Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Studebaker treasure trove

On the way back on a beautiful fall day from a family wedding in Pittsburgh, my wife and I exited the Pennsylvania Turnpike at the town of Somerset to travel one of our favorite back roads, State Route 31. Just beyond the town and within shouting distance of the turnpike, which runs more or less parallel to Route 31, we stopped at an unusual salvage yard consisting almost entirely of Studebaker cars and trucks.

As we were photographing the cars, Jonathan Heiple came out of the adjacent house and explained that this salvage yard had belonged to his father James, who sadly passed away about a year ago at the age of 50. Jonathan opened the garage to show us his dad's 1962 Studebaker 4-door sedan. That car, in decent and eminently restorable condition, reminded me of my great uncle, also departed from this world, who preferred Studebakers before the company went out of the car manufacturing business, first in South Bend, Indiana in late 1963 and then for good in 1966 in Hamilton, Ontario. (He later switched to Volkswagen.)

The cars in the salvage yard span decades of Studebaker manufacturing, with a large number of the "coming or going" Studebakers of the late 40s and early 50s, the Lark compacts beginning with the 1959 model year, and even the remains of one 1963 or '64 Studebaker Avanti, the company's answer to the Corvette Sting Ray. The ravages of time have taken their toll on many of the cars here, but there are still many very usable parts available for the Studebaker collector. The business is still in operation, run by Jonathan's mother and older brother. They claim the business to be one of the largest Studebaker salvage operations along the Eastern seaboard. More information can be found here at their website.

Thank you Jonathan for spending some time with us and we wish you well in your studies at college!

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