The plan was to drive down and meet a group from a message board dad belongs to, Grassroots Motorsports, avoid the freeway and have a father/son day with the guys. And that we did. We drove to south Michigan following I-94 to I-69, jumped off right before LaGrange, Indiana and followed two lane roads through the country side of Indiana to South Bend. Our mission the Studebaker Museum. So we packed the Little Green Road Rocket (our Mini Cooper S) and headed for the Indiana state line.
Many know South Bend as a football town, home of the Fighting Irish and on any given Saturday August through November, streets packed with the Blue and Gold.
South Bend, Indiana is also mecca for those who are Studebaker enthusiasts and those autoholics seeking a fun day trip to the Studebaker Museum. South Bend sits 130 miles from our home base, and is easily a day trip there and back.
Studebaker now defunct started production on covered wagons in the 1800s, then moved into the electric carriage market, yes your hybrid battery operated car, was actually an engineering feat from the early 1900s. They house a Studebaker from all eras, brass, 30s-40s, 50s, and even the last Studebaker that rolled off the line when the company moved to Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. That particular car holds a soft spot in my heart being Canadian.
Studebaker was made famous by the bullet nose. In the 50s Studebaker set themselves apart by following a design approach that was both unique and different, the Bullet Nose Starlight coupe was also made famous by one of my favorite movies, the Muppet’s Take Manhattan. The actual movie car is in the museum’s collection.
The museum is small but covers the history of the brand through the early years and the military years to the unique styling of the Studebaker Avanti, a unique coupe that is loved to be hated on for it’s styling. It was an attempt to salvage the company from being another lost brand of automotive history.
South Bend is also home to other famous motor companies. AM General who produced the H1 Hummers and Humvees and Oliver plows were also manufactured in South Bend . Not only rich with football history but a rich automotive history.
Rumor has it that the Studebaker mansion still stands not far from the musuem, however on this day we did not see it. What we did see however was the Oliver mansion, a 38 room estate, however we only saw the grounds and not the inside, but with an additional price of admission you can take a walking tour of the estate.
Studebaker once ran South Bend. Building in town still have Studebaker dealer stampings and the factory buildings have been re-purposed into store fronts, restaurants and apartments. It was refreshing to see old buildings still standing and not demolished into a wasteland as the old factories of the Detroit brands have become.
Capping the evening off we stopped with the group for dinner at Scotty’s Brewhouse, a small bar style restaurant in what I believed was the shopping district and main thorough-fair of South Bend/Mishawaka. Cherry Coke and the backyard chicken later we were back on the road for Michigan.