Studebaker Cool:  114 Years of Innovation

Studebaker Cool ExhibitHershey, PA (April 25, 2019)   Spring has sprung, and we’re eager to share information on our main exhibit for the spring and summer seasons “Studebaker Cool: 114 years of Innovation.” This new feature exhibit will explore the South Bend, Indiana Company’s contribution to wheeled transportation history with a vast array of vehicles.  While the exhibit will discuss the Studebaker Brothers humble start as a wagon manufacturer helping settlers move across the American frontier in Studebaker built Conestoga wagons, we will primarily focus on the last 60 years of automobile production ending in 1966.

“Studebaker Cool:  114 Years of Innovation” exhibit will include everything from the early World War I era to the Supercharged Fiberglass Avanti sports car of the early 1960s, a rare sampling of trucks, modified cars, and even the Studebaker the public never saw – the 1962 Sceptre.   The Brooks Stevens designed Sceptre is a stylish prototype car intended as the 1966-67 replacement for the Hawk.  Its display here at the AACA Museum, Inc. this summer will be the Sceptre’s first appearance in an east coast museum, enabled through cooperation with the Studebaker National Museum of South Bend, Indiana.   Another significant Studebaker vehicle on view will be the 1908 Studebaker Electric “Carry-All,” one of only two vehicles that were built to special order by Studebaker Corporation, as transport for Congressman and Senators beneath the Capitol Dome.  In total, the exhibit will feature more than 40 vehicles including an early EMF, Studebaker Trucks, Champions, Hawks, Avanti’s and more.    We want to thank our exhibit sponsors for their support in helping to make this exhibit possible:   Keystone Region Chapter of the Studebaker Drivers Club, The Studebaker National Foundation, The Antique Studebaker Club and the Studebaker Drivers Club, Inc.

1908 Studebaker Electric

1908 Studebaker Electric “Carry-All”

 

Spectre photo credit Historic Vehicle Association

1962 Sceptre, photo Historic Vehicle Association

Raymond Loewy Retrospective

Raymond Loewy’s industrial design was intertwined with the success of Studebaker vehicles for decades during some of the companies most prosperous years.    We will be showcasing the work of Raymond Loewy as an industrial designer in our Members 1st Gallery during the same exhibit period from May 18 – October 20, 2019, in coordination with The Hagley Museum and Library along with the Raymond Loewy Estate.     Mr. Loewy was all about design- from a brief career as a fashion illustrator to his work in the transportation industry.  He worked with more than 200 companies during his career creating product designs and packaging on a multitude of items ranging from automobiles to locomotives and lipstick to refrigerators.  Some of his better-known logo designs include Exxon, Greyhound, Nabisco and Shell Oil.

Other special exhibits on view at the AACA Museum, Inc. include a rotating display area featuring a collection of Pontiac and Oakland vehicles.   This display will begin with the GTO model but will change at various points over the summer.    We want to thank the Keystone Region of the Pontiac Oakland Club International for curating this display in our Williams-Clyne Gallery from May 18 – October 20, 2019.

Raymond Loewy: A RetrospectiveThe AACA Museum, Inc. has a spring exhibit opening planned for Friday, May 17 from 5:30 – 9:00 PM.   We’ll feature a lively discussion on everything Studebaker followed by a book signing with Studebaker experts Andrew Beckman – archivist for the Studebaker Museum; Patrick Foster – Automotive Historian & Author, and Mark James – Hawk Expert & Author.   The program will be moderated by Bill Rothermel an Automotive Historian and Writer.   Visit AACAMuseum.org for pricing and full details.   Advance registration is required to participate in this program.

If you like cool cars designed by the famous Raymond Loewy studios and are a fan of fast cars, don’t miss this fascinating look into one of the nation’s longest-lived, most innovative automobile manufacturers: Studebaker.

Studebaker History

The Studebaker story began in 1852 when two brothers, Henry and Clem Studebaker opened a South Bend, Indiana blacksmith shop specializing in the manufacture of horse-drawn farm wagons. They were soon joined by three other brothers, John M., Jacob and Peter and the family firm evolved into the Studebaker Brothers Manufacturing Company, publically claiming that they were the world’s largest builder of horse-drawn vehicles.   The brothers were slow to recognize that motor vehicles would replace horse-drawn equipment, so they were cautious in entering the automotive market.    In 1902 they sold small electric cars. Then, in 1904 they began making cars for the Garford Company of Ohio with the vehicles made to their specifications.  The brothers established the Studebaker Corporation in 1910 after they acquired the E-M-F Automobile Company of Detroit.   After that, the Studebakers manufactured all their vehicular products themselves.

1908 EMF Model 301908 EMF Model 30 Double Rumble Roadster

The 1920s were the Golden Age of the Studebaker Corporation as it was recognized as a leading manufacturer of quality cars and trucks.  In 1928, Studebaker acquired the Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Company filling a high-end niche market with one of the world’s greatest luxury cars.   Studebaker also invested heavily into the White Motor Truck Company, providing heavy-duty trucks as a compliment to Studebaker’s light and medium commercial models.

With the onset of the great depression, the 1930s were a bit rocky for Studebaker.   They introduced an economy car, the 1932 Rockne which never gained the success they anticipated for it.    In 1933 the company fell further into debt and petitioned for receivership.   Pierce-Arrow and White acquisitions had to be sold off at fire sale pricing in 1934 to raise cash.  As the depression slowed a bit in 1936, Studebaker’s sales again increased.   Industrial designer Raymond Loewy was selected to style a radical Land Cruiser sedan in 1934 and was hired in 1937 to style the entire line beginning his long-term tenure with Studebaker that would span the next two decades providing innovative designs.  1939 was a banner year for the company with the newly introduced Champion with 73,000 units produced in the first year leaving Studebaker financially healthy again.

The company continued to flourish in the 1940s.  Studebaker Champions were advertised heavily, featured in a World’s Fair exhibit, and chosen as the pace car of the 1940 Indy 500 race.  The streamlined and handsome 1941 models were thought to be among the best styling of the period.   When World War II caused a halt in production of the 1942 models, the company dived into war production.   No stranger to military production, Studebaker’s first military order had come from the U.S. Army for 6-Mule wagons back in 1857, for Utah troops engaged in the Indian War.   By the end of WWII Studebaker had produced 200,000 military trucks and 15,000 amphibious Weasels with Champion engines along with 63,000 flying fortress aircraft engines.  Post-war, designer Raymond Loewy introduced new radically restyled looks for Studebaker models in 1947 beating out their competitors and continuing Studebaker’s popularity.

The post-war styling of Raymond Loewy continued in 1950 and 51 with a radical “bullet nose” front clip that made it easily identifiable as a Studebaker.    For 1951, the first post-war 8-cylinder engine was introduced in Commanders and Land Cruisers.   In 1952 the front-end styling became more conventional, and a hard-top coupe was introduced.   Raymond Loewy’s 1953 restyling was especially attractive, leading to the popular Hawk series models of 1956 and beyond.   On the downside, Studebaker’s new cautious executive team failed to respond to the massive discounting in a price war between Ford and GM which independent car makers could not equal; quality control issues added to their woes.   Studebaker declined rapidly from 1950 and by 1954 was again losing money.   It negotiated a strategic takeover by Packard, but the cash position was worse than it had led Packard to believe and by 1956, the Studebaker-Packard Corporation was nearly bankrupt.

1950 Studebaker Champion

The Studebaker-Packard Corporation continued to make and market both Studebaker and Packard cars until 1958.   The “Packard” element was retained in its name until 1962, then returned to “Studebaker Corporation.”  A three-year management contract with Curtiss-Wright aimed to improve finances and cure lax employment policies.   Studebaker became the American importer for Mercedes-Benz, Auto Union, and DKW.   The manufactured cars that came afterward, including the compact Lark and Raymond Loewy-designed Avanti sports car, were based on old chassis and engine designs.    The Lark was popular in its first year; however, sales dropped after the Big 3 introduced their own compacts in 1960.    The Lark provided a temporary reprieve, but not enough to stop the financial bleeding.   Studebaker’s possible demise also made buyers shy away for fear of buying an “orphan” brand.  By 1963, all the company’s vehicles were selling poorly.   The company announced the closure of the South Bend plant, producing the last car there on December 20, 1963.  The Avanti model tooling and plant space were sold off to a South Bend dealership, which revived the car in 1965 under the name of Avanti II.”   Limited automotive production was consolidated at the company’s last remaining production facility in Hamilton, Ontario which had always been profitable and where Studebaker produced cars until the end.   While 1965 production was just shy of break-even, the company’s directors felt the small profits were not enough to justify continued investment, and Studebaker left the automobile business on March 17, 1966.

About the AACA Museum, Inc.

The AACA Museum Inc., a Smithsonian Affiliate, displays beautifully restored automobiles, buses, and motorcycles in unique life-like scenes representing the 1890s – 1980s on a cross-country journey from New York to San Francisco. The AACA Museum, Inc. has been and remains an independent 501(c) (3) non-profit organization, not affiliated with The Antique Automobile Club of America.   As one of the largest automotive museums in the country, AACA Museum, Inc. features unique exhibits that change several times a year and focus on a variety of eras and types of vehicles.

The AACA Museum, Inc. is home to the Cammack Tucker Collection; along with being the home of the Tucker Automobile Club of America. The Museum holds the World’s largest and most prestigious permanent collection of Tucker Automobiles and related artifacts. We’re proud to have been recently recognized by Road & Track and AutoClassics as one of the top automobile museums in the country. The Museum is in South Hanover Township, located just off Route 39, one mile west of Hersheypark Drive, Hershey, Pennsylvania. Regular admission $12.50, seniors age 61 and older $11.50, juniors age 4-12 $9.50, children age 3 and under, AACA Museum, Inc. Members and AACA Members are FREE. The Museum is open daily from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. The AACA Museum is closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. For further information, please call 717-566-7100 or visit www.AACAMuseum.org.

 

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Media Contact:

Nancy Gates

Director of Marketing & Communications

717-566-7100 ext. 123

NGates@AACAMuseum.org