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Friday, June 21, 2024
The Observer

Car enthusiasts gather for Studebaker Museum’s Cars and Coffee

Antiques line the parking lot of Studebaker National Museum during the September installment of Cars and Coffee.

On Saturday, South Bend car enthusiasts gathered to swap stories and suggestions during the monthly installment of Cars and Coffee at the Studebaker National Museum in South Bend, a car show that runs on the second Saturday of each month from May to October.

As the antiques rolled in, local and regional car enthusiasts strolled around the parking lot, exchanging the history behind each of their vehicles. A number of Studebaker cars made an appearance — a brand that is rarely seen on the road today. The last model to hit the dealerships was a 1966 Cruiser.

Bob Paul, an attendee of the event, displays his antique vehicle — an old Studebaker body that survived a fire over 20 years ago.

South Bend takes care in preserving the history of Studebaker, the wagon and automobile manufacturer formerly headquartered in South Bend. The Studebaker National Museum not only preserves the story of the company, but it works to bring together the antique-loving community through various speaker events and car shows, such as Saturday’s Cars and Coffee.

Attendees said they were grateful for the opportunity, as car shows are becoming increasingly hard to come by. 

Dale and Marilyn Dutoi are the proud owners of a 1953 Pontiac Catalina that still has its original paint job and interior. The couple — both in their late 80s — makes the trek to a number of car shows every year. Dale Dutoi even helped found a club for Indiana classic car collectors, a group that Marilyn Dutoi said is unfortunately dwindling.

“So wherever the club had chosen, wherever they went, we went,” Marilyn Dutoi said. “There was a group of us, but they’re all our age or older, so it’s hard to go anywhere anymore.”

Marilyn Dutoi said she is thankful for local shows like Studebaker Museum’s Cars and Coffee because they help keep the tradition alive. For Dale Dutoi, Studebaker holds a distinct place in his memory: his after-school job in high school. 

“I worked at Studebaker when I was a senior in high school. I’m 88 years old, and I’ll tell you, anybody who worked at Studebaker is older than me or my age,” he said. “I installed dashboards at Plant 1, which was in downtown South Bend … and it was good money. I made $3.69 [an hour] — that was top in South Bend.”

Although every attendee had a different story to tell and a different car to show, enthusiasts took greater pride in their vehicles and the amount of work put into restoring them. Chris Pich, owner of a 1952 Chevrolet Sedan, said he is content to spend the rest of his retirement “just cruising” in his 70-year-old vehicle. 

“Her name is Shirley, and I bought her this way about five years ago. In my younger days I used to paint cars, upholster the seats and look at the engines. I did all that stuff, but that was a long time ago,” Pich said. “I was looking for one last old car that I could enjoy in my old age and just drive. So this is not a show car, it’s not a hot rod. It’s all pretty much original.”

Show attendee, Chris Pich, displays his 1952 Chevrolet Sedan, “Shirley.”

Pich looked around at the gathering of car lovers and said that he was exactly where he wanted to be.

“Look at all these old cars — I love it. This is what I grew up with, this right here. And, this right here, Shirley, is my retirement. I don’t have some fancy lodge or a place in Florida,” Pich said. “I put her in the garage and take her out day to day. This is my retirement. I can just afford her, and that’s all I need. The Lord is good.”

The parking lot swarmed with conversation — on engine replacement, interior restoration, Studebaker and even Notre Dame. Attendees reminisced on the history of their antiques, but also their memories of Notre Dame and the city of South Bend. As the University and city continue to grow and develop, these car enthusiasts said they are content to hold onto history through their vehicles.