What is Studebaker’s tie to NASA? Or Notre Dame football? Ever hear of the Garford automobile? The Flanders? What about Studebaker’s relationship with Mercedes-Benz? While many identify the Studebaker Corporation as builders of wagons, buggies and automobiles, the company’s reach extended far beyond its Studebaker-branded products.
In the early 1900s, Studebaker partnered with the General Automobile And Cycle Parts Company of Cleveland, Ohio and later the Garford Automobile Company of Elyria, Ohio to produce automobiles which Studebaker sold through its vast dealer network. A few years later, Studebaker entered into a similar arrangement with the Everett-Metzker-Flanders (EMF) Company of Detroit, Michigan, before acquiring EMF outright in 1911.
In the late 1920s, Studebaker acquired the Pierce-Arrow Corporation of Buffalo, New York, to tap the luxury car market. In 1932, Studebaker introduced the Rockne automobile, named for Notre Dame football coach (and Studebaker Sales Executive) Knute Rockne. Studebaker’s most famous automotive “cousins” are the Packard Motor Car Company and Mercedes-Benz. Studebaker and Packard merged in 1954, and in 1957 Studebaker acquired the exclusive rights to distribute Mercedes-Benz automobiles through its domestic dealers.
The 1960s saw Studebaker become a fully diversified corporation as it acquired divisions such as Franklin Refrigeration, Chemical Compounds, and Cincinnati Testing Laboratories (CTL), among others. The Chemical Compounds Division became famous for its STP Oil Treatment, while CTL made heat shields for NASA’s Mercury Space Program. Studebaker’s diversification allowed the corporation to survive beyond the end of automobile production in 1966, and a few of Studebaker’s “cousins” remain viable products and companies today.
About this Series
Studebaker’s Cousins was on display at the Museum in 2014. This series of articles comes for the displays from that exhibition.