Studebaker Legacy Lives 50 Years After Closing

By Kevin Allen

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) – When Data Realty executives announced in 2011 that they would build a new data center at Ignition Park, company President Rich Carlton decided to read up on Studebaker history.

After all, the state-certified technology park is on the very ground that for decades was the smoking, clanging heart of Studebaker’s vehicle business. The land where generations of men muscled their way into the middle class is now designated for sleek offices where people with advanced degrees will write algorithms, manage computer servers and develop software, hardware and microchips.

Carlton wasn’t even born when the last Studebaker rolled off the line in South Bend a half-century ago, and he wasn’t all that interested in why the company went out of business.

What he found striking was the story of how Studebaker survived here for 111 years – a remarkable lifespan in the business world.

From its humble start in a blacksmith shop at Jefferson Boulevard and Michigan Street, the company grew into the largest wagon manufacturer in the world and the only one to succeed in making automobiles.

Some may feel – 50 years after news of Studebaker’s closing broke Dec. 9, 1963 – that locals still talk too much about the company.

But Carlton said people in South Bend should talk about Studebaker, not as a source of sadness but as a source of inspiration.

Studebaker is a great American success story, and it’s a South Bend story.

“It grew to be the largest vehicle manufacturer in the world,” Carlton told the South Bend Tribune, “and it was completely homegrown in South Bend.”

The fundamentals that made it great are still in our town today, he said.

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Posted by on Jan 3rd, 2014 and filed under American Street Guide. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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