The 1937 Studebaker Dictator coupe holds special appeal

Updated: 2013-12-27T23:29:42Z


Jim Neiburger has been attracted to cars since he was a child, and today his garage is home to several Studebakers, a couple of Jaguars and dozens of model cars. With few exceptions, once he gets his hands on a car or truck, he holds on to it, and that is evidenced by the fact that he still has his very first childhood Dinky Toy truck, although now it is restored to like-new condition. So are the other cars in his collection.

Neiburger, 67, of Stilwell, said his first sports car was a 1958 Triumph TR3 that he drove daily while going to medical school in Chicago. In 1975, upon completion of his residency, he bought a Jaguar XK140. “I drove it from Indianapolis to Kansas City followed by a station wagon full of parts,” he said. That car remains in his collection.

Neiburger and his wife, Shellie, have collected several cars over the years, most of them Studebakers. “She’s my chief enabler,” he said with a grin. So why Studebaker? “I’ve always liked oddball cars,” he said, and there are a lot of parts available.

On a recent visit, I was drawn to his 1937 Dictator coupe with its long, sloping trunk.

The Dictator was Studebaker’s lowest-priced model. In 1938 the Dictator name was dropped and replaced by Commander. Dictator was becoming an unpopular term in the years before World War II because of the rise of European dictators such as Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler.

Neiburger began looking for a Studebaker coupe about nine years ago. He wanted a President but could not find one that was suitable. One of his good friends, the late Greg Houston from Columbus, Ohio, located this car through a network of Studebaker friends.

That was about five years ago. It was originally from Wichita and had been painted bright orange. Shellie encouraged him to buy it.

Once home, the Dictator underwent a complete disassembly under the watchful eye of Jim Barber of Independence. “He’s a wonderful resource,” Neiburger said. Barber rebuilt the engine and overhauled the chassis. Jim Huseby of Speedsters in Oak Grove, restored and painted the body. Because contemporary metallic paint has large metallic flecks, tiny bits of aluminum had to be mixed into the paint so it would have a period-correct metallic look.

Alvin and Tony Gaither of Wyco Rods Auto Interior in Kansas City, Kan., found upholstery material that was almost identical to the original, and the finished result looks amazingly original.

In 2012, at the Studebaker National meet, Neiburger’s Dictator scored 399 out of 400 possible points. The only deduction was for the original finish on the overdrive knob.

That’s hardly a major flaw in a four-year restoration.

Tom Strongman’s email address is

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