Studebaker National Museum: Showcasing Classic Cars

Local history, presidential lore and automotive progress combine at one of The Bend’s premier attractions.

Studebaker National Museum in South Bend blends all those things into an experience only it can provide. No telling of our history is complete without including Studebaker, one of the world’s premiere automobile manufacturers of yesteryear.

The company’s legacy is everywhere. Apartment buildings, plazas, parks, a golf course and more feature the family name.

But why? Studebaker National Museum has the answers. Tour it and you’ll go beyond local history. Gearheads can peruse roughly 120 vehicles, including special exhibits. History buffs can get and up-close look at transportation used on a fateful night in American history.

Presidential Carriage Collection

Studebaker National Museum is home to the world’s largest collection of U.S. presidential carriages. It features the barouche Abraham Lincoln used en route to Ford’s Theatre the night of his assassination.

Others in the collection include carriages used by Ulysses S. Grant, William McKinley and Benjamin Harrison.

The Original Collection

Studebaker Corporation in 1966 donated its 33-vehicle collection to the City of South Bend. It included the presidential carriages and the family’s Conestoga wagon. Together it formed the basis for the museum. It runs the gamut of automobiles produced by Studebaker during the height of its production.

Special exhibitions

Although it Studebaker leans on its permanent collection, it consistently brings in new exhibits with a different perspective.

“10 Cars that Changed the World,” a tour in automotive progress over the years, wrapped up in early 2019 after a long run. It featured early model automobiles through today (like the Ford Mustang shown below). Upcoming exhibitions include “Points of Sale: Studebaker Showrooms” and “Streamlined: Style in Motion,” a look at car style innovations around the Great Depression.

The Military Collection

Studebaker as a company worked with the U.S. government dating back to its beginnings as a wagon producer. That tradition continued through the Vietnam War. Many of these vehicles are on display at the museum. Studebaker transferred its government contracts in 1964 to Kaiser-Jeep.

In an ode to local history, the museum also displays some vehicles made by the local AM General plant, which has operated in the military sphere.

Interactive exhibits

There are multiple interactive exhibits around the museum. One in particular is great for kids – the Super Service Center. Designed for children of all ages, this pretend auto shop is equipped with all the tools they need to perform maintenance on a kid-sized car.