The Truth About Cars » auto graveyard http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 11 Apr 2014 14:17:16 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » auto graveyard http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Ghosts Of The Studebaker Proving Grounds http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/the-ghosts-of-the-studebaker-proving-grounds/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/the-ghosts-of-the-studebaker-proving-grounds/#comments Mon, 18 Nov 2013 19:17:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=654458 DCFC0069.JPG

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the November 22, 1963 assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy. Shortly thereafter, the city of South Bend, Indiana suffered another tragedy: the announcement of the closing of the American factories of the 111-year old Studebaker Automobile Company on December 9, 1963. Over 7,000 local workers engaged in building the company’s Avanti and Lark models would lose their jobs – it was not the most joyous of holiday seasons in South Bend.

We will leave the story of Studebaker’s demise to other sources, like this fine article over at Ate Up With Motor. I traveled to Indiana recently to cover the Studebaker National Museum but discovered that fellow South Bend native Jim Grey had just written an excellent series about the collection for our friends at Curbside Classic. Undeterred, I decided to follow the story of one fascinating car on display and discovered some nutty tales from the company’s old test track, the Studebaker Proving Grounds.

The World’s Largest Natural Advertising Sign?

Stude PG 1963 courtesy stude100.com

The facility was built in 1926 at a cost of over one million dollars and is located on 840 acres of oak and maple trees on the old Lincoln Highway west of town. Studebaker claimed it was the first ever closed automobile testing grounds. The layout features an 3-mile oval and the usual test track assortment of twisty roads, bumpy roads, hill climbs and skidpads. The complex is now owned by automotive supplier Bosch and is still in use today.

The grounds are famous for a half-mile long grove of 8000 pine trees planted in 1938 that when viewed from the air spell out the word, “STUDEBAKER.” The National Registry of Historic Places has recognized the woods as one of the world’s largest “living advertising signs.” Damaged by an ice storm in 2004, plans are underway to restore the grove to its former glory. A glance at Google Maps reveals that the word is still easily readable today.

The World’s Largest Car?

Big Studebaker courtesy modernmechanix.com Big 1931 Studebaker Courtesy www.exposefun.com

In 1931, the company constructed a huge wooden replica of a Studebaker President Four Seasons Roadster as a prop for a short film entitled Wild Flowers, which may be viewed here. The fake car was over 40 feet long, stood 14 feet high, weighed over 5 1/2 tons and had a body constructed of white pine. The corporation parked the behemoth outside the gates of the proving grounds where it became quite a tourist attraction.

In 1936, a combination of damage to the car caused by harsh Michiana winters and the fact that its styling was outdated compared to newer Studes led the corporation to decide to burn the curiosity piece to the ground.

The Studebaker Graveyard

For years, rumors circulated about a collection of engineering and styling prototype cars and trucks dumped deep in the woods of the proving grounds. In 1969, members of the local Studebaker owner’s club were not only able to confirm the vehicles’ existence but amazingly were also granted permission to be the first outsiders to view the cars. After hacking their way through acres of brush and dodging rattlesnakes the group came to a clearing holding 45 rusting shells built from 1939 to 1955. With nary an engine or drivetrain among them, the deteriorating survivors included cars, trucks and military vehicles.

At least two cars have been known to have been removed from the forest. One was a Raymond Loewy-designed 1947 Champion Deluxe Station Wagon featuring a wood body. The wagon was rescued from the woods in 1980 and donated to the Studebaker National Museum, who performed a wonderful restoration. I thought it was the coolest car in their collection – the one and only factory-built Studebaker “Woody.”

Studebaker Museum 2013 029

Another escapee is a Hawk with a hole in its top big enough for a panorama-like sunroof. It is currently owned by a Studebaker enthusiast but little appears to have been done to the vehicle over the years other than the addition of wheels and tires.

Stude PGrounds Survivor Courtesy studebaker-info.org

For a recent look at the boneyard, check out this video from 2009.

During this week’s bell-to-bell Kennedy coverage by the media, remember the Avanti!

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The Curbside Classics Graveyard: May They Rust In Peace http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/11/the-curbside-classic-graveyard-may-they-rust-in-peace/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/11/the-curbside-classic-graveyard-may-they-rust-in-peace/#comments Sat, 13 Nov 2010 16:02:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=372530

Even in Eugene, where Curbside Classics miraculously soldier along on the streets for decades beyond their normal life expectancy, the forces of entropy cannot be forestalled forever. If it’s still running enough to get there, you could donate it to the official CC Sales Lot, and pass that slipping and leaking transmission on to the next sucker loving owner. But when the tow truck has to be called, Judgment Day has arrived. Will you pony up and put yourself that much deeper under water? Or will it end up at the Pick and Pull, donating its vital organs to keep its kin on the road a bit longer? But for the chosen few, there’s one other alternative: the Curbside Classic Graveyard, where it may rust (superficially) in peace until the second coming of Henry Ford (or his only begotten Son Edsel).

Where exactly is this automotive Elysian Field? 29329 Airport Road, and this screen shot from Google Street View will help you find it if you decide to come to Eugene. It’s a stone’s throw from the Eugene Airport, and 95% percent of all traffic to and from there pass it, as I did for years until I caught a glimpse of something, and decided to stop and take a look. One thing is clear; this is not a working junkyard. The doors and gates have been locked for ages, and the cars have obviously not been cannibalized.It’s a good thing I’m tall, as all my shots were taken over the top of the six foot fence.

I’ll post my shots according to the random sequence of how I shot them. The first thing that caught my eye were these two Fiat 850 Spiders, one trying to protect its open cockpit from the elements. Ooo! What’s that lurking in the background?

A Hillman Imp, no less. It’s been way to long since I’ve seen one of them. This was probably Eugene’s only Imp, which means it certainly rated an invitation to the CC Graveyard. If I can’t find it on the streets, I can hope to find it here. Lots of vintage bikes back there too. And I can’t even make out all of what’s behind them.  I’m going to have to come back and hop that fence.

Panning to the left we see a rather eclectic assortment of vintage iron: a couple of old Chevy trucks, and…I’ll stop and leave some for you guys to identify.

Moving a bit further left, one of those ultra-boxy Rambler Americans, next to its predecessor. I’m seeing an obvious pattern here: this graveyard is organized like human graveyards: by families.

I’m repeating the top picture here just for continuity. A couple of ’58 Edsels, one a Citation, the other a Corsair. Or is one a Pacer? Some definite repeated patterns emerge behind them in those windshields: old Fords, to keep it in the family, of course.

In the front row of the Ford family plot sit the proud Thunderbirds. How appropriate.

Along the west side, the Ford trucks are lined up, in what appears to be chronological order.

There’s some decided inter-familial co-mingling going on in the front row though.

But it soon turns into a nice big Corvair plot, well represented with coupes, sedans, and a fairly uncommon second generation sedan too.

That white four door by the shed could by my first car. Man, those coupes had an overly-long rear deck. No wonder the Mustang was so popular.

Lets swing back to the right, to the head of the Corvairs, where the big Chevies await their Resurrection. Or maybe in the case of cars, it’s their reincarnation.

Did I mention Mustangs? Of course they’re represented here too, as well as some interesting big iron from the fifties behind them.

Here’s the Mustang tails, including a charming customized one with triple lights on each side. Damn; haven’t seen that since I left Iowa in the mid seventies. Charming. Maybe it helped get it in the door here.

Let’s grab another parting shot of that crowded center section before I get too choked up and can’t operate my camera anymore. What a lot of deserving souls resting here.

It’s quite obvious that these cars were all well-used and even battered before they earned admission. This is no fancy-pants collection; my guess is that it started as a wrecking yard, but someone’s emotions got the better of them; like a farmer who couldn’t bear to send his pigs and chickens to market. Given how long the office has been closed, it will probably be his heirs that get/have to deal with them. Wouldn’t surprise me if that happens sooner than later; it’s hard to forestall the Grim Reaper forever.

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