Robert Graysmith would claim nobody recalled seeing Cheri Jo Bates in the cramped library between 7:15 pm and 8:57 pm, but somehow he surmised she had returned to her vehicle at 9:00 pm, where a Tucker Torpedo was observed parked directly behind her Volkswagen Beetle. This obviously flies in the face of everything we know about her movements that night. Robert Graysmith clearly embellished many sections of his book, blurring the line between fact and fiction, but to pluck a Tucker Torpedo out of thin air for no apparent reason, could suggest a semblance of truth - particularly when we consider only 51 Tucker Torpedo's were ever made before the company folded in 1949. Also, based on the very small production of this vehicle, it may be extremely likely that this vehicle was mistaken for an altogether more common make of car.
Although it is possible this information was given by a student attending the library reconstruction, Riverside Avenue sat just around the corner from Terracina Drive in 1966, and it is possible that this vehicle would not have been noticed by a student as anything suspicious at around 7:00 pm while passing a random vehicle parked on a street. I took a cursory look into Riverside Avenue on street view in Google maps and discovered this is a fairly affluent and scenic road, with properties in the order of $400,000. The very place that a homeowner would notice an old oxidized vehicle sitting outside their property for any length of time. Had they read the Daily Enterprise in November, it is certainly feasible they had contacted the Riverside Police Department and shared this information of a suspicious, out of place vehicle sitting idle for a noticeable time period. If this were the same vehicle parked behind Cheri Jo Bates' vehicle just two hours later, misidentified as a Tucker Torpedo (built in the same time frame of the 40s), then this is at the very least noteworthy. The Studebaker was described as a 1947-1952 model, suggesting the person who described the vehicle knew their cars. This may add weight to a resident of Riverside Avenue, with a decent income and more mature in years, being knowledgeable enough to specify the exact years of 1947-1952 when the Studebaker Champion third generation was manufactured in a completely redesigned fashion.
These sightings would not necessarily be significant, if it wasn't for the fact of an earwitness to the murder of Cheri Jo Bates later that night, described in the newspapers as "a neighbor who heard an 'awful scream' between 10.15 and 10.45 pm, and then about two minutes of silence, and finally the sound of an old car starting up." They obviously felt it significant enough to describe the vehicle as an "old car", which ordinarily wouldn't catch the attention, but for the two previous sightings mentioned by Robert Graysmith and the witness in the Daily Enterprise newspaper. The final thing to examine, is whether this brief audible recollection of an old vehicle starting up approximately two minutes after the scream, tallies with the location of the old vehicle (Tucker Torpedo or Studebaker) parked behind Cheri Jo Bates' lime green Volkswagen Beetle.
If all these three vehicles described are actually one and the same, it is then a matter of formulating the movement of this vehicle between the 7:00 pm and 9:00 pm sighting. Did the killer park his vehicle a distance from the library and walk to the Riverside College to disable Cheri Jo Bates Volkswagen Beetle, thereby reducing the chances of his vehicle being noticed by passing library traffic, only getting into position closer to the time the library closed? Did he drive to the library briefly (before 7:15 pm), disable her vehicle and then drive away (parking up at various locations in the vicinity, such as Riverside Avenue), before returning into position to be the first 'good Samaritan' to offer Cheri Jo Bates his help? There could be any number of possibilities. There is every chance these vehicles are completely irrelevant to the murder of the young college student, but with so little to go on, it is certainly worthy of consideration.