Studebaker Bros. Mfg. Co. - 1852-1911 - Studebaker Corp. - 1911-1963 - South Bend & Fort Wayne, Indiana & Chicago, Illinois


The H & C Studebaker blacksmith shop opened in 1852 at the corner of Michigan and Jefferson Streets in what is now the heart of downtown South Bend, Indiana.  Henry and Clement Studebaker's blacksmith shop would turn into the Studebaker Manufacturing Company in 1868, and would eventually become the largest wagon manufacturer in the world.  Studebaker would also be the only manufacturer to successfully switch from horse-drawn to gasoline powered vehicles.

John Mohler Studebaker returned from California in 1858 where he made wheelbarrows for gold miners, and invested his earnings in the business.  At this time, the brothers were filling wagon orders for the U.S. Army, and would continue to do so throughout the Civil War.  By 1887, sales would eclipse two million dollars, and by 1885, production would top 75,000.

Studebaker built a number of automobile bodies for a few Indiana, Illinois and Ohio-based electric car manufacturers prior to the turn of the century as well as a series of taxi-cab bodies for the New York Electric Vehicle Co. Known users of Studebaker-built bodies were the Detroit Electric, EMF, Flanders and Flanders Electric. Most if not all of their early automobile bodies were built in their Chicago, Illinois plant at 410 South Michigan Ave.  This arrangement continued through the early 1900s, prompting Studebaker to start offering an electric car of their starting in 1902.

Cleveland Ohio's Garford Motor Co. produced all of the chassis for the Studebaker electrics and soon entered into an agreement to supply Studebaker with gasoline-powered chassis to be fitted with Studebaker bodies. The products of the joint venture were marketed as Studebaker-Garfords starting in 1904. By 1907, Garford was having trouble meeting demand so in 1908 Studebaker took over the small Ohio firm. At the same time Studebaker had made an agreement to sell the new EMF (Everitt-Metzger-Flanders) car through their extensive dealer network. Quality control problems with the EMF eventually resulted in another Studebaker acquisition in December of 1910. By the end of 1911 all EMF's were now sold and badged as Studebakers.

(Coincidentally, Byron "Barney" Everitt - The Everitt of EMF - and his brother were also in the carriage and body-building business. See Everitt Brothers Co. for more information)

The success of their automobile business eventually led Studebaker to abandon their wagon-building activities and that part of the business saw sold to Louisville, Kentucky's Kentucky Wagon Mfg Co. in 1920.(See Kentucky Wagon Mfg Co. for more information) 

Studebaker built no more automotive bodies for other firms, but decided to market a professional car starting in the mid-twenties.

Studebaker entered the professional car field in 1925 with a line of coaches built by Lima, Ohio's Superior Body Company. Mounted on an incredibly long 158" Studebaker Big Six chassis equipped with 4-wheel hydraulic brakes and a powerful 75hp motor, these sturdy coaches sold for a hefty $3500 through Studebaker's large network of automobile dealerships. 

In addition to their long-wheelbase (158") coaches, Studebaker also built a 7-passenger combination pallbearers car and ambulance on their 127" Big Six chassis which included removable seats and a Bomgardner gurney. 1926 and 1927 model long-wheelbase coaches were available as fashionable leather-back funeral cars or as equally attractive two-tone combination cars and ambulances.  

For 1927 the Arlington, a shorter wheelbase (146") and cheaper ($3000) series of coaches, became available, although Studebaker's very long (158") $3500 DeLuxe line introduced in 1925 still remained popular.  The combination pallbearers sedan-ambulance had a removable center post between the passenger side doors that allowed gurneys easy access when the passenger seats were removed.

Studebaker continue their arrangement with Superior to supply bodies for the Studebaker professional car line which was priced much lower in 1928 and 1929. The 158" wheelbase Deluxe Series was priced just under $3000 while the new swept-fender Arlington/Bellvue Series were priced under $2500 and featured a 75hp 146" wheelbase Studebaker chassis.

A big selling point of Studebaker and Superior-Studebaker was that they could be serviced at any of the 2000+ Studebaker Erskine dealers around the country.

The 1930 Studebaker Deluxe coaches included a slightly reduced wheelbase (156"), wire wheels and a new 115hp engine.

Studebaker had acquired Pierce-Arrow in 1928 and a striking Pierce-Superior funeral coach was presented at the 1931 National Funeral Directors Convention. It included a free-wheeling 4-speed synchromesh transmission, hydraulic ride control, 4-wheel hydraulic brakes, and a 125hp engine all riding on a wheelbase of 160". The interior was filled with solid walnut fixtures and the seats and upholstery were finished in luxurious mohair. Pierce-Superior coaches could be outfitted as an ambulance or a funeral car and were also available as town cars. 

1931 and 1932 Superior-Studebakers were priced between $2100 and $2700 and featured oval headlights. Lowered-priced coaches included an 80hp straight-six on a 146" chassis while a 101hp straight-eight on a 158" chassis powered the rest. Well-equipped for the price, they had a good reputation and were best-sellers in the medium-price field.

1933 Studebaker coaches included their new front end which encased the radiator inside streamlined bodywork and and distinctive V-shaped grill bumper. The wheelbase of their chassis was reduced by 4" to 154" and it fenders were partially skirted. Studebaker went into receivership in 1933, sold Pierce-Arrow to some Buffalo investors, and under the skillful management of the White Motor Co. emerged as a viable firm sporting round headlamps within the year. 

The re-designed 1934 Studebakers featured those small bullet-shaped headlights mounted to the sides of their new narrow and sharply raked grill. President based coaches were powered by a 103hp straight-8 and included dual sidemounts fully-enclosed in body-colored cellulose housings. The Superior-supplied bodies were redesigned this year and featured a high arched-roof, tall windows and extra-wide side entrances that could accommodate any casket or gurney with ease. Less-expensive coaches were built on the all-new Dictator chassis that was powered by a 88hp straight-6 and included new skirted front and rear fenders surrounding smaller 5 1/2" x 17" tires.

Superior continued to furnish bodies for Studebaker's popular line of professional cars through 1936. The streamlined styling introduced in 1934 continued and all coaches were available in either rear-loading or side-servicing versions that used Superior's "Sidroll" loading system that was designed and patented by Superior employee Sydney Paul  The Sidroll system featured built-in rollers heavy-duty rollers that eliminated the need for a casket table. Side-loading coaches were easily distinguishable by their extra-wide 54" side doors that were noticeably narrower on rear-loading versions. Studebaker's reciprocal arrangement with Superior came to an end in 1937 and the Bender Body Company of Elyria, Ohio (located near Cleveland) became Studebaker's professional car body supplier starting with the 1938 model year.

Ambulance air conditioning was new in 1938 and Studebaker offered their customers Evanair Conditioned coaches. The final Studebaker-Bender professional cars appeared in 1940.

2004 Mark Theobald -


Superior and Studebaker. This is more in regards to SidRoll(sp) than anything else. This type of side loading system was also offered by other builders, and I've seen photos of a late '30's Meteor with it,
even though the side doors were much smaller on other makes of coach. Superior also offered a conventional side loading system using a Heise patent table, but I'm not sure off hand whether it was licensed through Henney or Eureka. The real advantage in side loading for those Superiors was the extremely short front doors combined with the oversized rear side doors, which allowed a 3 way with a full, fixed partition. This eliminated the need to open the front door to load or unload the coach from the side. Bender also carried on with the design of the oversized rear side doors on its cars after taking over
production of Studebaker coaches in 1938. BDW


    For more information please read:

John Bridges - Bob Bourke Designs for Studebaker (Turring Wheels Vol. 16 No. 2 Feb 1984)

Donald Critchlow - Studebaker: The Life and Death of an American Corporation

William A. Cannon - Studebaker: The Complete Story

James H. Moloney - Studebaker Cars

Thomas E Bonsall - Studebaker: More Than They Promised

Beatty, Furlong, and Bennington - Less than They Promised

Howard L. Applegate - Studebaker 1933 Through 1942: Photo Archive

Howard L. Applegate - Studebaker 1946 Through 1958: Photo Archive

Richard M. Langworth - Studebaker 1946-1966: The Classic Postwar Years

The Professional Car (Quarterly Journal of the Professional Car Society)

Gregg D. Merksamer - Professional Cars: Ambulances, Funeral Cars and Flower Cars

Thomas A. McPherson - American Funeral Cars & Ambulances Since 1900

Carriage Museum of America - Horse-Drawn Funeral Vehicles: 19th Century Funerals

Carriage Museum of America -  Horse Drawn - Military, Civilian, Veterinary - Ambulances

Gunter-Michael Koch - Bestattungswagen im Wandel der Zeit

Walt McCall & Tom McPherson - Classic American Ambulances 1900-1979: Photo Archive

Walt McCall & Tom McPherson - Classic American Funeral Vehicles 1900-1980 Photo Archive

Walter M. P. McCall - The American Ambulance 1900-2002

Walter M.P. McCall - American Funeral Vehicles 1883-2003

Michael L. Bromley & Tom Mazza - Stretching It: The Story of the Limousine

Richard J. Conjalka - Classic American Limousines: 1955 Through 2000 Photo Archive

Richard J. Conjalka - Stretch Limousines 1928-2001 Photo Archive

Thomas A. McPherson - Eureka: The Eureka Company: a complete history

Thomas A. McPherson - Superior: The complete history

Thomas A. McPherson - Flxible: The Complete History

Thomas A. McPherson - Miller-Meteor: The Complete History

Robert R. Ebert  - Flxible: A History of the Bus and the Company

Hearses - Automobile Quarterly Vol 36 No 3

Beverly Rae Kimes - The Classic Car

Beverly Rae Kimes - The Classic Era

Beverly Rae Kimes - Packard: A History of the Motorcar and Company

Beverly Rae Kimes & Henry Austin Clark Jr. - Standard Catalog of American Cars 1805-1942

Richard Burns Carson - The Olympian Cars

Raymond A. Katzell - The Splendid Stutz

Marc Ralston - Pierce Arrow

Brooks T. Brierley - There Is No Mistaking a Pierce Arrow

Brooks T. Brierley - Auburn, Reo, Franklin and Pierce-Arrow Versus Cadillac, Chrysler, Lincoln and Packard

Brooks T. Brierley - Magic Motors 1930

Nick Georgano - The Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile: Coachbuilding

John Gunnell - Standard Catalog of American Cars, 1946-1975

James M. Flammang & Ron Kowalke - Standard Catalog of American Cars, 1976-1999

Daniel D. Hutchins - Wheels Across America: Carriage Art & Craftsmanship

Marian Suman-Hreblay - Dictionary of World Coachbuilders and Car Stylists

Michael Lamm and Dave Holls - A Century of Automotive Style: 100 Years of American Car Design

Thomas E. Bonsall - The Lincoln Motorcar: Sixty Years of Excellence

Fred Roe - Duesenberg: The Pursuit of Perfection

Arthur W. Soutter - The American Rolls-Royce

John Webb De Campi - Rolls-Royce in America

Hugo Pfau - The Custom Body Era

Hugo Pfau - The Coachbult Packard

Griffith Borgeson - Cord: His Empire His Motor Cars

Don Butler - Auburn Cord Duesenberg

George H. Dammann - 90 Years of Ford

George H. Dammann & James K. Wagner - The Cars of Lincoln-Mercury

Thomas A. MacPherson - The Dodge Story

F. Donald Butler - Plymouth-Desoto Story

Fred Crismon - International Trucks

George H. Dammann - Seventy Years of Chrysler

Walter M.P. McCall - 80 Years of Cadillac LaSalle

Maurice D. Hendry - Cadillac, Standard of the World: The complete seventy-year history

George H. Dammann & James A. Wren - Packard

Dennis Casteele - The Cars of Oldsmobile

Terry B. Dunham & Lawrence R. Gustin - Buick: A Complete History

George H. Dammann - Seventy Years of Buick

George H. Dammann - 75 Years of Chevrolet

John Gunnell - Seventy-Five Years of Pontiac-Oakland


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