Musings, ramblings and rants from FeralCars founder Bob Merlis
This has been a year of 50th anniversaries: the founding of the Rolling Stones, the Kennedy assassination, the March on Washington. A whole lot happened in 1963 but there’s one event from back then that has gone, mostly, unnoticed. It was December 9th, just two week’s after JFK’s funeral, that the announcement came that, after 111 years, Studebaker would cease vehicle production in South Bend, Indiana. Some of us took it quite personally and still do.
It was devastating for the workers and residents of that quintessential Indiana factory town but the repercussions were felt around the world and have resonated for the last half century. While management assured its dealer network that Studebaker branded cars would still be built — in Hamilton, Ontario — it was a dark, dark day for Studeaficionados who found out that production of Studebaker trucks, GT Hawks and Avantis would soon cease with only Lark-type vehicle production continuing in Canada. Avanti was the 4 place, Raymond Loewy-designed sports car that brought glow to Studebaker in its darkest hour.
“Too little, too late” is the conventional wisdom about why a high performance, supercharged, fiberglass grand touring car couldn’t pull Studebaker out of its death spiral but what a way to go!
Studebaker loyalists were in disbelief. The only auto manufacturer able to trace its origin to wagon manufacturing would soon be no more. Yes, there were ’64, ’65 and even ’66 model year Studebakers but 12/9/63 was really the end of the line; what followed over the next few years at Studebaker was, in essence, automotive rigor mortis
As a Studebaker loyalist, both then and now, I can tell you it still hurts to think about that dreadful day. You can’t do anything about the past so let’s celebrate Studebaker’s glorious history with some examples that are still coming through in a very real way, fifty years after the beginning of the end, for Studey loyalists who’ve never stopped believing.
The introduction of Avanti had many believing that Studebaker would make it. Thanks to our friends at King Rose Archives, you can check out the film that heralded Avanti’s introduction in the spring of 1962.
If you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting consideration please send it to us: info (at) feralcars (dot)com OR through our Facebook page. Include your name, location of the car and some thoughts about the vehicle and we’ll look into getting it the attention it deserves.