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You are on the page : About the STUDEBAKER

Studebaker


Studebaker vintage collection

Regularly, big names in the auto industry, vestiges of the golden age of the American automobile, come back into the news. Unfortunately, these attempts are often doomed to fail, the result of laudable, enthusiastic, but all too often fanciful individual initiatives. Among these vestiges, the Studebaker Motor Company reemerged in 2010, presenting three concept cars, with a national convention in Vegas following closely afterward. A fitting opportunity to outline the Studebaker history again.



The sons of a Dutch family, Henry and Clem Studebaker opened a foundry and wagon construction shop in South Bend, Indiana, in 1852. Business went well, and the Studebaker brothers proclaimed in 1872 that they were "The largest vehicle house in the world." They made their fortune selling wagons to the Union Army during the U.S. Civil War.

In 1902, they got started in the auto industry with the construction of small electric cars. In 1911, Studebaker became the Studebaker Corporation. Starting in 1913, cars bearing the Studebaker name were built in South Bend. The range featured six models, with from 4 to 6 cylinders. The firm had a good technical staff, with the Chief Engineer Zeder being assisted by Skelton and Breer (the future Chrysler designers); they would stay in South Bend until 1920. When company President Fred Fish died, Albert Erskine succeeded him. In 1919-20, three series of cars were built: the Light Six, Special Six, and Big Six. Some 35,000 cars were produced in 1919, and 67,000 in 1920. Production increased regularly, reaching 107,000 vehicles in 1925.


The Studebaker range made brakes on all four wheels standard in 1926. In 1927, the mechanics didn't change at all, but the range was given new names. The Standard Six became the Dictator Six, the Big Six came in two versions, the Commander and the President. The chassis were traditional, the engines still featured sidevalves, and the cars were equipped with three-speed transmissions. In 1928, the President was given a 5 liter V8 engine. It broke many records in its category.

For 1934, the firm produced three models, the Dictator Six, the Commander Eight, and the President Eight. The engines now featured aluminum cylinder heads. The X-frame chassis was new, and the body styles tended towards aerodynamic, with wing-shaped running boards and a V shaped grille. A little over 50,000 were built. In Spring of 1939, alongside the classic Commanders and Presidents, Studebaker came out with another new car, the Champion, which was lighter and featured a 2.63 liter six cylinder engine. It was a big success and would remain in production until the late 1950s. The Champion brought production up to 92,000 units in 1939.

The United States' entry into the Second World War halted the production of civilian vehicles in favor of war materiel. Studebaker built around 200,000 trucks, as well as 15,000 Weasel tracked vehicles. In the postwar boom, cars were produced with six cylinders: the 2.8 liter Champion, the 3.7 liter Commander, and a 3.7 liter Landcruiser version. It was a success, and the line would be kept around for years. Outgunned by the big groups, independent constructors lost ground after the war, and in 1954 the South Bend-based company merged with Packard and the low-slung coupe, dubbed the Hawk, was given a Packard V-8 engine.

In 1957, some coupes were given a supercharged Studebaker engine. However, business was not great because production was falling regularly. Like the other big American groups, Studebaker tried its hand at compacts. Already in the early 1950s, Studebaker had thought about compacts, and asked Porsche to design it a lighter car, but to no effect.

In May 1962, they rolled out the Avanti, a smartly styled coupe, but it was not enough to breath new life into South Bend. The plant was closed on December 20, 1963, and production was transferred to a plant in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. From then on, all cars, Cruisers and Daytonas, were given Canadian GM engines, but the deal ended in 1966.


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