March '21

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14 THE SHOP MARCH 2021 THE STUDEBAKER STORY PART II In December 1963, the board of directors decided to cease automobile manufacturing at the South Bend facility. This was a hard pill to swallow for the workers and the com- munity as a whole, as Studebaker had had a large presence in the area since the 1850s. The workforce was downsized, and all Studebakers were to be built at the Ham- ilton, Ontario plant in Canada. The Avanti and truck lines were killed off and once the supply of Studebaker engines was exhausted, new power plants (both 6-cyl- inders and V-8s) were Chevrolet-sourced from GM of Canada. The general consensus was that if Stude- baker had completely pulled the plug on automobile production at both the main South Bend assembly plant and at the Canadian facility, the dealers would have cried foul and demanded the factory buy back the cars in their inventory, plus all the parts in the dealers' parts departments, as per dealer agreements. So, by moving to Canada, the cars continued to be built in small numbers north of the border, at the same time using up all the parts that had been accumulating in South Bend. Surprisingly, following the announce- ment, company stock grew to as high as $2 a share, which the board felt validated its decision. Gordon Grundy, the top man in the Canadian Studebaker operation, seemed to do everything possible to keep it all going, even showing small profits in 1965 ($10 million) and 1966 ($16.5 million). He was also thinking outside the box, trying to get Nissan (marketed as Datsun at the time in North America) to sign an agreement with Studebaker for distribution, though it never happened. END OF THE LINE The handwriting was already on the wall when Grundy asked about getting some new money for a subtle restyling for the 1967 model year. The board advised him that "there will not be a 1967 Studebaker." On March 5, 1966, the last Studebaker rolled off the assembly line. Only 2,045 cars were built in 1966, signaling the end of a 114-year manufacturing run. Today, no Studebaker Corp. remains, as over the years buyouts and mergers basically saw the name disappear. Cooper Industries can trace its roots back to 1967 when Studebaker was combined with Worthington Corp., then changed hands along the way to McGraw-Edison Co. and then to Cooper. As of this writing, Cooper had no plans to use the Studebaker name again, according to company officials, particularly after Cooper, as Studebaker's corporate successor, was forced to pay the City of South Bend an undisclosed amount for environmental damage caused by Stude- baker years earlier. Meanwhile, the Studebaker Proving Grounds, a 3-mile oval test track, lives 14 THE SHOP MARCH 2021 An agreement was made between Studebaker and Porsche KG in Stuttgart, Germany, to build a prototype Studebaker using Ferry Porsche's design con- cepts. The idea was for an experimental car that could be produced in South Bend, but with a European background. The vehicle was known as the Type 542 (Studebaker referred to it as Z-87). The four-door machine included two rear-engine designs for testing—an air- cooled and a water-cooled power plant, both 120-degree V-6s with 3506cc displacement. Type 542 rolled on a 111-inch wheelbase, and featured unibody construc- tion and four-wheel independent suspension. Some off-the-shelf Studebaker components were used, including brakes, steering, transmission, wheels, hubcaps and door handles. Even though Type 542 was first discussed in 1952, it wasn't until 1956 that the German-built prototype was reviewed by the factory, which was now part of Packard, and an engineer named John Z. DeLorean was assigned to test out the proposed vehicle. After outlining what he felt were several design flaws, DeLorean ultimately ruled: "This vehicle has a large amount of technical appeal, but a number of items need refinement to increase its overall appeal as a small car to the average American car buyer. The 1956 Champion or Commander is preferred to the Porsche for American driving." So, the partnership between Studebaker and Porsche ended with the prototype, and we'll never know if it would have helped the struggling South Bend automaker sell more cars. Studebaker-Porsche Partnership In 1952, Studebaker and Porsche KG teamed up to build a prototype Stude- baker using Ferry Porsche's design concepts, but the vehicle never got past the concept stage.

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