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 top automobile manufacturers of yesteryear.
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Tour the museum 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. And beyond that, you’ll find reason to return every summer as the museum hosts an eye-catching car show.
Concours d’Elegance at Copshaholm
Every summer, Studebaker hosts one of the premier car shows in the Midwest. Concours d’Elegance at Copshaholm is a celebration of automotive design and styling. The one-day event features automobiles from all over the world in different classes. Simply put, they’re some of the most beautiful cars you’ll see anywhere. Unfortunately, this year’s event was postponed due to coronavirus concerns. It will return in 2021.
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.
Although it Studebaker leans on its permanent collection, it consistently brings in new exhibits with a different perspective.
Currently on display is an exhibit called “Birds of a Feather: Studebaker’s Hawks.” The exhibit features a variety of Hawks, which the company touted as a family sports car. Studebaker produced it for nine model years from 1956-64. Among the cars on display is the museums latest acquisition, a 1956 Golden Hawk.
“Built in The Bend: A Studebaker Centenary” is another current exhibit. Studebaker built its first automobile in South Bend on April 30, 1920. The exhibit celebrates this anniversary by taking a closer look at the company’s transition from horse-drawn equipment to automobiles.
Something for the Family
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.
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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.