Son of former auto engineer is go-to guy for Studebaker parts

'Studebaker Authorized Service' porcelain sign. Image courtesy of Archive and Pioneer Auction Service.

‘Studebaker Authorized Service’ porcelain sign. Image courtesy of Archive and Pioneer Auction Service.

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) – Ed Reynolds remembers his father, a former Studebaker engineer, selling his Cruiser in 1964 after the automaker ended production here.

Reynolds’ father figured replacement parts would become scarce, and that would make the car difficult to maintain.

“It’s funny,” Reynolds told the South Bend Tribune. “Here I am, all these years later, selling Studebaker parts.”

Reynolds owns Studebaker International, which is the world’s largest supplier of Studebaker components.

The company is based in Greenfield, about 10 miles east of Indianapolis, but it also has a retail store and warehouse in the building where Studebaker made military trucks at 701 W. Chippewa Ave. in South Bend.

The 50,000-square-foot warehouse is filled with row after row of tall shelves that are stocked with everything from tiny nuts and bolts to heavy doors and trunk lids. Some of the components are remnants of the inventory made when Studebaker was still operating; other parts are reproductions.

Studebaker International’s store also sells collectibles such as stickers, pint glasses, posters and miniature toy cars. There are even Studebaker ornaments, greeting cards, giftwrap and bows for the holiday season.

The company’s product catalog, now at 353 pages, gets thicker each time a new edition is printed.

“I have found that anything I put the Studebaker name on is going to sell,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds grew up in Mishawaka and New Carlisle, but he started Studebaker International in the 1970s when he was living in Claremont, Calif., and teaching special education.

He couldn’t find a replacement mirror for a 1963 Avanti he was restoring, so he found a way to have the mirror’s components made and assembled it himself. Now his company sells more than 1,000 mirrors annually for Studebaker vehicles.

Reynolds opened a store in Long Beach, Calif., and then moved back to Indiana in 1999 after buying a Studebaker parts company that had a large inventory in Greenfield. He left California with four semi-truck loads of car parts.

He added 195 semi-truck loads to his inventory when he bought what remained of Studebaker Autoparts Sales Corp., or SASCO, in 2009. Those parts had been stored in the company’s engineering building, where his father had worked, along Sample Street in South Bend.

Studebaker International employs a dozen people in Greenfield and three in South Bend. Reynolds said he contracts with other companies to manufacture the reproduction parts, but his employees do some of the machining and cleaning for parts before shipping them to customers.

Reynolds said, “People have come to me and said, ‘Do you really make enough money selling Studebaker parts to make a living?’ I say, ‘Well, I have 15 people working for me, and none of us are going hungry.’”

He said love for Studebaker has endured, even though the company stopped making cars in the 1960s.

That interest isn’t confined to the Midwest either.

Studebaker International ships orders throughout the United States and abroad. It has a strong customer base in Australia.

The company is an important source for the 12,000 people who keep Studebakers road-worthy as members of the Studebaker Drivers Club.

Bob Halgren, a resident of La Mesa, Calif., and the advertising arbiter for the club’s monthly magazine, Turning Wheels, said the SASCO inventory likely would have been junked if Reynolds hadn’t bought it in 2009.

“I don’t know where we would be from a parts and maintenance perspective if he wasn’t around and hadn’t stepped up to buy SASCO,” Halgren said.


Information from: South Bend Tribune,

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'Studebaker Authorized Service' porcelain sign. Image courtesy of Archive and Pioneer Auction Service.

‘Studebaker Authorized Service’ porcelain sign. Image courtesy of Archive and Pioneer Auction Service.