More Than They Promised: The Studebaker Story

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Stanford University Press, 2000 - Business & Economics - 488 pages
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This lavishly illustrated book on the famous automobile manufacturer traces the Studebaker family from its arrival in America in 1736, to the beginnings of the wagon business under John M. Studebaker and his brothers in the nineteenth century, to the family’s entry into the automobile industry in 1902, to the last Studebaker automobile to roll off the assembly line in 1966.

The book, however, is much more than the story of a family business; it is also, in microcosm, the story of the industrial development of America. The Studebakers had always been industrialists in the sense that they made their living by manufacturing things, albeit on a small scale. When the Industrial Revolution hit the country with full force, spurred on by the Civil War, it transformed America from a rural-agrarian society into an urban-industrial one. The fortunes of the Studebaker family were transformed with it.

As the title suggests, the Studebaker story was mostly one of success. Studebaker wagons and carriages were long noted for their quality and popularity, and so, too, were Studebaker automobiles. The 1953 Starliner and the 1963 Avanti, designed under Raymond Loewy’s direction, are widely regarded as among the most innovative examples of American industrial design.

The book deals in detail with the soaring prosperity of the company in the 1920s, the bankruptcy and miraculous recovery in the 1930s, the stupendous success of the early post-World War II period, and the eventual decline of the company’s fortunes in the mid-1950s. It describes the development of such famous models as the Lark, Avanti, and Gran Tourisimo Hawk, with special attention paid to the Avanti II, a surprisingly successful spinoff from the dying company that continued to be produced until 1991. The final chapter, on why Studebaker died, is tightly reasoned and more convincing than previous theories. Throughout, the author has used personal incident and characterization to bring to life the rich, tumultuous history of one of America’s longest enduring industrial empires.

  

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More than they promised: the Studebaker story

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The venerable Studebaker family was noted for its popular wagons and carriages in the 19th century. The company was able to make the transition from wagon manufacture to automobiles in the early 20th ... Read full review

Contents

The Wagon Years
11
The Early Auto Years
43
The Rise of Erskine
85
The Fall of Erskine
135
Back from the Abyss
177
The War Years
215
Studebaker Amnia Vincit
233
The Packard Operation
277
The Lark Ascendant
313
The Swan Song
349
Metamorphosis
385
Postscript
401
Why Studebaker Failed
437
Bibliography
473
Index
479
Copyright

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About the author (2000)

Thomas E. Bonsall is one of America's most respected automotive historians. He is the author of The Lincoln Motorcar (1981, 1993), winner of both national awards for automotive history writing, the Cugnot Award of the Society of Automotive Historians and the McKean Cup of the Antique Automobile Club of America. Pontiac: They Built Excitement (1991) won the Cugnot Award. Avanti! (1978, 1994) is the only comprehensive history of the Avanti and Avanti II.

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