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Hemmings Motor News has been around since 1954. We're proud of our heritage, but we're also more than the Hemmings full of classifieds that your father subscribed to. Aside from new editorial content every month in Hemmings, we have three monthly magazines: Hemmings Muscle Machines, Hemmings Classic Car and Hemmings Sports and Exotic Car.

While our editors traverse the country to find the best content for those magazines, we find other oddities related to the old-car hobby that we really had no place for - until now. With this blog, we're giving you a behind-the-scenes look at what we see and what we do during the course of putting out some of the finest automotive magazines you'll ever read.

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How Studebaker Came Not to Be

Posted July 08, 2008 12:01 AM by dstrohl

Studebaker Corporation was once "one of the largest, solidest companies in America", wrote Rich Taylor some 34 years ago. After its marriage to Packard Motors in 1954, the company that once made industrial mining wagons rolled downhill. "What the hell happened?", Taylor asked, before answering "Well, lot's of things. Studebaker-Packard got caught in a back alley with walls built out of its own ineptitude, some bad cars, the Korean War and an economic recession they should have seen coming, and, well . . . they got mugged by Henry Ford II. It's all there if you look".

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#1

Re: How Studebaker Came Not to Be

07/09/2008 2:28 AM

Raymond Loews's designs for Studebaker are still beautiful, even today, all these years later.

I was working for Daimler-Benz shortly after they suspended Studebaker' exclusive North American import license. Many who worked at Daimler were of the opinion that while the union with Packard hurt Studebaker a great deal, the biggest most damaging factor was Studebaker's location in South Bend, Indiana.

There's not an American teenager born, who doesn't know that Detroit is the heart of the automobile industry in America.

Studebaker's insistence on staying in South Bend insulated it from the pulse of the industry, made it more difficult to find experienced talent and made it harder for factories to get needed parts from vendors "just in time", most of whom were in Northern Michigan.

If any of you historians had any doubt about the origins of that grill on the last of the Studebaker Larks, take a look at the Mercedes-Benz 280 SEL of that period.

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#2
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Re: How Studebaker Came Not to Be

07/09/2008 7:58 AM

Innovation not always wins out, it can work against you.

Take Preston Tucker for an example.

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#3
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Re: How Studebaker Came Not to Be

07/09/2008 8:56 AM

Gee Mercedes copied another American design! I am not surprised in the least.

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#4

Re: How Studebaker Came Not to Be

07/09/2008 7:56 PM

Both my Dad and my Granddad worked for Studebaker. My Dad was born and raised in South Bend and worked on the assembly line before going into the military. My Granddad was a fine mechanical engineer, and was mostly involved with truck design. When Studebaker folded he move over to White Freightliner trucks...

Here is a military truck that Granddad developed... a truck that ran on coal, something that might be useful now....

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#5
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Re: How Studebaker Came Not to Be

07/10/2008 6:59 AM

Fascinating! Thanks, Steve. Was this vehicle ultimately steam-powered, or did it use coal-gas as the fuel source?

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Re: How Studebaker Came Not to Be

07/10/2008 9:33 AM

Coal gas. That is a gasifier on the side there... These pictures were taken near my Granddads house in the early forties. He drove the truck to Alaska for trials on the Alaska highway.

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Re: How Studebaker Came Not to Be

07/10/2008 9:41 AM

Thanks, Steve. I figured that was the case, but wanted to be sure. Otherwise, the back of the truck would have to be heaped high with coal - making it unsuitable for carrying much else!

I wrote a story about the Alaska Highway last fall in the "On This Day in Engineering History" blog. Building it was no small task, and it was a quite a fight to build 1500 miles of road like that in just eight months.

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Re: How Studebaker Came Not to Be

07/11/2008 1:45 PM

Well, I swear - reminds me of the Ozark Mountain Daredevils -

"Well I'd like to be a pilot on a steam powered aero plane.
Well I'd pull that pilot wheel around and then back again.
Well, I'll wear a blue hat, yeah, that says Steam Powered Aero plane
With letters that go around the rim and then back again."

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