The American Automobile Industry in World War Two
An American Auto Industry Heritage Tribute
By David D Jackson


Overview      The U.S. Auto Industry at the Normandy Invasion, June 6, 1944    The U.S. Auto Industry and the B-29 Bomber   U.S. Auto Industry Army-Navy "E" Award Winners   The Complete listing of All Army-Navy "E" Award Winners   Sherman Tanks of the American Auto Industry   Tank Destroyers of the American Auto Industry    M26 Pershing Tanks of the American Auto Industry

    Automobile Manufacturers:  American Bantam Car Company   Checker   Chrysler   Crosley   Ford   General Motors   Graham-Paige   Hudson
   Nash-Kelvinator   Packard      Studebaker    Willys-Overland

General Motors Divisions
(Undergoing development) Aeroproducts   Brown-Lipe-Chapin   Buick   Cadillac   Chevrolet   Cleveland Diesel   Delco Appliance   Delco Products   Delco Radio   Delco-Remy   Detroit Diesel   Detroit Transmission   Electro-Motive   Fisher Body   Frigidaire   GM Proving Grounds   GM of Canada   Guide Lamp   Harrison Radiator   Hyatt Bearings   Inland   Moraine Products   New Departure   Oldsmobile   Packard Electric   Pontiac   Saginaw Malleable Iron   Saginaw Steering Gear   Southern California Division   Rochester Products   United Motors Service

Truck and Implement Manufacturers:   American LaFrance   Autocar  Diamond T   International Harvester    Mack Truck
   Marmon-Herrington Company   Massey-Harris   Pacific Car and Foundry  Reo Motor Car Company   Ward LaFrance Truck Corporation   White Motor Company

Automotive Tire
Manufacturers:
   B.F. Goodrich    Firestone Tire and Rubber Company
 Updates and Additions  
Links

 

Studebaker Main Page   Studebaker Proving Ground   Studebaker in World War One   Studebaker World War Two Vehicle Photos   Studebaker Built R-1820 Aircraft Engines on the B-17 "Yankee Lady"
Studebaker Plant Photos
South Bend, IN
1852-1963
Rest in Peace

This page added 1-25-2015.
Updated 12-25-2016.

The Main Studebaker Complex in South Bend.


Studebaker at its peak.  This photo, looking southwest, shows the massive complex that Studebaker had during World War Two.  From these buildings came 15,124 M29 Weasels and 197,678 US6 2-1/2 ton 6x6 trucks during the conflict.  Two of the buildings still exist, which are located to the far right, or north, and are right up against the railroad tracks.


A US6 gets its cargo body added in February of 1942 at the downtown South Bend Complex.  Photo added 2-12-2015.


Photo added 2-12-2015.


Photo added 2-12-2015.


Photo added 2-12-2015.


M29 Weasels on the Studebaker assembly line in South Bend, IN.  Photo added 12-25-2016.


This building was the administration building for Studebaker.  Author's photo.


 Before and after World War Two, the railroad tracks immediately to the north of the building were operated by the New York Central.  It must have made for interesting times during the summer, when the windows were open, as buildings of the time were not air-conditioned and all of the soot, smoke and noise of the coal fired engines drifted inside the building.  Author's photo.


This is looking east from the west end of the six story factory that still stands.  It was body assembly.  The corner stone at the northeast comer of the building indicates it was built in 1923.  Today is is being used as a warehouse facility.  Author's photo.


Looking north.  Author's photo.


A complete view of the remaining Studebaker six story body assembly plant.  Author's photo.


The section closest to camera was added in 1945.  Author's photo.


The end of the line for Studebaker in South Bend, IN.  This 1964 Daytona was the last car produced when the plant stopped operation on December 20, 1963.  Almost 7,000 jobs were lost.  Not a Merry Christmas in South Bend in 1963.  Author's photo from the Studebaker Museum in South Bend, IN.

The Aircraft Engine Plant on Chippewa Street on the far south side of South Bend.

In December of 1940 the US Army Air Force issued a contract to Studebaker to build 6,500 Wright R-2600 Twin Cyclone radial aircraft engines to be used on the new North American B-25 medium bomber.  The plant pictured below was started in January of 1941 and completed in June of 1942.  During the process of acquiring all of the necessary for the R-2600 the order was cancelled and the contract re-let for the Wright R-1830 engine to be used instead on the Boeing B-17 heavy bomber.  Re-tooling, Studebaker by June of 1945 produced 63,789 of the R-1830 engines and from January of 1944 was the exclusive supplier of engines for the B-17 Flying Fortress.

After the war, Studebaker, starting with the Korean War, reopened the plant and began making the next version of the 2-1/2 ton 6x6 military truck, the M35, designed by Reo.  When Studebaker went out of business in the US in December of 1963, the Kaiser Jeep Corporation bought the M35 truck business and used this plant.  When American Motors purchased Kaiser Jeep, it then created a subsidiary for the production of military products named AM General, which continued to make the M35 on Chippewa Street and became its headquarters location. 

So while one may see M35 2-1/2 ton 6x6 vintage trucks at military collector shows and museums made by Studebaker, Kaiser-Willys or AM General, they all were produced in the plant, the same assembly line and for the most part, the same workers.  Only the name on the building changed.

In 1963 Studebaker was awarded a contract for 8,493 M54A1 5 ton 6x6 trucks to also be built at Chippewa Street.  However, before trucks could come off the assembly line, Studebaker collapsed and the contract was taken over by Kaiser Jeep.  While it is unknown how many M35 trucks Studebaker built at the plant, the combined production for Kaiser Jeep / AM General production was 112,000 5-ton and 150,000 2 1/2-ton trucks before the plant closed in 1989.

Today the plant no longer makes military trucks and is being used as a warehouse and light manufacturing facility by several small companies. AM General has a small presence at the location.  As seen below, one can visit the site and drive all the way around the plant.


These two buildings look to be post war additions to the site, probably built by AM General as its headquarters building on the left, with a security building on the right.  This is the south side of the complex.  Author's photo.


Inside the entrance.  The former B-17 engine plant is now known as the Studebaker Business Center.  Author's photo.


This entrance way and lobby again look to have been added by AM General in the 1970's when it took over the plant.  Author's photo.


This is part of the west side of the building.  Author's photo.


These are engine test cells, eight total in this bank.  I counted 26 banks for 208 test cells.  All 63,789 engines were hot texted for four hours, then completely torn down and inspected for wear.  If no problems were found, the parts were cleaned and the engine reassembled and shipped.  If there were major problems, new parts would be rebuilt into the engine and a retest run.  This is the northwest corner of the plant.  Author's photo.


Looking west from the east end one can see the entire north end of the plant consisted of engine test cells.  Author's photo.


The power house still stands.  Author's photo.


As does the water tower, which should have had the names of three different companies on it between 1942 and 1989.  Author's photo.


Looking to the north along the east side.  Author's photo.


R-1820 aircraft engines coming down the line in the Chippewa Street Plant.  Photo added 2-12-2015.


Photo added 2-12-2015.


One of  63,789 R-1820 aircraft engines Studebaker built for the Boeing B-17 during World War Two.  Author's photo from the Studebaker Museum in South Bend, IN.


The Studebaker ID tag on the engine.  Author's photo.


This is a 1962 Studebaker-Packard M35A1 built at Chippewa Avenue.  Author's photo.


Author's photo.


Seen at the 2015 Wings over Wayne Airshow at Seymour Johnson AFB is this 1965 Kaiser M35A2 built in the Chippewa plant.   Its last known assignment was with the 810th Medical Company (Dental) in Cary, NC.  This is an Army Reserve unit.  Author's photo added 5-27-2015.


Here is a 1973 AM General M35A2 that came off the Chippewa plant assembly line.  Author's photo from the National Center Military History in Auburn, IN. 
 

 

 

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