Small piece of auto history gone: Studebaker factory destroyed in fire

Detroit Free Press story

I never much cared for Studebaker’s designs other than the Avanti.

Just a satellite facility. The main Studebaker plant, in South Bend, is almost all still there. Too much trouble to tear down, apparently.

Seems like another “cable news crawl” story, compressed to save time and space and not challenge people’s preconceptions (ie: “Cars are built in Detroit and always have been”).

Ten years ago when GM shut its truck plant in Tarrytown, NY, nobody called it the end of an era. Indeed, nobody gave a hot patootie other than those who lost their jobs. But that plant had been running since 1912. I don’t know that that made it the oldest auto plant in the USA, but it had to be close.

I learned to drive in a Studebaker. My grandfather had a 1949, then a 1950. the first was black the second dark blue. I miss that car…sigh…

The old Jeep (originally Willys-Overland) plant in Toledo, Ohio had to have been close to the oldest. This site shows a picture from 1915, when the plant was already huge and employed thousands. It ran until 1995, and they still hadn’t finished demolishing it as of 2002.

Portions of it are still there. Just drove by it Monday night. I don’t think they’re planning to tear down any more of it anytime in the near future.

Here’s a 1915 photograph

Here are some Jeeps being loaded up for transport during WWII. (Check out that Art Deco car hauler.)

Here’s what’s left today:

Seems the Nash/AMC/DaimlerChrysler plant in Kenosha, Wisconsin only dates to 1917. That’s slightly newer than Ford’s River Rouge plant in Dearborn, Michigan, built in 1915 to build Model T’s and eventually Mustangs, now converted into a museum of auto manufacturing.

GM’s plant in Janesville, IL is getting plenty of press. This one’s been running since 1919.

Parts of one of the Packard plants goes back to the early teens, IIRC. I think that the reason the South Bend Studebaker plant is still standing has more to do with legal wrangling than anything else.

I would have guessed environmental cleanup liability specifically. Maybe a Notre Doper can fill us in?