SOUTH BEND —This week, Studebaker owners from around the world are traveling to South Bend, the very place where their classic cars were built.
This year’s international meet is happening at a time when work is underway to renovate the nearly 100-year-old downtown plant.
Tim Janowiak, who’s a long-time firefighter in South Bend, just happens to own one of the rarest Studebakers still running.
It was the muscle car, before there were muscle cars.
“Then in the second quarter mile, the super charger would start kicking in,” Janowiak said.
On this particular morning, this hot rod is going for a ride. Back to the very floor it was built in 1957.
“They only made 878 of them,” Janowiak said.
It’s now one of the rarest Studebakers on the road.
“Probably less than 100 still running now,” Janowiak said.
A homecoming of sorts for Janowiak and his Golden Hawk, the sixth floor of the former Studebaker plant.
“I love bringing it up here, it’s not the first time. We call ourselves the Studebaker garage,” Janowiak said.
The old factory has been stripped down to the bare brick and concrete.
“I don’t see it as a building. I see it as a legacy. I see it as part of who we are,” Global Access Point CEO and founder Kevin Smith said.
It’s here that Smith will showcase his vision, not just to car lovers, but to investors and new companies.
“It’s a culmination of about 40 years of effort,” Smith said.
He’s already reeled in some big fish, including Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who made a surprise visit to the plant last weekend with the mayor.
“Trying to reinvent America, you have to go back to your roots. You have to understand where you came from so you know where to go,” Smith said.
Studebaker lovers just like Janowiak will arrive in South Bend this week, and they’ll get to see the beginning of new life in the old factory for the first time in more than 50 years.
The drivers club is hosting a number of events over the next few days, followed by a car show on Saturday at the St. Joseph County 4H Fairgrounds.