At the Studebaker National Museum, visitors can marvel at the stylish automobiles of another era that made South Bend, Indiana famous including such famed automobiles as Fozzie the Bear’s car from The Muppet Movie.
Studebaker was originally founded in 1852 by Henry and Clement Studebaker as a wagon manufacturer based out of South Bend, Indiana. In 1902, the company began producing automobiles, becoming one of the largest businesses in South Bend. The company thrived for more than a century, producing many cars that became classic icons of American culture thanks to their uniquely decorative designs that echoed art deco opulence. But by the 1950s, the company faced financial problems that could not be overcome and the plant closed in 1963, with the last Studebaker automobile rolling off the line of its other remaining factory in 1966.
Today the company and the town’s legacy is remembered by the Studebaker National Museum which houses a large collection of over 120 wagons and automobiles, some dating back to Clement Studebaker’s original collection. The Studebaker Corporation donated their collection to the city of South Bend and in 2005, the ultra modern museum was opened to the public. The collected conveyances track the company’s history through three floors of showrooms. The refurbished vehicles on display include such notable specimens as four original Presidential carriages belonging to such American legends as Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant, and Fozzie the Bear’s Studebaker Champion used in the original Muppet Movie to take their show on the road.
Automobiles today tend to be exercises in function over form, but the Studebaker National Museum lets visitors remember a time when the curves of a car meant almost as much as what was under the hood.