The Studebaker Rockne

The University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, is one of the finest academic institutions in the country. Generations of our nation’s best and brightest have matriculated in the shadow of the famed Golden Dome on the beautiful Notre Dame campus, and the school has produced countless highly accomplished professionals encompassing virtually every academic discipline. A Notre Dame education is the foundation of a successful career and a prosperous future.

That having been said…let’s talk football. It is true that the storied football program at Notre Dame has fallen on some hard times of late, but with new coach Brian Kelly now in the fold the Irish are poised for a return to national prominence. And if Kelly needs any inspiration and connection to the glory days of Notre Dame football, all he has to do is invoke the memory of the late, great Knute Rockne.

The success that Rockne had at Notre Dame is almost hard to wrap your head around by today’s standards. He coached the Irish from 1918 through 1930, and his record was 105-12-5, including five undefeated, untied campaigns resulting in five National Championships.

We all recognize the fact that South Bend and football go hand in hand. However, from the turn of the 20th century through much of the 1960s, South Bend was known for something else as well: the Studebaker motor vehicles. So it was only natural that Knute Rockne and Studebaker would ultimately develop a partnership, and the result was the Rockne division of Studebaker that produced cars between the 1931 and 1933.

The Rockne Motor Corporation arose out of talks between the venerable coach and Studebaker that began in 1928. Tragically, Rockne perished an airplane crash just days after joining Studebaker officially in March of 1931, so he never saw the cars that bore his name. Production of the Rockne went forward, but in 1932 the country was mired in the depths of the Great Depression, and Rockne’s energy, enthusiasm, and formidable celebrity were of course absent.

Sales were slow though the car itself was affordable and solidly built, and it was discontinued after the 1933 model year. The Rockne was simply the victim of a perfect storm of unpredictable, horrendous circumstances, but it is a rare and collectible vehicle today with an interesting story behind it.

Contributed by Fossil Cars Staff Writer

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