A Studebaker Elevator Pitch for the Unwashed

By Gene Nagle

My employer (software company) developed what we call an “elevator pitch” to explain what we do in the time it takes to go from floor to floor.  And I’ve needed the same thing about Studebakers when I’m at our local Cruisin Grand weekly car meets in Escondido for the many folks who come by with either no idea what a Studebaker is or with the wrong ideas..!

If they aren’t a “classic car person”, I start from the beginning and tell them that Studebaker was a company that made wagons starting in the 1850’s and made cars under the Studebaker name until the sixties and then a successor company made cars under the Avanti name until 2007.  That latter point gets a lot of attention and often prompts the question, “if it’s been that recent, why haven’t I heard of them?”  Then I get to explain that the Avanti was in very limited production, so even the ones less than 10 years old are collectors’ items.  Then I tell them about SDC with over 13000 members and the local club with over 50 families

On the other hand, if the person knows “just enough to be dangerous” about Studebakers, usually an owner of a classic Chevy or Ford accompanied by a smug look on their face, they want to know how it’s possible to restore something “orphaned” like a Studebaker.  In that case after a short description of SDC and how many members we have (a big surprise to most), I give them the short version of our Studebaker heritage to explain why it’s pretty easy to restore and maintain a Studebaker:

Although Studebaker stopped making cars in 1966, the auto portion of the company (granted that’s an oversimplification) was purchased by a couple of South Bend businessmen who put the Avanti back into production as Avanti Motors —  and the Avanti continued to be made by a couple of successors to their company until 2007 (usually a BIG surprise).  And the same guys also bought the Studebaker parts depot and through a succession of owners the parts depot still exists in South Bend in one of Studebaker’s previous factory buildings.   If that doesn’t sound right to you, here are the details of our “family tree” to back this up:      Studebaker’s parts operation (SASCO) — became Avanti Parts in 1971 (also owned by Newman Altman like Avanti Motors) — that was in turn sold to Dennis Lambert a former employee of Avanti Parts/Standard Surplus and operated for many years, again as SASCO.  SASCO was then bought out by Studebaker International (Ed Reynolds) in 2009.  And Studebaker International now has 2 big warehouses with lots of NOS parts plus newly manufactured parts.

SOO – next time you get that smug look from the owner of a classic Chev that implies “bet you must have a lot harder time with parts than I do…”  giving him or her a bit of Studebaker history and (if interested) our recent “family tree” will probably be a big surprise!