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Studebakers are for lovers

Martinsburg car show showcases now-defunct automaker

Martinsburg car show showcases now-defunct automaker

July 23, 2006|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - High school sweethearts Gerald and Vicki Bailey celebrated 34 years of marriage Saturday at the Atlantic Zone Meet of the Studebaker Drivers Club.

More than 500 miles from home, the Portland, Ind., couple would have it no other way.

"For me, it's just life," Vicki Bailey said.

As in a Studebaker-filled life.

Vacations are summed up in one word - "VacationStudebaker," she said.

Gerald Bailey had eight trucks manufactured by the now-defunct automaker until he sold one last year. Bailey still has the 1957 3E11 he bought from his father for $50.

On Saturday in the Comfort Inn parking lot, he parked a bright yellow 1951 Woody Wagon, actually his customized version of a Studebaker R-series truck, featuring surfboards mounted on the roof made from scratch.

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"I'd have a tough time using them back home on the (Wabash) river," Bailey said, laughing.

Inside the cab, the visors, steering wheel and dash are padded and covered in brown furlike material. Large yellow dice dangle from the rearview mirror.

"I wanted something a little bit different from everybody else," Gerald Bailey said of the vehicle, which was scrutinized by a team of judges.

Bucket seats covered with brown cloth accented with yellow stripes provided adequate comfort for their trip to the Eastern Panhandle.

"He kept saying, 'Are you ready to stop,' and I said, 'I'm all right'," Vicki Bailey said.

As it turns out, the meet sponsored by the Potomac Chapter of the club was a warmup for their trip planned for the national meet later this year in Omaha, Neb.

The vehicle's origins date to Henry and Clement Studebaker's blacksmith shop in South Bend Ind. The shop became the Studebaker Manufacturing Co. in 1868, and eventually would become the largest wagon manufacturer in the world. Studebaker also became the only manufacturer to successfully switch from horse-drawn to gasoline-powered vehicles.

Vehicle production ended in 1966 after 114 years, but the love for them continues.

At the Atlantic Zone Meet, judges were given a difficult task, Gerald Bailey said.

"They really don't get the credit they deserve," he said.

Inspecting everything from the paint and body to the upholstery, horns and wipers takes between 20 and 30 minutes for each vehicle, said Ed Ellis, a judge from Bishopsville, Md.

"We're judging the car, not the owner," Ellis said. "We really got to pick between the fly pepper, if you know what I mean."

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