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Postwar Studebakers

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  • berriberri Posts: 4,159
    From what I've read, the Studebaker UAW was a rather militant bunch. Management ruined the company, but a more flexible union may have prolonged it a bit instead of forcing it to become a one horse show moving to Canada with the Lark. Sometimes I think union members get so focused and enthralled with their union that they end up sh...g their nest.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,539
    edited November 2010
    Studebaker DID go bankrupt and that's really the bottom line. I don't recall the UAW designing the cars, doing the accounting and marketing, making the mergers, etc. I suppose we could cast the union as "militant" but the real word is probably more like "P-O'd".

    Hmmm.....It really doesn't matter if you came from Harvard to run a company on the rocks or if you came up from the ranks to do it, seems to me. That doesn't make it any better a failure.

    Walter Chrysler was a machinist. He didn't run his company into bankruptcy. Nor Henry Ford, the mechanic and clock repairman.

    I would personally not vote to elevate Studebaker management's record to that of a beacon for future CEOs of car companies. I think they were as blind as bats myself.
    Romney's record seems to show he had a lot more on the ball than they did.

    I

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  • berriberri Posts: 4,159
    AMC did successfully develop an independent niche into the sixties. Abernathy was a rather interesting leader there too I think and maybe a bit better manager. But Romney did push the "economy and comfort" vision that worked for quite awhile.

    As for Studebaker, the only people that really stand out in my mind are Brooks Stevens and Bourke, both designers. (Virgil Exner did some design work there in the late 40's/early 50's as well and got crosswise with Loewy IIRC).
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,539
    edited November 2010
    Oh yeah Abernathy. I'd like to read up a bit more on him.

    Studebaker had some design talent in Stevens. Packard's forte was always engineering--that's what they excelled at. Packard's styling was very very conservative, and not really suited to the Postwar Boom.

    But all these smaller automakers were pushing a huge rock uphill. I think AMC worked out the best possible outcome, which really wasn't all that great.

    In the late 40s and early 50s, you could sell just about anything on wheels. People were so hungry for cars. This was good and this was bad. Good because it injected prosperity into the smaller automakers, but bad because I think it gave them a false sense of reality about their place in the auto industry of the future.

    While the Little Four or Five tinkered in their workshops, the Big Three was quietly moving a huge concrete block over their heads to flatten them with.

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  • jpfjpf Posts: 496
    I believe the last Studebakers were built in Hamilton, Ontario up until 1965 or 1966. The last that I heard about the Avanti model is it has been manufactured in Mexico since 2006. Before the Avanti was manufactured in the southern U.S.
  • uplanderguyuplanderguy Kent, OHPosts: 7,494
    Studebaker did not file bankruptcy. They merged with Worthington in 1967 and their corporate bones are part of a leasing company called Studebaker-Worthington today. They only went out of the automobile business.
  • lemkolemko Posts: 15,145
    George Reeves as Clark Kent wasn't as much of a nebbish as Christopher Reeve as Clark Kent.

    image
    Superman's car

    image
    Metropolis Police cruiser
  • uplanderguyuplanderguy Kent, OHPosts: 7,494
    edited November 2010
    Andy Granatelli was an employee of Studebaker in the early '60's. He was part of the Paxton Supercharger acquisition. He was quite friendly with Sherwood Egbert, the President of Studebaker, and spoke at the Studebaker National Museum a few years back. He's pretty memorable! He said he was looking for a house in South Bend when the shutdown was announced. He was largely responsible for the Avanti setting new land speed records at Bonneville in '63.
  • jljacjljac Posts: 649
    edited November 2010
    Both Studebaker and Packard were victims of tax policies. Packard used to have its bodies built by Briggs in the same way GM had bodies by Fisher. Packard also sold engines and frames to other companies that put bodies on them. When Walter Briggs died in 1952, the family had to sell the body business to pay the inheritance taxes and Chrysler bought up most of the body plants. http://www.coachbuilt.com/bui/b/briggs/briggs.htm

    Packard got a lease on one of the plants and decided to move final assembly over there too. That did not work well, there were numerous costs and delays and quality suffered. Bad quality for an expensive car = bad news.

    Studebaker lost a lot of money between 1954-1958. They could not apply those tax losses to automobile manufacturing when they became profitable again in 1959. To recover the tax losses, they had to diversity into other profitable businesses. As Studebaker bought other businesses, its board of directors became more diversified and the traditional automobile men became a minority. Their duty and main objective was to be certain that Studebaker was a profitable corporation, whether or was in the business of manufacturing autos. What if they could have applied the tax losses to the same auto industry where the losses were incurred? What caused the losses in the first place?

    At the time Packard merged with Studebaker, there was a debate whether Studebaker's break-even point was 165,000 cars (as Studebaker claimed) or 282,000 cars (as Packard claimed. In 1959, the auto division was profitable selling only 153,823 cars. I say the reason was because Studebaker got tough with the UAW, reduced the pay, the number of employees and the personal time.

    Nobody provides an alternative explanation for this changed situation except to blame bad management BUT when Studebaker got outside management, the first thing the new management did was get tough with the union. James Nance did that in 1954-1955 and Sherwood Egbert did it in 1961-62.

    In both cases sales increased as prices became more competitive, but the recovery was not sustainable without new models. Studebaker could not apply its tax losses to new models, so it diversified into other businesses making a bad situation worse for those who wanted Studebaker to stay in the auto business.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,902
    Am I seeing things, or does that one picture look like Clark Kent is pulling up in front of the Mayberry Sheriff's office? The Andy Griffth Show was shot on the "40 Acre Backlot" that changed hands many times over the decades and is now commercial space. Maybe Superman was shot there, as well?
  • jljacjljac Posts: 649
    My father's friend from high school bought a Nash Rambler around 1954 when it was the smaller 100' wheel base version driven by Lois Lane in the Superman TV series. Since we lived in South Bend, he was seen as something as a traitor for buying it at a time when Studebaker was in trouble, but I secretly liked it a lot and wished that Studebaker had something like it. It was the same hardtop model in the ad here http://oldcarandtruckpictures.com/AmericanMotors/AmericanMotors.html

    I thought that the full size Nash was too big and bulky and that the Metro was too small, but the small Rambler was just right and the spare tire behind the trunk was cool too. Nash quit building the small version in 1956 and 1957 but brought it back in 1958 as the Rambler American. Nobody seemed to mind the "flathead" engine because you could get the car for about $1,700. During that time, the full sized Nash slowly died out.
  • uplanderguyuplanderguy Kent, OHPosts: 7,494
    I gotta admit, Andre, that sure does look like 'the courthouse' in Mayberry!

    Now, a Nash Healey is one Nash I could enjoy owning, although IMO it shares the goofy inboard headlights of other Nashes. It's pretty cool everywhere else though.
  • Studebaker never declared bankruptcy. It simply exited the auto business, but survived as a diversified corporation. Through a series of mergers, the Studebaker name finally disappeared in 1979, but the stockholders never lost their ownership stake because of a bankruptcy.

    The company's relationship with the union was a complex one. During the tumultuous 1930s, Studebaker avoided the violence that happened at GM and Ford, thanks to a willingness to negotiate with the UAW. But after the war, Studebaker refused to take a strike to get its labor costs in line like the other companies did, and the union became increasingly militant. When those higher labor costs became a real disadvantage (after the postwar sellers' market ended about 1951), the union refused to budge until it was too late.

    The union did not kill Studebaker all by itself. But its insistence in maintaining high wages and lower productivity gave management a lot less room to maneuver when times got tough.
  • jljacjljac Posts: 649
    edited November 2010
    I agree with everything keystonecarfan said. High labor costs and low productivity were not the only reasons for Studebaker’s demise, but they were very important reasons because those costs are reflected in the price of the vehicle. I emphasized labor cost earlier in response to posts that take the position that labor costs had little or nothing to do with Studebaker’s demise.

    The public expected small cars to cost less than big cars, and that was true when applied to the small Nash Rambler. I was in error when I said that it cost $1,700 in an earlier post. . .in 1954 you could get one for $1,550. The other small cars of the 1953-1955 era when (Ford and Chevy were flooding the market) were often more expensive than the full size cars. For example , Hudson spent 12 million dollars to introduce the Hudson Jet in 1953 ( By comparison, Studebaker developed the 1959 Lark for about half that amount including the station wagon.) The Hudson Jet looked like a short and narrow Ford and only 21,143 of the 1953 model were sold and that figure dropped to 14,224 units in 1954. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hudson_Jet which also says this:

    The Jet was Hudson's response to the popular Nash Rambler, and Hudson, with its limited financial resources, chose to pursue a compact instead of refurbishing its line of full-size cars. However the Jet failed to capture buyers as the Rambler had for Nash. . . . Although the Hudson Jet well appointed, it was priced higher than base level full-sized Chevrolet, Ford, and Plymouth sedans.

    Willys had the same problem of building small cars that cost more than full-size Big Three products. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willys_Aero. Therefore, when Studebaker sales hit the skids in 1954, it’s management had good reason to believe that building smaller cars was not the way to save the company because the small cars of that era (Crosley, Hudson Jet, Willys Aero, Henry J ) had failed or were in the process of failing. Only the small Nash Rambler was an exception to that rule and it was developed before George Romney took over. Kudos to Nash.

    As Nash/AMC pushed Studebaker our of its position as the fourth largest American automaker and mounted a challenge to Plymouth as the third best selling American car, Studebaker finally realized that "bigger was not better" and turned its sedans into Larks. The change worked for a couple of years, but Studebaker had no tax incentive to put the profits into new models - it's tax incentive was to get out of the auto manufacturing business. The choice was to save the corporation or to try and save auto production.

    By 1959, Studebaker could make a profit selling 125,000+cars which it could not do when Packard bought it in 1954. Studebaker sold 133,826 of its 1955 model and had a terrible year even though it was a big improvement over the 81,930 it sold for the 1954 model year. If the reason for that changed situation was not reduced labor costs, what was the reason(s)?
  • jljacjljac Posts: 649
    Last night ABC News reported that South Korea sold 735,000 cars and light trucks in America while we were restricted to selling 6,140 cars there. http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/video/tapper-obamas-setback-economic-summit-korea-amer- ican-goods-cars-president-g20-12125993

    Here is a very informative site about US auto production. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U.S._Automobile_Production_Figures.

    Ten years ago, in 2000, Pontiac was the best selling GM division, with 573,805 cars produced. Chevrolet was second with 547,294 cars produced. GM's best selling division of 2000 is gone now. That same year, Oldsmobile produced 237,399, which was less than Studebaker produced in 1950 (320,884) and 1951 (246,195).

    Studebaker did that before it installed its conveyor system in 1954 which shipped bodies to the assembly plant and brought back body parts from the stamping plant. They were moving bodies and body parts by truck in 1950. That is why I am skeptical about claims that Studebaker needed a new factory in the 1960s when it could make a profit by selling half the number of cars it produced in 1950 with less than half the number of employees. Production facilities were way down the list of Studebaker's problems.

    Maybe this discussion group should be called US Orphan cars. That way the participation would be ever expanding in members, makes and models.
  • martianmartian Posts: 220
    I was just looking at Raymond Loewy's book of design..and his performance (designing of the Avanti) was amazing-basically, they car was designed on a shoestring, and brought from concept to final design in less than 3 months.
    Amazing design-too bad it came too late for Studebaker.
    I still want an Avanti.
  • uplanderguyuplanderguy Kent, OHPosts: 7,494
    Nice, but not perfect....for instance, the door handle guards are installed upside-down:

    http://www.rmauctions.com/CarDetails.cfm?SaleCode=MR10&CarID=r152&Currency=USD
  • jljacjljac Posts: 649
    I got my Avanti when I was 19 years old and took it with me when I was in the army at Ft. Dix, New Jersey. Sometimes when I got a three day weekend, I would drive it home to Chicago. It was a fantastic car, especially at night with all the instruments lit in red and the overhead rocker switches. It was like driving a Lear jet.
    I have an Avanti sound clip at the bottom of this page at my web site. http://stude.net/avanti.html
  • jljacjljac Posts: 649
    We have been discussing the Studebaker factory so much that I made a gif slideshow and added it to the botttom of the page here http://stude.net/rollingalong.html

    The buildings in the images are the final assembly buildings. I took the images before and during demolition, 2002-2007. I also have a sound clip where the Studebaker factory workers in 1952 sing their song, "Rolling Along for 100 Years." I think you will enjoy it.
  • jljacjljac Posts: 649
    This is what looks so cool in red lights at night.

    image
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,539
    I know of a family that wants to unload a warehouse full of Studebaker NOS, as well as used, parts. Do you know any reliable outlet that can take on a big load like this and offer fair prices? Former Studebaker dealer/hoarder who passed away. I've seen only photos of mounds of stuff---some looks promising, some just rusty old junk, a few cars in the background. LOTS of it.

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  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,539
    edited November 2010
    Here's an even nicer SC Golden Hawk for considerably less asking price.

    http://www.azcarsandtrucks.com/1957goldenhawk.html

    I'm sure you could get this beauty for $10,000 less than the RM auction, and it's a nicer car with a fairly recent restoration.

    Auction prices are often not real market prices. If you take the time to hunt, rather than sit in an auction and drink cheap wine, you're going to make yourself a much better deal. About $35,000 is market correct for a very sharp SC GH, in my opinion.

    I just saw a very decent '63 Avanti, with a re-paint in non-original color, go off for $11,000. Solid #3+ driver, outstanding interior, good fiberglass throughout, motor was typical leaker but ran well.

    Also, what's a Paxton supercharger for an Avanti worth about? Maybe $1000?? This one looks rebuilt, the later type with multiple mounting holes, not the original type that Studebaker put on it.

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  • jljacjljac Posts: 649
    I know of a family that wants to unload a warehouse full of Studebaker NOS, as well as used, parts.

    They are located near which US city and state?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,539
    Massachusetts

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  • jljacjljac Posts: 649
    I do not know any Studebaker vendors in Mass. If your friends have been selling Studebaker parts there, they must know a few. I would advise them to run an add in Turning Wheels. http://www.studebakerdriversclub.com/classifiedads.asp

    There is probably a local Chapter of the Driver's Club near them too.
    image
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,539
    Thanks for that lead!

    Oh, the family has no interest in the parts. They just had a virtual warehouse of parts dumped on them. We are talking about buildings-full, not a few parts to sell. So this is a problem for them. I saw some pix, and there are definitely stacks of NOS parts in original boxes--but also old transmissions, engines, generators--lots of tired looking stuff. I saw a few cars stashed in the background--a '55 something (couldn't see beyond the grille) and what looks to be a 4-door Lark. There may be more cars, dunno. I saw bunches of steering wheels and fenders hanging from the ceiling. Photos weren't great.

    Anyway, this is a boatload of stuff pretty much thrown into a couple of buildings. A big mess but you know, there must be treasures in there.

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  • jljacjljac Posts: 649
    edited November 2010
    I hope that now you will concede that Uplander guy and me won the argument that there are still a lot of Studebaker parts out there. :)

    I have a Studebaker Driver's Club Roster at home and will find some names and phone numbers of members/clubs/vendors in that area when I return tonight. However, you will have to contact me through my website because I am not supposed to state the names and addresses here in the public forum.

    Avanti always.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,539
    No, don't post names--good call there.

    I'd be interested in forwarding names of BIG players to the owners, --buyers who could put up thousands of bucks and buy wholesale lots (and preferably with a big truck). I don't think this is an opportunity for swap meet types.

    One problem with NOS parts supplies is that the NOS parts left over are often the ones that DIDN'T require replacement--that's why they are NOS--they are leftover stuff. Of course, that sometimes applies to those nice rare shiny metal bits, that alsos didn't break or wear out for decades.

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  • jljacjljac Posts: 649
    I'd be interested in forwarding names of BIG players to the owners

    So far as I know, there are no BIG players in Studebaker parts near Taxachusetts. They are as rare as conservative Republicans in that State. You should have your friends buy you a subscription to Turning Wheels Magazine and then contact a local drivers club chapter in that area. I suggest that you send images by E-mail of this treasure trove.

    The name of Studebaker International has been mentioned in some of uplander guy's earlier posts. Another possibility is http://www.myersstudebaker.com/ I know those people because they were located in Los Angeles, California before it got too expensive to do business here.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,539
    thanks! That's another good lead, which I have duly recorded. I would think any serious dealer in Studebaker parts would fly out to view a horde like this. I don't have a lot of details on what's available yet, so I need to gather more information to forward to these suppliers. I think I can value the cars for them without seeing them, if they send me good photos and descriptions and VIN #s. Those can just be disposed of locally I would think.

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