Skip to main content
About StudebakerStudebaker Brothers Manufacturing Company incorporated in South Bend, Indiana in 1868. Eleven years prior, the first carriage was produced carrying the family name. Two massive fires, in 1872 and 1874, nearly destroyed the company's manufacturing facilities, but success returned quickly--the company was achieving over $1 million in annual sales by 1877.
The company began experimentations with self-propelled vehicles in 1896, and by 1902 they introduced the Studebaker Electric automobile. Failed partnerships with Garford and E-M-F over the next decade in developing gas-powered vehicles led the company to refinance and change names to the Studebaker Corp.
Studebaker pioneered the use of monobloc engine casting in 1913, and it was the first U.S. company to have an outdoor proving ground in 1926. In cooperation with Commercial Investment Trust in 1915, the company became the first to offer retail and wholesale... View more financing. They would also continue with horse-drawn vehicle production until 1920. By 1921, a line of trucks was introduced to replace the carriages.
Albert Erskine became president of Studebaker in 1915, but committed suicide in 1933. The depression took its toll on automobile sales--even the low-cost Rockne model was a poor sales performer--but Erskine had the company pay out dividends in 1930 and '31. That, coupled with the purchase of White Motor Company, left Studebaker with $6 million in debt by 1933. New chairman of the board Harold Vance and new president Paul Hoffman set to work getting the company out of receivership. The company emerged in 1935 reorganized.
Pre-"Forward Look" Virgil Exner worked in the company's design department prior to WWII, helping on 1939's highly successful Champion model. He helped Studebaker become the first American car company to produce a postwar automobile in 1946. Despite the first on the scene achievement, the company suffered greatly at a price war between Ford and GM in the early '50s. In an attempt to gain market share and financial stability, an orchestrated take-over was performed by Packard. In just two short years, the new company was teetering on bankruptcy.
The Hawk line debuted in 1956. Four models were available from it, covering a variety of price ranges. The top-of-the-line Golden Hawk--with 275 hp from a Packard 352-ci V8--was dubbed a South Bend Ferrari by some in the press. It wouldn't be enough, as the Packard nameplate was discontinued in 1958 and dropped from the corporate name in 1962.
Studebaker's last hurrah came in May 1962. The compact Lark was the pace car for the Indianapolis 500, and the Avanti was introduced. After setting 29 stock car records at the Bonneville Salt Flats, it was dubbed the "world's fastest production car." Production lasted just 3,834 units.
The South Bend factory shut down in late 1963.The final Studebaker rolled off the line in the Hamilton, Ontario, Canada plant in 1966. There would be a new life the following year for at least some of the facilities. Avanti Motors of South Bend introduced the Avanti II, and production would continue until the mid '80s in South Bend. View less
Other Studebaker Models
Additional site navigation