The ex-Mariano de la Fuente, 1924 Gran Premio of Argentina-winning 1923 STUDEBAKER 'SPECIAL SIX' TWO SEATER RACING CAR
BODYWORK BY VIRGINIA PERUCCA
Chassis No. 3068535
Engine No. EK20940
Polished aluminum bodywork with black leather upholstered seats
Engine: six cylinder, over head valve, bore and stroke, 3 7/8 x 5 ins, 353.7 cu.ins., three carburettors, 80hp; Gearbox: three speed manual; Suspension: front and rear, semi-elliptic leaf springs, with Gabriel Snubbers shock absorbers; Brakes: two wheel drum; Right hand drive
As one would expect from its style this fabulous battle-scarred Studebaker has an extraordinary tale to tell. According to information supplied by Richard Quinn of the Antique Studebaker Club, when writing to a former owner the car dates from 1923 and was a special six cylinder racing car built to campaign in the Argentine. The company took a lightened Series 23, 119 inch wheelbase chassis and fitted a Big Six, 353.7 cubic inch (6 liter) engine to it to contest the 1924 Gran Premio of Argentina, a race which they had won for both of the previous two years. It would seem that the chassis was imported by the local importer and bodied by a local craftsman, Virginio Perruca, whose plaques it still wears to this day. A period photograph of the car confirms it to have been in this form at that time.
Piloted by local driver Mariano de la Fuente, the Special Six brought the third in a hat trick of victories for the marque. Its story was recounted in the November edition of the Company's employee magazine 'The Studebaker Cooperator' later that year. Reading as follows:
'When the S.S. Western World arrived in New York one of its recent trips from Buenos Aires, it carried a motor car that meant much to South American race followers. The car was the Studebaker Special Six that won the 1924 Gran Premio of Argentine under pilotage of Sr. Mariano de la Fuente. As heroes of old returned to the places of their nativity to receive recognition for victories scored on the battle field, so this famous Special Six - winner of the most coveted of all racing honours in South America - has returned to the place of its origin - the Studebaker factories. At South Bend, Indiana it will be displayed at the Studebaker National Museum, along with other famous Studebaker cars, which have won honoured places through some outstanding achievement at home and abroad.' It continues 'The race is held each year under the auspices of Argentine Automobile Club. The course extends from Buenos Aires to Rosario to Cordoba and return - a total distance of 1,570 kilometers' 'Notwithstanding the fact that De la Fuente's Studebaker was forced to endure hours of excessive speed and to withstand the hardships of tortuous roads , deplorably muddy for the most part, this car crossed the finish line of the 1924 Gran Premio in excellent condition. On being unboxed at the factory, it was driven for a trial spin. With practically no other attention than the adding of water, oil and gasoline, it sped over the highways and up hills with the power and nimbleness of a youngster. Yet this veteran had seen more gruelling labor in one year on the Argentine race tracks than the average car experiences in eight or ten years of service!
It is understood that the Special Six remained in the Studebaker National Museum for nearly 40 years until the early 1960s when it was sent to the U.K. to promote STP products. It subsequently passed to a director of the company and was raced in club events including Silverstone, before returning to the U.S. in the late 1980s. The car passed through a handful of dealers before coming in to the present collection approximately a decade ago. It returns to the U.S. for sale.
Although understood to have been refurbished during the 1980s in the U.K. the Special Six has a weathered and aged appearance befitting its history. Today fitted with a full length external exhaust, and equipped with twin spares at the rear, the car looks every bit the vintage racer it once was.