The Rockne was initially developed by freelance automotive engineers Roy Cole and Ralph Vail as a project for Willys-Overland. When Willy’s declined the car, Cole approached Studebaker President Albert Erskine who bought the design and retained Cole and Vail as engineers. The new car was built by the newly formed Studebaker subsidiary Rockne Motors Corporation, named in honor of the late Notre Dame football coach and Studebaker executive.
Although the car was well received by automotive journalists and by all accounts a fine automobile, it was introduced during the height of the Great Depression, when nearly 21 percent of Americans were unemployed. The Rockne was built for just two model years, 1932 and 1933.
DID YOU KNOW?
When the Rockne was introduced in 1932, it was sold in two models, the Cole-Vail designed “65” and the “75,” a rebranded 1931 Studebaker Six.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN
|United States||189 cu. in. (3.1L) L-head 6||70||13,657|
ABOUT KNUTE KENNETH ROCKNE
Knute Kenneth Rockne was born March 4, 1888, in Norway, and immigrated to Chicago, Illinois at five years old. Rockne wanted to attend college but took a job as a mail dispatcher to save money. At twenty-two years old, Rockne attended the University of Notre Dame, working through college as a janitor and chemistry researcher. Not only academically inclined, he excelled in football and won All-American honors in 1913.
After earning his degree, Rockne became head coach in 1918. In his thirteen years as head coach, Rockne led the team to 105 victories, three national championships, and coached five undefeated teams. In 1928 Rockne was retained by Studebaker for both his celebrity status and his motivational speaking.
On March 31, 1931, Rockne was en route to California to participate in the filming of The Spirit of Notre Dame when his plane crashed, ending his celebrated career at the age of 43. Rockne’s funeral was held at Notre Dame with more than 100,000 people attended his funeral procession.
ABOUT THIS SERIES
Reaching the Masses: Studebaker Companion Models was on display at the Museum in 2019. This series of articles comes from the displays for that exhibition.