The Kentucky Studebaker

| June 2004

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    Authentic wagons
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    Studebaker gear

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I enjoy researching old farm and freight wagon companies. So much so, that no matter where I travel, I scan roadside farms, homes and businesses looking for telltale signs of vintage wheels. Maybe the passion comes from the thrill of chasing a good mystery or perhaps it's simply a kinship toward an all-but-forgotten way of life. Whatever the reason, the search keeps me young and, like any nearly lost art, there's always something new to experience and learn.

The mystery wagon

Knowing my fetish for old wagons, an Amish friend had told me about a Studebaker model that I needed to see in Kentucky. With my day job keeping me tied down, it seemed that I just never had an extra few days to explore the eastern part of that state. When I eventually took some time off, I was surprised at what I found. Sitting inside a barn, covered by a thin, gray tarp, sat a piece of yesterday... a beautifully constructed workhorse on wheels that had long since been retired.

Lifting off the canvas, the early morning sun lit up the faded and well-worn green paint of a wagon that had once been a farmer's pride and joy. Yellow pinstripes ran the length of the wooden box, which showed significant weathering from age and use.

Yet, the unmistakable flowing curves of the Studebaker emblems really got my attention. Resting on an original Studebaker gear, the wagon still boasted bright logos on both sides of the box as well as the folding end gate. Conspicuously positioned below each logo, though, was the word 'Model.' It was painted in the same yellow and black tones as the Studebaker name, but used a smaller block style of lettering.

I'd never seen a farm wagon or even a vintage advertisement carrying the label 'Studebaker Model.' Other than the painted stencil that identified the dealer who originally sold the wagon, I found no other markings that might help shed some light on the puzzle.

The unusual addition to the Studebaker name was an important departure from other wagons I'd seen, and the difference nagged at me. The owner couldn't explain it, so I was left to solve that riddle myself. Why was it there? Was it a variation of a Studebaker design? Was it an original piece? Where did it come from? Dozens of questions begged to be answered and so began my research into another chapter of the mostly uncharted history of America's wagon makers.


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