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Studebaker: More than they promised

1950 Studebaker

The Hemmings blog has a great video about Studebaker. It is called Studebaker: Less than they promised.

It tells the story of Studebaker from 1852 to 1962. I believe it should be called “Studebaker: More than they promised”. It tells the story of how Studebaker became one of the best independent auto makers.

My father worked at Studebaker from 1929 to 1937 before he came to Indianapolis. You can trace some of my automotive interests to Studebaker.

For more information about this Hemmings article, follow this link.

Enjoy the drive.

Indianapolis Racing Legends

Indianapolis Racing Legands

The Crown Hill Heritage Foundation and the Indiana Racing Memorial Association have erected a marker to Celebrate Indianapolis Racing Legends. The marker is in section 13 at the base of the hill below Carl Fisher’s Mausoleum.

Some 58 Indianapolis Racing Legends are interred in Crown Hill Cemetery or the Mausoleum. The Speedway’s Founding Fathers: Carl G. Fisher, James A. Allison, Arthur C. Newby, and Frank H. Wheeler are all buried there. Famous racing drivers like “Cannon Ball” Baker, George Amick, Tony Bettenhausen, Jr., Floyd Davis, Jim Hurtubise, and Louis Schwitzer. Race builders like the Duesenberg brothers, the Marmon brothers, and Harry C. Stutz. And famous racing mechanics like George Bignotti, “Cotton” Henning, and A. J. Watson.

I invite you to go to the Crown Hill Cemetery office at 700 W. 38th Street, Indianapolis, IN, 46208, to get their Indianapolis Auto Greats, flyer. Also visit crownhill.org or crownhillhf.org.

1909 McIntyre

In the early days, automobiles were manufactured in almost any city, town, or hamlet where the builder could get together equipment to start his venture. Many pioneer car manufacturers had been of makers of wagons, buggies, and road carts. When the buggy maker saw that he was losing his market to the automobile, he often figured that his buggy customers would follow him and buy an automobile bearing his name.

1909 McIntyre
1909 McIntyre

The W. H. McIntyre Company, from Auburn, Indiana, entered the field in late 1908. The company succeeded the W. H. Kiblinger Company which had manufactured buggies for many years. Upon the death of W. H. Kiblinger, W. H. McIntyre obtained control of the company and changed its name.

Early McIntyres were classified as “highwheelers.” These automobiles appealed to the early motorist and thousands were sold by scores of small manufactures, most of whom were former buggy makers.

Early advertisements stated that the “McIntyre Motor Vehicles never fail-never get tired-cost no more than a good horse and buggy-cost far less to keep-do more work in less time than three horses.”

In the summer of 1909, the company staged a demonstration to show the speed and dependability of its automobile. W. H. McIntyre’s son, Harry McIntyre drove a McIntyre Autobuggy from Auburn to Fort Wayne in just 40 minutes, a distance of about 20 miles. Thus, the average speed was about 30 miles an hour. Such a speed was rather amazing considering the dirt roads and the highwheeled buggy type vehicle.

A pre-1910 advertisement for the McIntyre, “it cost no more than a good horse and buggy – cost far less to keep – do more work in less time than three horses.”

A few years later, the rapid development of automobile components and the improvement of roads, the highwheeler was on the wane.

That’s the story of the early McIntyre automobiles.

Early Studebaker Electrics

In 1902, the Studebaker brothers decided to enter the horseless-carriage business. Their first car was a stylish light Studebaker electric runabout.

1902 Studebaker
1902 Studebaker

The 1902 Studebaker electric was built like their buggy lines. It had leather fenders, bar-lever steering, chain drive, and a leather dashboard.

The 1902 advertisement for this car claimed, “No Expert Chauffeur Needed,” and “Reliable Brake Control.”

1906 Studebaker Coupe
1906 Studebaker Coupe

By 1906, they offered one of the first closed electric carriages in the United States. The electric coupe sold for $2,000 and would do about 35 miles on one charging of the batteries. Note the wooden wheels, chain drive, and running boards instead of steps.

Studebaker’s craftsmanship in carriage building stood them in good stead when this unusual vehicle was designed. It was considered, and rightfully so, one of the true quality automobiles of its time.

That’s how Studebaker entered the auto business in 1902.

Indiana’s large presence in the automotive industry

1963-Avanti-Front
1963 Avanti
Copyright © 1962 Studebaker Corporation

Indiana’s plentiful supply of lumber lured several industries into its borders, including the makers of carriages and wagons during the mid to late 1800s. The automobile industry in the early 1900s was the a natural offspring of carriage manufacturers, which could provide not just parts but skilled labor as well.

The growth spurt between 1910 and 1920 separated the nation’s auto makers into two groups-the mass-produced auto giants and the craftsmen. Most of Indiana’s auto makers chose to be craftsmen and purchased automotive parts and assembled them by hand. As a result, these companies were small, and many became known for producing high-class and high-priced cars. Nearly every one of the Indiana cars that became well-known were in this category, including names like Duesenberg, Cord, Stutz and Cole, and appealed to the upper end of the consumer market.

Until about 1920, there seemed to be enough demand for both the mass-produced and high-quality cars. However, a series of economic factors at this time helped to contribute to the decline of Hoosier auto making. Price slashing and an expansion-crazed environment trapped Indiana manufacturers in a philosophical battle with the Michigan titans. Hoosiers were ill-prepared for this kind of competition, and most wanted to remain craftsmen choosing to concentrate on higher priced vehicles instead of diversifying. Plus, the economic recession during this time added more financial burdens on the population, which became increasingly interested in the mass-produced auto. Michigan had the financial backers willing to commit financial resources to give the state’s auto manufacturing the boost it needed. The Hoosier financial community generally proved to be of little assistance to its own local automobile industry.

Studebaker was the lone survivor of the depression, continuing production until late 1963.

However, the 1980s through the 2000s introduced a revival, evident in the introduction of the Mishawaka-produced Hummers, the Lafayette-produced Subarus, the Princeton-produced Toyotas, and the Greensburg-produced Hondas.

Hoosiers are proud of their automotive culture. There are several auto museums around the state celebrating this heritage.