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Studebaker Commander Series

Model Year: 1966

Location of Manufacture: Hamilton, Ontario

Studebaker has a long history in the North American automotive industry. Founded in 1852 in South Bend, Indiana, the company originally produced wagons for farmers and the military. The company entered the motorized vehicle business in 1902 with an electric car, and shifted to producing gas-powered cars in 1904. Like Ford, Gray-Dort and others, Studebaker had a plant in Walkerville, Ontario in the 1920s. There they assembled cars using American parts and advertised them as “British built,” thus avoiding the tariffs normally imposed on foreign vehicles. This also gave the company access to the entire Commonwealth market.

Recognizing Hamilton, Ontario’s central role in the Canadian steel industry, Studebaker set up an auto factory in that city in 1947. Located in a former World War II anti-aircraft gun factory, the Studebaker plant manufactured cars using engines made in the U.S. until 1963. With the closing of the company’s South Bend plant in that same year, all production moved to the Hamilton facility. A goal of producing 20,000 cars per year was set and production on four models began – the Daytona, Cruiser, Commander and Wagonaire.

Sales of the Studebaker declined in the early to mid 1960s, due largely to competition from Ford and General Motors. Studebaker, whose workers were among the highest paid in the industry, found it increasingly more difficult to compete. Production in 1966 was less than half of what it was in 1965, and it was decided that no new models would be produced in 1967. The last Studebaker rolled off of the Hamilton assembly line in March of 1966, leaving some 700 workers unemployed. The impact on Hamilton’s work force was enormous – Studebaker had been that city’s 10th largest employer.