And so you find your self. amidst the flower bulbs, eye to eye with a gorgeous Studebaker Bulletnose. The legendary design by Raymond Loewy might very well be the most famous Studebaker ever.
A passion for certain cars never happens by accident. Usually it is based on a trigger in our early childhood. As with Piet Nicola, who as a little boy lives next-door to hotel ‘The Brown Horse’ in Sassenheim, in the heart of the Dutch flower region. Normally the parking lot is filled with little Opels and Beetles, but one day he finds himself gazing at a Studebaker. When the American owner offers him a ride to show him the way to the nearest petrol station, Piet is spoiled for life.
Henri Studebaker is a farmer and wagon builder. Around 1840 he moves to Ohio, where he teaches his five sons to built wagons. The boys make their fortune producing wheel barrows during the gold rush in the middle of the nineteenth century. In 1868 the brothers create the Studebaker Brother’s Manufacturing Company. Their motto: Always give more than you promise. The company points its arrows on civilians and farmers. In 1897 Studebaker starts experimenting with electric powered vehicles. Their first car is introduced in 1902. Shortly after that, in 1904, the first petrol engined Studebaker is introduced. In 1920 Studebaker moves their car production from Detroit to South Bend Indiana. Little by little the family company becomes the fourth largest car manufacturer of the US.
The big crash of 1929 followed by the great depression drive Studebaker to the edge of bankruptcy for the first time in 1933. These are difficult days for the motor industry. However Studebaker manages to stay on top of many technical and stylistic automotive milestones from the early twenties straight into the early sixties. Remarkable are almost all the Studebakers that were designed by the infamous Raymond Loewy from 1938 on. Loewy, designer of the world famous Coca Cola bottle for one, but the Shell logo as well. In the early fifties the high cost of labour again bring hard times to the Studebaker offices. Quality issues and a long price war between General Motors and the Ford Motor Company mean Studebaker is driven deep into debt. 1959 brings a short comeback through the introduction of the Lark. This successful compact writes the last positive numbers in the Studebaker books. In 1961 the numbers are back in the red and this time bankruptcy seems unavoidable. The complete production of Studebaker is moved to Canada, where in 1966 the very last Studebaker rolls of the line.
To Piet Nicola the brand is still very much alive. His collection of Studebakers presents a very nice view on the colourful history of the firm. To this the Bulletnose, very likely Studebakers best known model, is an absolute gem. Looking back on what the American car industry brought in the 1950’s, Studebaker might well have had the most distinctive design. Although like today the relatively small brands had trouble following the huge steps the car industry made even then, Studebaker always remains advanced within its self created segment.
The doors of hotel The Brown Horse have long since closed and the tourists of today prefer to be driven around the flower bulbs in luxury buses. Still, thanks to Piet Nicola, there remains that distinct chance you will end up face to face with one of his beautiful Studebakers.