by Ramona K. Cecil
If you are over the age of fifty or are a vintage automobile enthusiast, you may recognize the name Studebaker. According to my husband, who fits both those descriptions, a vintage car show would not be complete without several models from the Studebaker line. But did you know that the Studebaker Company was famous for transportation long before the automobile?
|Five Studebaker brothers. Left to right standing: Peter and Jacob|
Seated: Clem, Henry, and John M.
|Studebaker Blacksmith Shop, South Bend, Indiana|
|John M. Studebaker|
|Studebaker wagon exhibited in the El Dorado County Museum, |
By 1860, H & C Studebaker boasts a manufacturing shop, paint room, lumber yard, office and fourteen employees not counting the Studebaker brothers. When the Civil War breaks out the Studebakers begin to supply the Union Army with wagons and their business booms. In 1868, the Studebaker Brothers Manufacturing Company is incorporated in
They sky seems the limit for the young wagon manufacturing company when disaster strikes. Over the next four years, two massive fires destroy the
|Studebaker factory South Bend, Indiana|
Studebaker expands its market to
|President Benjamin Harrison's Studebaker Coach|
|President Lincoln's Studebaker carriage|
|President Grant's Studebaker Carriage|
|President McKinley in Studebaker carriage|
By the end of the 19th Century, the company begins to experiment with powered vehicles. In 1902 they introduce an electric car and two years later they join with the Garford Company of
|Thomas Edison in 1903 Studebaker electric car|
|1908 electric Studebaker police patrol vehicle|
|Supply wagons, WWI|
|1904 Studebaker-Garford Model C gasoline-powered car|
The iconic Budweiser Beer wagon pulled by a majestic team of Clydesdale horses is a 1903 Studebaker wagon.
In 1915, Studebaker is the first automotive company to offer wholesale and retail financing.
The company moves automotive production from
The next three decades comprise Studebaker’s automotive “hey-day,” during which, the company introduces the four-wheel hydraulic brake system, acquires the luxury car manufacturer Pierce Arrow, introduces a car model named for legendary Notre Dame football coach, Knute Rockne, and even expands to the West Coast by opening their Studebaker Pacific Corporation in Los Angels in 1935.
When war breaks out again in
Europe in 1939, Studebaker begins supplying
the Allies with trucks, airplane engines, and the Weasel personnel carrier. By
1942 and ’s
entrance into WWII, the company suspends all manufacture of civilian
vehicles and devotes their entire capacity to the war effort. America
|Studebaker Pierce Arrow 1933|
|1932 Studebaker Rockne|
When war breaks out again in
At war’s end, Studebaker is the first company to produce a postwar automobile and is the subject of a Life Magazine ten-page article. One of the most iconic of the Studebaker models was the bullet-nose Champion of the 1950s. I remember a co-worker of mine in the mid 1980s who still drove her Champion to work every day and claimed it was the best car she ever drove. My husband’s favorite was the last of the Studebaker models, the 1962 sporty Avanti, which he still aspires to one day own. Despite the Avanti, Studebaker is faltering by the mid 1960s. The
Over the next couple decades, through a series of mergers and sell-offs, the Studebaker Automotive Company ceases to exist. By the late 1980s, all that’s left of Studebaker is Avanti Motors, which finally shuts down production in 1991. Several attempts to resurrect Avanti in the
|1962 Studebaker Avanti|
|2007 Studebaker Avanti|
Though Studebaker automobiles are no longer rolling off assembly lines, Studebaker enthusiasts can take heart and head to the two
|Studebaker Museum Chapin Street, |
South Bend, Indiana
|Old Studebaker National Museum, Main Street, South Bend, IN|
Do you have a Studebaker in your past? I’d love to hear your story.
Cecil is a poet and award-winning author of historical fiction for the
Christian market. A proud Hoosier, she often sets her stories in
her home state of
Check out her website at www.ramonakcecil.com