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Stu Chapman
03-16-2018, 11:49 PM
It's March 17th 2018, and 52 years ago today the last Studebaker rolled off the Hamilton, Ontario line. It was filmed and recorded by CHCH-TV news reporter Jim Bay, who had this to say on the occasion.

"Studebaker is no longer in the business of manufacturing automobiles. The last Studebaker rolled off the assembly line in Hamilton this morning. The time was 8 o'clock, on the day that all Irishmen remember, March 17th, and the day that few employees of the sprawling Hamilton plant will forget. This year alone, the company turned out more than 8,000 units for the domestic and export markets. The end of production comes exactly 108 years after the first vehicle, a Conestoga wagon, was turned out by Studebaker in 1858. At the same time car production ground to a halt today, Studebaker gave assurances that parts production and an international network of service centers would continue to look after Studebaker owners in the years to come. This is Jim Bay, Channel 11 News."

Determination had already been made that the last Studebaker would be preserved and given to the City of South Bend, along with the company's historical collection. Unfortunately, no other units were kept for clean-up work following the close, and this vehicle ended up being considerably used for the next year or so; in fact 18,000 miles worth of use. Not really knowing what to do with this car, South Bend put it in storage. When Century Center opened in South Bend in 1977 it was hoped that car would be included in the Studebaker historical display. But it didn't happen.

Fast forward to the 80s, when SDC Ontario Chapter member Denton Wright learned that the last Studebaker was in storage in the basement of Gates Chevrolet in South Bend. So Denton and I did a personal inspection and found to our dismay that the years had taken a serious toll. In fact, sunlight streaming in from a basement window had virtually destroyed the upholstery.

Enter the late Phil Brown from the Michiana Chapter, who approached me to determine the likelihood of raising sufficient money to preserve this car. We immediately went to work and in a short time were able to tap the generosity of many SDC members for the funding. Phil Brown, with the help of Max Gretencord, put together a team of members in South Bend and were able to return this iconic Studebaker to its original condition when it rolled off the Hamilton assembly line in 1966.

As SDC members are aware, the last Studebaker is displayed for posterity in the Studebaker National Museum, and its upkeep is proudly sponsored by the Hamilton Chapter of SDC. An accompanying plaque recognizes those who provided the financial support for its preservation.

Stu Chapman

GrumpyOne
03-17-2018, 04:47 AM
I clearly remember this day back in 1966 as I heard the news on the radio while driving my Powerhawk from Fort McNair in Washington, DC to Fort Myers in Arlington, VA prior to my separation from the Army a few days later. It was an ordinary day to me as it was prior to my becoming addicted to the Studebaker brand but the seeds for such were planted several weeks prior when I purchased the car from my neighbor back in RI for a measly $300 for transportation in the ensuing transition to civilian life which would begin in the DC area for the remainder of 1966.

Following separation, I took a position with the prime contractor for NASA's NIMBUS weather satellite program at the Goddard Space Flight Center in nearby suburban Maryland. Within that time period, I would replace the tires and install seat belts. Also during this time period, I would find notes under the windshield wipers asking if the car was available for purchase. I have to admit, that the old Hawk was growing on me!

For the years immediately following the purchase of this car, it would remain an "outside" vehicle in that it was not garaged. Finally in 1975, I found a garage in RI to house it and my spare parts collection. I ended up renting three stalls of which one was for the Power Hawk, a 1963 Avant R-1 and the parts stash. The cars would remain in RI while I worked several contracts abroad. Later in the early 1990's, I moved to Texas and the cars followed me. I sold the Avanti in 1993 but the hawk remained.

Now I'm down to a single storage unit in Texas until it is sold. Soon it will be time for it to go to another owner having just over 90K on the odometer. It's a survivor and has been a great ride!

Greenstude
03-17-2018, 07:32 AM
Thank you, Stu for your memories. It must have been an emotional day for you, not just seeing the end of Studebaker vehicle production, but also the impact on your personal employment. Bad enough to see your co-workers losing their jobs, but when it's your own pay cheque ....

tsenecal
03-17-2018, 10:00 AM
I want to say Thanks, also. The details are interesting, especially the news broadcast. In 1992, I was working at an underground mine in Montana. We all went into the mine in the morning and put in our day, drilling, mucking, and shooting new rounds. When we came out that afternoon to clean up, the mine manager was waiting at the door, and informed us all that we were having a meeting. We went into the dry house, and he told us " this is your last shift here, the mine is no longer in operation". It had been running for almost 60 years, and it was quite a blow, for all of the employees, and their families. It only employed around 200 people, so it was a much smaller scale than South Bend, or Hamilton, but I certainly know how those families and employees felt that day.

2R5
03-17-2018, 11:45 AM
This photo was taken the shift before by a fellow employee, I was fortunate enough to buy this original photo from him and get to listen to his story’s . After leaving Studebaker he became a professional photographer 71051

Jeff T.
03-17-2018, 01:07 PM
I looked up what day March 17, 1966 was, it was a Thursday.

While I am within a few years of retirement now, on Thursday March 17, 1966 I was in the later months of kindergarten. I truly have no memories of Studebaker shutting down. At the time I was more concerned with my father's efforts in finding more track connectors for my American flyer train set, that's what I remember. AC Gilbert collapsed around the same time as Studebaker.

Jeff T.

rockne10
03-17-2018, 01:57 PM
Question for Stu, who would probably know better than anyone; was that the last car produced? Or the last Studebaker produced? I've heard there were actually a few trucks that rolled off the line later that week, or next. :o

Stu Chapman
03-17-2018, 02:49 PM
Question for Stu, who would probably know better than anyone; was that the last car produced? Or the last Studebaker produced? I've heard there were actually a few trucks that rolled off the line later that week, or next. :o

It was the last Studebaker. We hadn't produced trucks in Hamilton for the last few years.

Stu Chapman

Commander Eddie
03-17-2018, 02:59 PM
I was in high school. I drove a beautiful 1955 Commander that my dad had fixed up. And yet, the news that Studebaker had shut down automobile production went by like a whisper. We were Studebaker people but dad did not say a word that day. I was unaware it had even happened until almost a year later when I noticed that Frost and French wasn't selling new Studebaker's anymore. I asked dad what happened. He broke the news to me. I was shocked. No more new Studebakers. What on earth would I drive in the future? I was depressed for a week. I have gotten over it now, but I still drive a Studebaker (two in fact).

avanti-hawk
03-17-2018, 03:39 PM
I was 11 years and 1 week old that day. I remember the dealer ads offering deep discounts in the newspaper and my folks discussing pro's and con's of buying a Studebaker. Mom really liked the Wagonaire with the sliding roof, but they bought a Ford Custom 500 sedan instead.

6hk71400
03-17-2018, 04:27 PM
I have a question for Mr. Chapman: How did the last Studebaker end up in the Gates Chevrolet dealership in South Bend? I remember when South Bend production shut down, Chuck Naugle relayed the information that the City of South Bend had "dumped" all the Studebaker police cars and other city vehicles within six months. He was a bit miffed about that. Phoenix still had some 1961 Larks running around as city use cars as late as 1971.

Bob Miles
Different by Design, Different by Delight!

Stu Chapman
03-17-2018, 05:55 PM
I have a question for Mr. Chapman: How did the last Studebaker end up in the Gates Chevrolet dealership in South Bend? I remember when South Bend production shut down, Chuck Naugle relayed the information that the City of South Bend had "dumped" all the Studebaker police cars and other city vehicles within six months. He was a bit miffed about that. Phoenix still had some 1961 Larks running around as city use cars as late as 1971.

Bob Miles
Different by Design, Different by Delight!

Sorry Bob, but I have no idea. It's possible that Max Gretencord might know, or maybe Andy Beckman.

Stu Chapman

raprice
03-17-2018, 06:50 PM
Stu, thanks for the true story of the last Studebaker that came off the line in Hamilton. I had no idea that it was as complicated as it was. To answer the person who thought that Studebaker was still building trucks, the truck line closed down when South Bend closed down, along with Avantis and Hawks.
Rog

billslark
03-17-2018, 08:35 PM
Stu, speaking of trucks, were there ever any Champ pickups produced in the Hamilton plant?



Bill

Kato
03-17-2018, 08:58 PM
I looked up what day March 17, 1966 was, it was a Thursday.

While I am within a few years of retirement now, on Thursday March 17, 1966 I was in the later months of kindergarten. I truly have no memories of Studebaker shutting down. At the time I was more concerned with my father's efforts in finding more track connectors for my American flyer train set, that's what I remember. AC Gilbert collapsed around the same time as Studebaker.

Jeff T.

We are the same age as I was in kindergarten as well when Studebaker closed in Hamilton. And, I lived just east of there in the Niagara Peninsula. So while I don't remember the plant closing I do remember people talking of the Studebaker plant years later. I had neighbours who worked at McKinnnons in St. Catharines who, as we all know, made the engines for the Hamilton built cars once Studebaker engines were used up.

Thanks Stu for sharing your memories of that day.

Kevin

Stu Chapman
03-17-2018, 09:35 PM
Stu, speaking of trucks, were there ever any Champ pickups produced in the Hamilton plant?



Bill

IIRC we built 1/2 ton pickups only for about a half dozen years in the early fifties.

Stu Chapman

JRoberts
03-17-2018, 10:35 PM
I was in high school at the time. I remember my Dad telling me that my uncle had been informed about the end of Studebaker production while at work. He went down to Morton Motors in Omaha and bought a new laurentine green '65 Cruiser. He figured he would get a good deal and that with the GM engine he would be able to get parts even with Studebaker. That car is now mine.

BobPalma
03-18-2018, 06:25 AM
I was in high school at the time. I remember my Dad telling me that my uncle had been informed about the end of Studebaker production while at work. He went down to Morton Motors in Omaha and bought a new laurentine green '65 Cruiser. He figured he would get a good deal and that with the GM engine he would be able to get parts even with Studebaker. That car is now mine.

:!: 'Way cool, Joe. I wasn't aware of your Cruiser's family provenance.

As years go by, fewer and fewer Studes remain in their original families. Take good care of it. :!: :cool: BP

Skip Lackie
03-18-2018, 08:01 AM
I have a question for Mr. Chapman: How did the last Studebaker end up in the Gates Chevrolet dealership in South Bend?


Bob Miles
Different by Design, Different by Delight!

The last Studebaker was added to the company's historical vehicle collection. By the early 1970s, the company had pretty much vacated all their real estate in South Bend, so it donated all of the vehicles in their historical collection to the city. I doubt that the city was thrilled with the gift. At some point, the city had to take physical custody of the vehicles, but only had space for the most important items, like the Lincoln carriage. Gates Chevrolet offered their basement as temporary storage -- a situation that lasted much longer than it should have. For a variety of reasons, including bitterness over the plant's closing, the city was not trying real hard to find suitable storage. A couple of vehicles were displayed at the Century Center, but the rest slumbered away in Gates' basement.

After a few years, SDC started to raise money for a museum and also started pressuring the city to move the vehicles to some place where they would stop deteriorating and maybe even be viewed. Our choice was the Freeman-Spicer dealership, which had a good Studebaker connection. While I was the SDC VP in the early 1980s, I met with SB mayor Roger Parent a couple of times to both pressure him and offer our help in establishing a permanent home for the vehicles. The club raised a fair amount of money for that specific purpose. I also penned a few editorials that got published in the SB Tribune that documented the contributions that our members made to the SB economy through our meets and other visits.

Eventually, the city saw the opportunities that a museum presented. I believe the city is still the legal owner of the original corporation historical collection, while the museum itself owns the rest (except those on loan).

56H-Y6
03-18-2018, 08:32 AM
Hi Stu

We're fortunate to have you as primary source documenting the events of those unfortunate years, thank you. I've wondered whether any bodies in primer were left over when production ceased. Since the shutdown announcement weeks earlier, one would surmise planning had scheduled just enough bodies, that wasn't always the case in these situation.

My personal recollections are as a thirteen year old car enthusiast, the end of production seemed anticlimactic. Ever since South Bend shutdown; truck, Hawk and Avanti ended, it was obvious management was seriously retrenching. The replacement of Studebaker-built engines with the McKinnon unit, as good as they were, affectively removed one of the primary reasons considered key for choosing a certain car over others. As more than one observed "If they can't make their own engines, what can they make?" Buyers then considered whether the company manufactured its own engine an indication if they would have longevity in the business. This attitude had developed after seeing other independent carmakers over the prior decade end up with another makers engine and even assembly before disappearing. It was the "canary in the coalmine" indicator whether to make a purchase or not. Unfortunate they couldn't have kept the South Bend engine building operation going to supply Hamilton assembly, it might have made a difference.

Steve

avanti-hawk
03-18-2018, 09:20 AM
Does anyone know what happened to the 2nd last Studebaker built? What color, model, etc?

studegary
03-18-2018, 10:01 AM
Skip - Thanks again for your efforts on this (saving the collection/museum). As one that was active in SDC at that time, I know what a drawn out and hard fought affair that was. You were VP 1982-85 and Stu was Pres. 1984-86.

6hk71400
03-18-2018, 04:21 PM
Skip, Thanks for the information. Write it down so future SDC Members can know what the club has done in the past and what new members need to know to continue the flame.

As far as the next to last Studebaker made, I believe it is the olive green Wagonaire that is in the National Auto Museum in Reno Nevada. Formerly Harrah's, I saw the car both at Harrah's and the National Auto Museum. It is a 230 six with Automatic.

Bob Miles
Different by Design, Different by Delight!

8E45E
03-18-2018, 05:38 PM
Does anyone know what happened to the 2nd last Studebaker built? What color, model, etc?

http://forum.studebakerdriversclub.com/showthread.php?41166-Next-To-Last-Studebaker&highlight=harrahs

Craig

HOXXOH
03-18-2018, 05:53 PM
It's March 17th 2018, and 52 years ago today the last Studebaker rolled off the Hamilton, Ontario line.

Enter the late Phil Brown from the Michiana Chapter, who approached me to determine the likelihood of raising sufficient money to preserve this car. We immediately went to work and in a short time were able to tap the generosity of many SDC members for the funding. Phil Brown, with the help of Max Gretencord, put together a team of members in South Bend and were able to return this iconic Studebaker to its original condition when it rolled off the Hamilton assembly line in 1966.

As SDC members are aware, the last Studebaker is displayed for posterity in the Studebaker National Museum, and its upkeep is proudly sponsored by the Hamilton Chapter of SDC. An accompanying plaque recognizes those who provided the financial support for its preservation.

Stu Chapman

Back sometime in the '70's, Elmer Classen, a member of our local chapter in Phoenix purchased a '66 that had some strange items. It was produced in the last few days before the plant closed according to the serial number. The above comment about returning the last car to it's original condition has me wondering if it also had strange items or were standard correct pieces saved in preparation to be used on the very last car. Elmer's '66 Daytona was painted brown with a white vinyl top, but the dash was blue and it had a non-matching steering wheel that might have been green, since it certainly didn't match anything else on the interior. The plastic markers for the headlights/parking lights/fan/wipers switches were the same two (I don't remember which) on the left of the steering wheel as on the right side. There were a couple other oddities that I don't remember the specifics about, but it was clear evidence that the factory had run out of matching parts and workers were installing whatever was left in the parts bin. I also owned a '66 Daytona Sport at the time and we laughed about the differences, since mine had no oddities.

T-CAB
03-18-2018, 07:45 PM
Thanks for the info Stu:

One question where did the Hamilton plant get all the sheet metal, such as fenders, doors etc. Or were most just left over parts from 1964. I notice that the 66 rear body panels had thin metal than the 64 panel on my car, so it was stamped later.

T-Cab
Manitoba

avanti-hawk
03-18-2018, 08:49 PM
Thanks for the info! So during the last week of production how many cars were built? were they just slapped together by the line men with whatever parts were available?
I've read about the animosity in South Bend from employees, but never much about Hamilton. We Canadian's are always know as a polite bunch.........., but I can't imagine much goodwill from the workers in March 66!!

Stu Chapman
03-19-2018, 07:33 AM
Thanks for the info Stu:

One question where did the Hamilton plant get all the sheet metal, such as fenders, doors etc. Or were most just left over parts from 1964. I notice that the 66 rear body panels had thin metal than the 64 panel on my car, so it was stamped later.

T-Cab
Manitoba

You're addressing production details that frankly I was never close to. However, I can tell you that much of our components were sourced in Ontario. The different gauge on the body panels you refer to is a new one for me.

Stu Chapman

Stu Chapman
03-19-2018, 07:38 AM
Thanks for the info! So during the last week of production how many cars were built? were they just slapped together by the line men with whatever parts were available?
I've read about the animosity in South Bend from employees, but never much about Hamilton. We Canadian's are always know as a polite bunch.........., but I can't imagine much goodwill from the workers in March 66!!

I don't have the production information you asked about in my memorabilia. However, the Museum would be able to tell you from the build tickets in the Archives. I'm sure there was some animosity among the staff but in many cases the closing had been anticipated by some well before the actual announcement. All cars built in Hamilton were scheduled and framed in a well organized manner; they were not just slapped together.

Stu Chapman

Skip Lackie
03-19-2018, 08:11 AM
Skip - Thanks again for your efforts on this (saving the collection/museum). As one that was active in SDC at that time, I know what a drawn out and hard fought affair that was. You were VP 1982-85 and Stu was Pres. 1984-86.

SDC's efforts were only one component of a variety of pressures being applied to the city to do right by the Studebaker collection. The economic downturn that was triggered by the plant closure meant that the city didn't have a lot of money to play with on non-necessities. But many Stude alumni still lived in the area and were interested in the establishment of a museum. Phil Brown was one of those who rose to local prominence fighting for the collection. And Gust Saros, who was the director of the Century Center and rubbed shoulders with the city's movers and shakers, was a strong spokesman for saving the vehicles. In the end, I think it was embarrassment, more than anything else, over the treatment of this valuable piece of local heritage that moved the city administration off dead center.

I had been on the board for a couple of years and got elected VP when George Krem was president. It was George who appointed me as point person for dealing with the city over the disposition of the vehicle collection. I ran against Stu Chapman for president in 1984, but he beat me. He and I agreed that there would be some value in me hanging around as VP for one more year.

Stu Chapman
03-19-2018, 11:05 AM
SDC's efforts were only one component of a variety of pressures being applied to the city to do right by the Studebaker collection. The economic downturn that was triggered by the plant closure meant that the city didn't have a lot of money to play with on non-necessities. But many Stude alumni still lived in the area and were interested in the establishment of a museum. Phil Brown was one of those who rose to local prominence fighting for the collection. And Gust Saros, who was the director of the Century Center and rubbed shoulders with the city's movers and shakers, was a strong spokesman for saving the vehicles. In the end, I think it was embarrassment, more than anything else, over the treatment of this valuable piece of local heritage that moved the city administration off dead center.

I had been on the board for a couple of years and got elected VP when George Krem was president. It was George who appointed me as point person for dealing with the city over the disposition of the vehicle collection. I ran against Stu Chapman for president in 1984, but he beat me. He and I agreed that there would be some value in me hanging around as VP for one more year.

And you were a great value to SDC and to me Skip. I will always remember your support.

Stu Chapman

Skip Lackie
03-19-2018, 04:06 PM
And you were a great value to SDC and to me Skip. I will always remember your support.

Stu Chapman

Thanks Stu. In those pre-Internet days, my phone bill always showed a lot of calls to area code 416.

avanti-hawk
03-19-2018, 06:00 PM
I don't have the production information you asked about in my memorabilia. However, the Museum would be able to tell you from the build tickets in the Archives. I'm sure there was some animosity among the staff but in many cases the closing had been anticipated by some well before the actual announcement. All cars built in Hamilton were scheduled and framed in a well organized manner; they were not just slapped together.

Stu Chapman
Thanks Stu.
I have known a number of auto plant workers since I grew up in Woodstock and area. We had a lot of plants around here, and when labor unrest or rumors of closing, layoffs, or production shifts there was a lot of problems on the lines. Everything from sabotage to half done bolting, missing parts that found there way into lunch pails, all done without remorse by highly paid workers.
Guy's that worked at the Ford plant always bragged about never buying a Ford because they did such a crap job of building them.
Six months later or next strike deadline you would hear the same thing from the GM guys.