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End of an era for one company in the Chippewa Plant

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  • End of an era for one company in the Chippewa Plant

    This is sort of related to Studebaker directly, sort of not. Close enough. This thread has nothing to do with Studebaker International, we are still operating out of Studebaker's Chippewa Ave. plant and have no intention of moving anytime soon.
    I've always mentioned when I lead a tour of SI that the Chippewa Plant has always been home to two companies: Studebaker and AM General. AM General formed when Studebaker closed in South Bend and American Motors merged with Kaiser Jeep. AM General purchased the Chippewa Plant in 1964 and Plant 8 in late 1972. Plant 8 was originally Studebaker's parts and service headquarters but was used by AM General to produce postal jeeps until the late '80s or early '90s, I don't remember exactly when that plant closed. The Chippewa Plant was the "big truck" plant where M35-A2 and later M35-A3 deuce and a half military trucks were built. The last M35-A3 rolled off the line in 1991. Ever since then, nothing of any magnitude has been manufactured in the Chippewa Plant. The production equipment was removed, but AM General didn't move out. Instead the plant became to them what Plant 8 was to Studebaker: a parts warehouse. Since the '90s if the military broke a part on a deuce or a Humvee, the replacement part would be shipped from the Chippewa Plant. Well, I just heard the other day that at the end of this year AM General will be completely moved out of the plant and I believe all of their parts and service will be based out of their Mishawaka plant. As I said, there are two companies that really used the Chippewa Plant. Studebaker and AM General (and Curtiss-Wright for a time, but Studebaker still had a presence even when CW was building engines post WWII). Every year AM General has been gradually down sizing and I've always wondered if something was up. I really hope AM General can hang on and keep getting military or some kind of production contracts. They have been in the news lately that production has been down and recently lost a military contract to Oshkosh. I know that we accept late model Avantis as being the closest thing anybody can buy as far as a "new Studebaker", but AM General is sort of our other cousin in producing things with wheels. Studebaker produced M35-A1 trucks, AM made M35-A2 trucks which the only difference between the two are the engine. At least SI is still alive and doing well in the ol' plant.
    Chris Dresbach

  • #2
    I really hate hearing these stories of long time AMERICAN CO'S. downsizing and closing, but unfortunately it is a current reality and a sign that the future will be very little different.

    I hope none of you take this where I have not gone, as it goes without saying, we all know that dirty word: politics are involved.
    StudeRich
    Second Generation Stude Driver,
    Proud '54 Starliner Owner

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    • #3
      GREED! The concept that the stockholders are more important than the employees has become, unfortunatly, true.

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      • #4
        Not really true Tom. The stockholders are the owners of the company that the employees work for & the ones that have put up the money for the company. Like any business they expect to have a return on their investment otherwise it is called welfare.
        59 Lark wagon, now V-8, H.D. auto!
        60 Lark convertible V-8 auto
        61 Champ 1/2 ton 4 speed
        62 Champ 3/4 ton 5 speed o/drive
        62 Champ 3/4 ton auto
        62 Daytona convertible V-8 4 speed & 62 Cruiser, auto.
        63 G.T. Hawk R-2,4 speed
        63 Avanti (2) R-1 auto
        64 Zip Van
        66 Daytona Sport Sedan(327)V-8 4 speed
        66 Cruiser V-8 auto

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        • #5
          Here in Hamilton Ontario the same is true;On Burlington St. alone P&G,Int.Harvestor,Firestone & Stelco(13K employees to 1500) + Studebaker all gone,what was

          once a bustling area now is like a road in the Sahara desert vacant lots empty parking lots,litter etc.Where & when will it end ?Who knows

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          • #6
            One of the reasons that military items and their companies are downsizing it the dirty word "sequestration." I'm sure that there are other reasons too.
            Rog
            '59 Lark VI Regal Hardtop
            Smithtown,NY
            Recording Secretary, Long Island Studebaker Club

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            • #7
              Originally posted by raprice View Post
              One of the reasons that military items and their companies are downsizing it the dirty word "sequestration." I'm sure that there are other reasons too.
              Rog
              Unfortunately, "sequestration" is a PC correct straw man. Sequestration only limited the rate of expenditure growth while reducing nothing. Every department that points a finger at sequestration actually had an increase in budgeted funds but elected to use the funds elsewhere. The culprit lies in a redirection of federal emphasis to visible, vote buying ,soft and fuzzy's and expanding regulatory salaries thereby taking funds away from military equipment expenditures that produce hard assets.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Chris_Dresbach View Post
                This is sort of related to Studebaker directly, sort of not. Close enough. This thread has nothing to do with Studebaker International, we are still operating out of Studebaker's Chippewa Ave. plant and have no intention of moving anytime soon.
                I've always mentioned when I lead a tour of SI that the Chippewa Plant has always been home to two companies: Studebaker and AM General. AM General formed when Studebaker closed in South Bend and American Motors merged with Kaiser Jeep. AM General purchased the Chippewa Plant in 1964 and Plant 8 in late 1972. Plant 8 was originally Studebaker's parts and service headquarters but was used by AM General to produce postal jeeps until the late '80s or early '90s, I don't remember exactly when that plant closed. The Chippewa Plant was the "big truck" plant where M35-A2 and later M35-A3 deuce and a half military trucks were built. The last M35-A3 rolled off the line in 1991. Ever since then, nothing of any magnitude has been manufactured in the Chippewa Plant. The production equipment was removed, but AM General didn't move out. Instead the plant became to them what Plant 8 was to Studebaker: a parts warehouse. Since the '90s if the military broke a part on a deuce or a Humvee, the replacement part would be shipped from the Chippewa Plant. Well, I just heard the other day that at the end of this year AM General will be completely moved out of the plant and I believe all of their parts and service will be based out of their Mishawaka plant. As I said, there are two companies that really used the Chippewa Plant. Studebaker and AM General (and Curtiss-Wright for a time, but Studebaker still had a presence even when CW was building engines post WWII). Every year AM General has been gradually down sizing and I've always wondered if something was up. I really hope AM General can hang on and keep getting military or some kind of production contracts. They have been in the news lately that production has been down and recently lost a military contract to Oshkosh. I know that we accept late model Avantis as being the closest thing anybody can buy as far as a "new Studebaker", but AM General is sort of our other cousin in producing things with wheels. Studebaker produced M35-A1 trucks, AM made M35-A2 trucks which the only difference between the two are the engine. At least SI is still alive and doing well in the ol' plant.
                Yes cousins under the skin, but family none the less. The list of vehicles made at Chippewa and Plant 8 by AMG are endless.. Excerpt from from Wikipedia: "AM General's roots (and its location in South Bend) also lie with the "General Products Division" of Studebaker, which, along with its substantial defense contracts, was acquired by Kaiser Industries in early 1964 after Studebaker closed its U.S. auto manufacturing operations. At the time, Kaiser had been awarded a US$87 million Army truck contract, and under government pressure agreed to perform the work at the South Bend plant it had recently acquired from Studebaker. Subsequently, American Motors Corporation (AMC) purchased the Jeep Corporation from Kaiser in 1970 when Kaiser itself decided to leave the auto business.[5] In 1971, AMC made the General Products Division of Jeep (producing military trucks, as well as contract and non-commercial vehicles) a wholly owned subsidiary and renamed it AM General Corporation." ^ Hyde, Charles K. (2009). Storied Independent Automakers: Nash, Hudson, and American Motors. Wayne State University Press. p. 194. ISBN 978-0-8143-3446-1.

                From the AM General and Wikipedia page, AMG has produced 112,000 5 ton & 150,000 2.5 ton trucks, roughly 5,000 transit buses, and 200,000 Humvees. No accounting of the lesser vehicles like the M151 Jeep (they were everywhere on South Bend streets going to get undercoating off of Mishawaka Ave. in the mid to late 1970s), the CCC M915 and so on ..

                Speaking of AMG's Chippewa Plant, is the plant fire engine still there? I don't recall what it was, but it was in service when I worked there working for a painting contractor during the late 1970's and early 1980s..

                Dennis

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Dennis L. Henry View Post
                  Speaking of AMG's Chippewa Plant, is the plant fire engine still there? I don't recall what it was, but it was in service when I worked there working for a painting contractor during the late 1970's and early 1980s..

                  Dennis
                  To my knowledge, no. I would definitely notice something like that. I guess way back in the day AM also had a 5ton wrecker sitting at the East end of the test cell hall, and it's also long gone. Right now the only military truck that I know of on plant property is a 5ton deuce semi tractor sitting in a small storage lot that AM uses, and it's surrounded by pallet racks and misc junk. That truck has been sitting there for as long as I've been working there, and I'd love to get my hands on it just because of what it is.
                  Chris Dresbach

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                  • #10
                    Interesting, I do recall AMG had a "yard dog" wrecker back in the '80, used around the shop....but I saw it on the north west end of the Chippewa Plant. The fire engine was in the garage stall that was at the south west corner of the Chippewa Plant, and thinking back it was still there when they were still making the M151 on the west side of that building (someone long ago referenced that the M151 was assembled on the former pickup truck line) I also remember two brand new military Jeeps (not M151 Mutt), maybe M38A or earlier, that were under some tarps back when I first helped my father stripe that plant, maybe in the late 1970s. I don't recall seeing them when they did the major remodel to the Chippewa assembly lines after they stopped production of the Mutt. Oh, if we could only turn back time..

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Dennis L. Henry View Post
                      Interesting, I do recall AMG had a "yard dog" wrecker back in the '80, used around the shop....but I saw it on the north west end of the Chippewa Plant. The fire engine was in the garage stall that was at the south west corner of the Chippewa Plant, and thinking back it was still there when they were still making the M151 on the west side of that building (someone long ago referenced that the M151 was assembled on the former pickup truck line) I also remember two brand new military Jeeps (not M151 Mutt), maybe M38A or earlier, that were under some tarps back when I first helped my father stripe that plant, maybe in the late 1970s. I don't recall seeing them when they did the major remodel to the Chippewa assembly lines after they stopped production of the Mutt. Oh, if we could only turn back time..
                      Turn back time, I wish that too. I know enough about the place that I can envision what the place looked like when stuff was in production there, but so much is gone now that it's hard to figure out what happened where. I know the garage you're talking about on the NW end of the plant. Today it's not used for anything but on the overhead door there's a sign that says "headlight test area". I've never been inside there so I don't know how big it is, but I'm assuming it's at least big enough for an M35 or 5 ton. Tom Molnar worked at the plant when they were making M35-A2s and he said at that time the big deuce wrecker usually sat at the NE corner of the test cell hall because it was out of the way. At least for the M35 line (but I'm not sure about the M151 line, but it was probably the same) the trucks would come off the end of the assembly line and make a sharp left turn down the test cell hall and exit the plant on the NW corner. The repair bay was also in this area and that's where Tom worked. I would love to see the plant fixed up to its former glory.
                      Chris Dresbach

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                      • #12
                        The M151 line use to end at a set of line up bays (that I painted the yellow / black cross hatched lines several times myself), that actually pointed south, and again was near the fire "station" or truck garage at the south west corner of the plant. I don't recall how they left the plant from there.. but I suspect it made a right to the exterior (large overhead door on that end of the plant on the west wall). That end of the line also had an area for kits, upfits for ambulance, recoiless, M2 turret, etc. as well.

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