go with that.
Brooks Stevens had been hired to do design work for Studebaker in its waning days and even though the company had few resources to devote to product development, Stevens managed to come up with some extremely innovative concepts. The Sceptre could have been Studebaker’s flagship car had it been introduced in 1966 as Stevens envisioned. It boasted a bevy of advanced features including full-width lighting in front using a system developed by Sylvania and fully adjustable instrumentation that could be configured almost any way the driver wished.
Think about the state of auto design in the early 1960s and you get a feel for just how advanced the Sceptre would have been with its clean, spare lines and handsome proportions that still look modern even today.
When Stevens designed the Sceptre he was quite confident that Studebaker would bring it to market as a 1966 model (which is why he always referred to it as a 1966). Unfortunately, about the time the Sceptre was finished it became clear that the company couldn’t afford anything more than a mild facelift of its existing Lark and Wagonaire models. Stevens managed to finish this running prototype but, of course, it was all for naught.
(If you go to the Studebaker National Museum in South Bend, Indiana, be sure to wander downstairs to look at the collections stored in the basement. The basement is not part of the museum’s main displays but it is open the public.)