Bob's Resource Website (2007)
A Brief History of the Studebaker Era
Bob's Resource Website (2007)
1736 - 1750
Members of the Studebaker family came to America from Solingen, Germany, in 1736. For generations, Studebakers, or Stutenbeckers as they were called in Germany, had been involved in the blacksmithing trade. Many were producers of fine cutlery. The members of the family who came to America brought with them their metal working craft. The ability to form metal was essential in the construction of early Conestoga wagons. One of the immigrants, Clement Studebaker, reportedly built his first wagon in America around 1750.
In February 1852, two of Clement's great grandchildren, Henry and Clement, opened the H&C Studebaker blacksmith shop in South Bend, Indiana. During their first year of operation, they built two horse-drawn farm wagons.
In 1853, with the help of younger brother John M., they constructed a sturdy wagon which John provided to a wagon train as his payment for overland passage to the California gold fields.
1853 - 1858
From 1853 to 1858, John earned a small fortune in "Hangtown" (Placerville) making wheelbarrows and other tools for the gold miners. In 1858 John returned to South Bend with his earnings and invested them in his brothers' business. The Studebaker brothers built hundreds of wagons for the North during the Civil War and by the time the United States was 100 years old, the Studebaker Brothers Manufacturing Company was the largest producer of horse-drawn vehicles in the world. By then, brothers Peter and Jacob were also involved in the company.
1902 & 1904
Studebaker entered the automobile business in 1902, when they introduced an electric car. Two years later, they brought out their first gasoline automobile, a two-cylinder, 16-horsepower touring car.
In 1911, The Studebaker Brothers Manufacturing Company combined with Everitt-Metzger-Flanders Company of Detroit to form the Studebaker Corporation. The Corporation marketed the EMF "30", the Flanders "20", the Studebaker-Garford "40", and Studebaker Electrics.
By 1913, all of the above models had been discontinued, being replaced by four and six cylinder automobiles, all of which bore just the Studebaker name. During 1913, Studebaker became the third largest producer of automobiles in America, after Ford and Overland. At first, all Studebaker Corporation automobile assembly was carried on in Detroit, but after the discontinuation of horse-drawn vehicle manufacturing in 1920, automobile production was gradually shifted to South Bend. The ’Teens through the ’20s Studebakers marketed during the late 'teens and early twenties used names like Big Six, Special Six, Light Six and Standard Six, but for the 1927 model year, these "generic" names were discontinued and the President, Commander and Dictator model names were introduced. Also introduced in 1927 was a new quality small car called the Erskine.
In 1928 Studebaker purchased Pierce-Arrow, a Buffalo, New York company that produced luxury automobiles. The Great Depression Underestimating the impact of the Great Depression, Studebaker's president, Albert Erskine, inadvertently led the corporation into receivership in 1933. Paul Hoffman and Harold Vance saved the company, but much of Studebaker's momentum had been lost. Studebaker would never completely regain the solid footing it had in 1929. Because of the Depression, Studebaker had to sell Pierce-Arrow in 1933. In the same year, they dropped the Rockne, another small car venture that Studebaker had launched the previous year. The Rockne was named in honor of the famous Notre Dame football coach, Knute Rockne. The Rockne was, in many ways, a better car than the original Erskine, which had been discontinued in 1930.
For the 1934 model year, Studebaker introduced several advanced body designs, including the streamlined Land Cruiser, a car that was styled after the famous Pierce-Arrow Silver Arrow show cars. The Land Cruiser and Cruiser names were used off and on by Studebaker from 1934 to 1966. Commercial Trucks During the thirties, Studebaker made a concerted effort to gain a foothold in the commercial truck field.
In 1936 they introduced a line of cabover-engine trucks, and in 1937 the smoothly contoured Coupe-Express pickup premiered. Studebaker built quality trucks continously from 1929 to December 1963. The Champ pickup, Transtar gas jobs, medium-duty Diesels and Postal Zip-Vans were their last commercial products. Studebaker also built bus and fire engine chassis. Studebaker, off and on, assembled postwar military trucks until March 1964.
The Champion is Introduced. . . The Champion, a very advanced small car, was introduced by Studebaker in 1939. The six-cylinder Champion proved to be an instant success. It was sold along with the larger eight-cylinder President and six-cylinder Commander. The Dictator name, for obvious reasons, was dropped at the end of the 1937 model year. Popular Studebaker options during this period were overdrive and the Hill Holder. Studebaker & The War Effort During World War II, Studebaker produced military trucks, aircraft engines and the Weasel, a tracked personnel and cargo carrier that was designed by Studebaker engineers. One version of the Weasel was amphibious. Peace & a Postwar Economy After the war, Studebaker was the first established automobile company to come out with an all new styling.
The new 1947 Studebakers were nicknamed the "Which-Way-Are-They-Going" cars, since they had similar front and rear stylings. Convertibles were again available in 1947. Studebaker had last marketed a convertible in 1939. Postwar convertibles were sold from 1947 to 1952 and from 1960 to 1964.
The postwar design was revamped in ,b>1950 with the addition of a bullet-nosed front end. This styling was continued through 1951. Studebaker's Automatic Drive was brought out in mid-1950, and a new modern overhead valve V8 engine was introduced in 1951 for the Commander models.
100 Years of Studebaker The Studebaker company celebrated its 100th anniversary as a producer of road vehicles in 1952. Oldsmobile, currently America's oldest automobile make, did not reach its 100th birthday until 1997.
The "Loewy Coupes" are Introduced
In 1953 Studebaker brought out the beautiful low-slung "Loewy Coupes." They were produced in Starliner hardtop and Starlight pillared coupe form, and have many times been listed among the most beautiful cars in the world. Raymond Loewy, who had directed Studebaker styling since the 1938 models, oversaw the development of the Starliner/Starlight design, although the actual styling was created by Robert Bourke.
In 1955 a sporty version of the "Loewy Coupe," called the Speedster, was produced. The Speedster concept was continued in 1956 with the introduction of the Hawk line of "family sports cars."
During 1956-58, the top line Hawk was called the Golden Hawk. Studebaker-Packard Corporation Packard, a highly respected automobile company that produced its first car in 1899, joined forces with Studebaker. The resulting Studebaker-Packard Corporation had a hard time competing with the Big Three (General Motors, Ford Motor Company and the Chrysler Corporation). From 1954 to 1958, the Studebaker-Packard Corporation never had a profitable year. Because of this, the Packard line was discontinued in 1958. The 1957 and 1958 Packards were actually Studebakers with special interiors and Packard trim. Although Studebaker's sales position took a nose dive after 1950, Studebaker maintained a strong gas economy image throughout the 1950's. Studebaker was a constant standout in the Mobilgas Economy Runs. New Models Introduced In addition to the Hawks, Studebaker introduced several new models during the 1950s. In 1954 the Conestoga station wagon premiered. In 1955 the President line returned, having been marketed last in 1942. In 1957 a new economy series called the Scotsman was unveiled, and was fairly successful in 1957 and 1958.
Lark, an All New Compact Line Because of the Scotsman's success and the growing demand for practical transportation, in late 1958, Studebaker dropped all its existing automobile models except the Silver Hawk and introduced an all-new compact line called the Lark.
The Lark project was directed by Studebaker's president, Harold Churchill. During 1959, the Lark was extremely successful. It produced the highest one-year profit Studebaker had ever had up to that time.
1962 & 1963
The production of the last Studebaker did not mark a definite end of the company or its products. The Studebaker Corporation (the Packard name was officially dropped from the corporate title in 1962) had acquired numerous subsidiaries, such as STP, Gravely, Clarke and Onan, so although it did not build cars after March 1966, the company carried on. In mid-1967 Studebaker purchased the Wagner Electric Corporation and in November 1967 it combined with the Worthington Corporation to form the Studebaker-Worthington Corporation. In the fall 1979, the Studebaker-Worthington Corporation was absorbed by the McGraw-Edison Company. In April 1985, the McGraw-Edison Company was acquired by Cooper Industries of Houston, Texas.. The Avanti Continues
( History from by Fred K. Fox Studebaker & Automotive Historian)