Studebaker The Complete History
by Patrick Foster
2008 Motorbooks, an imprint of MBI Publishing Company, MN, USA
In the last couple of years I have talked about Studebaker and the company's collapse quite a few times because the fall of the Studebaker Company proved that large American Auto manufacturers, even ones whose products are actually very good, can fail.
Of course everyone now believes this to be true, but two or three years ago almost no one believed that the once big three could disappear as surely as Packard, Pierce Arrow, and almost the entire British Car manufacturing industry.
I have always had a soft spot for Studebakers and while my list of cars that I still would like to own gets shorter every year, a really nice 1950 Studebaker Starlight coupe still figures prominently. (Right next to a Lamborghini Countach because I have not yet truly grown up.)
This book follows the standard formula of historical texts dealing with the automobile, conception to demise, but unlike most automobile manufacturing stories that start at the turn of the century or shortly thereafter, Studebaker's origins as a successful manufacturer stretch right back to the 1850s when they manufactured horse drawn vehicles.
The company carved a place as the largest manufacturer of horse drawn wagons in the United States and their successful conversion to horseless carriages began in 1902 with electric cars.
This book covers the rise of the Studebaker but at least three quarters of its content centers on the post war period. This is fully understandable as the post war period saw Studebaker become not only a truly innovative company but saw its failure despite that innovation.
Perhaps a copy of this book should be required reading in the boardrooms of the remaining US companies as they struggle to keep their heads above water.
It is a fascinating and richly illustrated historical accounting of a niche historical interest but it has by necessity fallen into the pattern set by all books recounting the history of the automobile and the companies that made them.
I give it three and one half stars.