I’m guessing most of you realize Studebaker is dead. Maybe that’s why they begin their museum with this old Studebaker hearse…
I’m guessing many readers knew Studebakers as cars, maybe those same people knew Studebaker built wagons decades before cars were a thing, and maybe a lot of readers have never heard of Studebaker! So here is a brief history of Studebaker.
H. & C. Studebaker built this Phaeton in 1857. It is the oldest surviving Studebaker. In buggy terms, a Phaeton was a light bodied, with large lightly sprung wheels.
Studebaker stopped building horse drawn vehicles in 1919 – This “Izzer” buggy was the very last one built. Their buggies changed very little over the years.
The following photo was not labeled, but seems to be a buggy showroom, with evenly spaced spittoons for the buyer’s convenience.
Here is a 1905 Studebaker Sleigh. These were marketed to wealthy families, since it was quite an expense for a vehicle with limited seasonal usage… it cost $168 new.
The Henry Ford museum has several cars used by U.S. Presidents. Studebaker also has a similar collection.
Marquis de Lafayette
A huge help to George Washington in the revolutionary war was the Marquis de Lafayette. This Barouche was commissioned by the U. S. Government for his use when he toured the States in 1824. A Barouche is a luxurious heavy coach, with covered seating for 4 facing each other, and a seat in front for the driver. Maybe the Corporate Jet of the day?
Clement Studebaker bought this carriage in 1887, and displayed it in fairs and expositions around the country. When in St. Joseph, Missouri, in 1889, the building caught on fire. Members if the Apache Indian nation camping nearby awoke to the flames and saved the carriage from the fire.
President Ulysses S. Grant
This Landau, belonging to President Grant, was originally thought to be a Studebaker. While he did own a Studebaker Landau, restoration revealed that this one was built by Brewster & Company of New York. (Brewster built carriages from 1810 till they started building custom coachwork for cars, especially Rolls-Royce. For a brief time in the early 1900’s they built cars with the Brewster name, but by the 30’s they were gone).
A Landau is a luxurious convertible carriage with a low belt line and large windows, perfect for showing off the occupants and their fancy outfits.
President Abraham Lincoln
This is President Lincoln’s Barouche, used for the trip to Ford’s Theater that evening… it is the last vehicle he rode in alive. His monogram was found on the doors during restoration.
President Benjamin Harrison
President Harrison purchased this Brougham and four other Studebaker carriages in early 1889 for his use as President. A Brougham is an enclosed carriage with an open driver’s area in front.
President Willam McKinley
President McKinley spent much of the unusually hot summer of 1900 at his home in Canton, Ohio. He had Studebaker make him this Phaeton for his use there. In September of 1901, he took this Phaeton to the train station, and boarded the train for the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York. Instead of shaking hands with the President in a receiving line, Leon Czolgosz shot him twice. McKinley was rushed to medical help, but the surgeons could not find one bullet. In the days before antibiotics, removing the bullet before the whole wound went septic was the best bet for saving a life. Ironically, at the same Exposition, a newfangled gadget was being demonstrated: the x-ray machine. If the surgeons had known it was there, and how to use it, McKinley might have lived.
1893 Columbian Exposition
This wagon was built for Chicago’s Columbian Exposition in 1893. It was built to show off Studebaker’s craftsmanship, and celebrate the many awards they had won over the years. 35 metals are built into the wagon. The box is mainly Rosewood from Brazil, and the inlay is Indiana Hickory. Almost all the metal used in the framework is aluminum, so this wagon is also known as the Aluminum Wagon or Rosewood Wagon. It took over 4,000 hours to build at a cost of $2,110.65. Remember this a decade before that luxury sleigh that cost $168!
1909 Backward – Forward Car
Studebaker not only built horse-drawn vehicles and gas powered cars, they built electric cars for a while. Even after they had been making gas cars for a while, in 1909 the U. S. Government asked them to make a special purpose vehicle. It was to carry people between the newly-completed Senate Office Building and the U. S. Capitol. The route was an underground tunnel, so a gasoline engine was out. The space restrictions in the tunnel wouldn’t allow the vehicle to turn around, so it was made to be driven with controls facing both directions. To head back the other way, the driver would just switch seats to the opposite facing controls. Two of the cars were made: they were named “Peg” and “Tommy”. The could reach the dizzying speed of 12 mph, and carry 11 passengers. They cost $2,400 each. In 1912 a rail system was installed, so Peg and Tommy were relegated to backup use only. By 1915 they were retired. Peg is below, Tommy is in a museum in Pennsylvania.
This is the oldest surviving gas powered Studebaker, a 1904 Model C. After two years making electric cars, they moved entirely to gas. (Except for Peg and Tommy above)
This car sold for $1,600 new, and a canopy top was an extra $150.
Before cars had batteries and electrical systems, the old carriage-style lights were very fickle, blowing out with wind or rain. Prest-O-Lite solved this problem with an acetylene tank mounted on a running board, and gas lines run to the headlights. When ignited with a sparking switch, a reliable light was produced. When cars got electric headlights in the mid ‘teens, Prest-O-Lite moved on to other accessories, and they are still a huge manufacturer of automotive electrical components.
This light system is on a 1913 Studebaker Model 25 Touring Sedan. It sold for $885. (I don’t think that included the Prest-O-Lite).
This is a 1922 Studebaker Big Six – set up as a child’s hearse. Coming out of times when infant mortality was much higher, some funeral homes used special hearses for children. They were white, to represent a child’s innocence. This is the only Studebaker Child’s hearse known to exist. It was only used in one funeral – it later served as a flower carrying car.
This 1928 Studebaker Commander was one of three that set endurance records in late 1927. It drove 25,000 miles in under 23,000 minutes, (the timer kept running during pit stops) for an average of over 65 mph. The car then went across the country for further endurance records.
This car was really huge, but never moved!
1932 President Convertible Coupe. This was the first year Studebaker used a synchromesh transmission, making it easier to shift without double clutching.
I had never heard this discussion of the influence of Radio on society before… interesting reading!
The 1932 President Convertible Sedan featured what Studebaker called its first “All Steel Body”, and the first with Safety Glass. The straight eight engine was the same Studebaker used in the Indy 500.
Are these negative and positive of the same vehicle? Almost…
This is the last Studebaker. When it rolled off the line in 1966 it marked the end of 114 years of vehicle manufacture under the Studebaker name. As is custom, employees signed and initialed many parts in this car.
Post WWII was hard on both Studebaker and Packard. They joined forces, hoping somehow that would help out. Some basically Studebaker cars were badged as Packards and maybe the other way around too.
This 1956 Packard Predictor was designed as a show car in an attempt to revive interest in the brand. It had a 290 hp V8, retractable roof panels and rear window, and Packard’s push button transmission. And some really crazy styling!
When I saw this car, I immediately thought it was a Chrysler Airflow… but it’s not. It is a 1932 Steel Wheel Car. Vincent Bendix commissioned this car to show off Bendix automotive accessories. He named the car Steel Wheel, instead of Bendix, so he wouldn’t compete with other makes that used his parts in their cars. It was shown throughout Europe, but not in the States, for the same reason. Among the clever Bendix components are four wheel hydraulic brakes, independent suspension, front wheel drive, electric vacuum shifting, and a clock in the center of the steering wheel.
Another fascinating Packard:
Some consider the 1953 Champion Starliner Hardtop Studebaker’s crowning achievement, the most beautiful car ever produced. I’m not sure I’d go that far (OK, I’m sure I wouldn’t!) but it is an interesting car. Pretty advanced styling for ’53. Mercedes objected to the three-pointed star on the front, so after the first 3 months of production, Studebaker quit using them. So this is an early ’53.
And then there’s the Avanti. A car so radical, with such a cult following, I felt obligated to use both BOLD and ITALICS in its name. Again, this was a last attempt for Studebaker to shed its stodgy reputation and breathe some life into the marque. The car did have advanced styling, and captured a lot of interest. But there were problems in the making of the Avanti. The company they’d outsourced the fiberglass bodies to couldn’t keep up with production schedules, so Studebaker tried to augment and make some of them in house. The picture below shows executives celebrating the first in-house bodied Avanti.
Pretty aggressive marking hoped the Avanti’s appeal would spread to the rest of the Studebaker line.
This 1963 Avanti made 170.81 mph on the Bonneville Salt Flats. Studebaker desperately trying to generate excitement.
In spite of racing exploits and marketing hype, the Avanti was not enough to keep Studebaker alive…
In the basement of the museum are some cars in storage… These show how desperately Studebaker was searching for a way to survive. Here is a prototype Avanti – styled sedan…
Plans for a “Revolutionary new small car called Autofamilia”… would that have been the first soccer-mom’s mini-van? A radical truck that seemed to lose a lot from concept to construction…
The “Astral” was built in the late 50’s to depict futuristic transportation. It was to be powered with either atomic power or “ionic beams emanating from a higher source”. Really???
This 1959 Lark was used to test out the possibility of a rear engined Studebaker, using the engine from a 1953 Porsche.
It really seems that what killed Studebaker was the lack of solid leadership. If they had been able to focus on doing what they did well, and not chasing after too many whims (and Ion Beams) they might have been still be making Stoodies today.
The Avanti did however, seem to have a life of its own. With it reaching “Cult Car” status, some companies purchased body molds and rights to the car, and expensive Avanti’s were custom made for many years after Studebaker folded.
Fall is Falling… all over our Motorhome! One night I heard a couple large “bumps”, and was sure entire branches had fallen on our roof. Examination showed no branches, but plenty of pine needles. Cherryl had never been on the roof before, and had lots of fun sweeping needles away. I never did find what made those bumps in the night.
RV/MH Hall of Fame and Museum
If it seems that all we do is go to museums, well, its starting to seem that way to us as well. But when you are in the heart of automotive history, what can you do? And when in Elkhart, Indiana, the area where most of the RVs in America are manufactured, you have to go to the RV history museum. There are many old RVs, ranging from the really old, to the very unique, to the amazingly weird.
The 1916 Telescoping Apartment
This camper was made to fit in a Model T Ford truck. It had slide outs and even had engine warmed water for a shower. It sold for $100.
1931 Ford Model AA Camp Truck
The Ford AA truck chassis was basically a Model A chassis enlarged a bit. This truck camper has all of 40 horsepower; the same as the Model A cars.
1935 Covered Wagon Travel Trailer
In ’35 Covered Wagon was the largest trailer builder in the country. One out of six “House Trailers” was theirs. At that time they turned out 45 – 50 trailers per day!
The poster below shows some Fleetwood RVs. A Pace Arrow class A motorhome is on the left, similar to the one my family owned, that Cherryl and I spent our honeymoon in!
Below is the first Pace Arrow. We felt they had come a long way to the unit we used on our honeymoon!
Here is a very utilitarian Salesmen’s Camper. Perfect for those long sales trips…
A while back, in a campground storage area, I found an old aluminum trailer with a Spartan emblem. Reading up on it, I found that J. Paul Getty was hoping to relieve WWII Post War housing shortages with these trailers, featuring all the comforts of home. In spite of names like Imperial Mansion, it was hoped that regular folks could find a comfortable life in one.
I don’t think the sewing machine was original equipment…
1931 Mae West Housecar
Paramount Studios had this housecar built on a ’31 Chevy truck to entice her to leave the Vaudeville circuit and make movies for them. It is more a chauffeur driven lounge than a “Camper”. She was driven in this housecar from home or hotel to shooting sites for many years. It has a small hot plate, and icebox, and a table. It even has a railroad type observation deck on the rear, where she would sit on a rocking chair and enjoy the view.
1939 Lindbergh Travel Trailer
Charles Lindbergh was instantly famous after flying solo across the Atlantic in 1927. He had this trailer designed to serve in his land-bound travels. It has two axles, one at each end. This added to stability when parked, and meant the trailer tongue didn’t need to be jacked up when unhitching. Note the aircraft style instruments and switches.
It was a thrill for me to be able to enter this trailer, and be where “Lucky Lindy” lived while traveling. Amazing.
Here is a Pierce Arrow truck converted into a camper, with styling from a rail road car.
1964 Clark Cortez Motorhome
Clark made heavy equipment, like forklifts and such. They produced this compact and sturdy motorhome from 1961 to 1974. I think they were all the same color scheme. One unique feature is the rear entry door.
In 1973 General Motors unveiled a motorhome that has become a classic. It had a sleek shape, low center of gravity, tandem rear axles, front wheel drive, and easy to service Oldsmobile Toronado running gear. It was a radical departure from the box shaped motorhomes of the day. Like the Avanti, the GMC motorhome reached almost a “Cult Car” status, as proven with this crazy restoration detailed below:
So here is this amazingly expensive restoration, in which they ruined the graceful front end of the normal GMC:
If that is not bizarre enough for you, try out this thing built on a 1976 Cadillac Eldorado chassis and the Olds Toronado engine like the GMC. It was built to fit in a standard garage, by somebody blessed with enormous capital and unencumbered with any sense of grace, style or beauty.
This is a vintage Shasta trailer; surprisingly like the new Vintage Trailers becoming popular again now.
This little town is considered the heart of Amish territory in Indiana.
We went through a Mennonite / Amish center and learned a lot about their history and lifestyle.
I saw my first four person patio glider chair.
Horse drawn wagons are all over the place.
Newmar Motorhome Factory
The highlight of the week was our 2.5 hour tour through the Newmar Motorhome factory. I love any type of factory tour, but this was especially fun, seeing as they built our current home-on-wheels. It was very interesting to see how the motorhomes are built. At Tiffin, they drive the motorhomes from one station to another. Here they have them on “Air pads” that let them push the motorhomes sideways to the next stop. Two guys can easily push the chassis in the beginning, by the time it’s almost finished, it looks like several men do the job. The work crew is about half Mennonite and half Amish, and the atmosphere is friendly and yet very focused. The quality of workmanship is obvious.
Another highlight was that my buddy Ron Whitehead took the tour with us, on his birthday!
The only sad thing is that we were not allowed to take pictures… but maybe that’s a good thing, or I’d still be in there shooting!