The Rockne Company produced automobiles from 1931 through 1933. The story is rather sad with the name serving as a tribute to an individual. In 1931 Albert Erskine, the President of Studebaker, offered Knute Rockne a position as sales promotion manager of Rockne cars. Rockne was a long time friend of Erskine and the head coach of the Notre Dame Foolball team. Rockne was worried that these new duties would interfere with his football program but Erskine reassured him that they would not. Studebaker began by creating a strong, durable, and inexpensive automobile named after the Notre Dame football coach. Just after the first Rockne automobiles began appearing in showrooms, Knute Rockne was killed in an airplane crash. The name persisted and used as a tribute, but most people were unwilling to purchase the car nearly sending the Studebaker Company into bankruptcy. Instead the company entered receivership and was able to continue automobile production. Erskine was removed from his position and he later committed suicide in 1933.
The Rockne automobiles were offered with an L-Head Studebaker six-cylinder engine with a choice of either 66 or 72 horsepower. The Rockne came in two lengths and could be purchased for around $600. Unfortunately, Ford's V8 automobiles outsold the Rocknes due to their stylish design, powerful engines, and low cost.
On April of 1933, the Rockne plant, located in Detroit, Michigan, closed its doors forever. A total of 23,201 examples had been produced.
By Daniel Vaughan | Mar 2006
Three Studebaker men left Germany in 1736 for a better life. And nearly two centuries later, this Studebaker Rockne rolled off the Piquet Avenue assembly line in Detroit. In between, their descendants settled in South Bend, IN where, beginning in the 1850s, they built a prosperous wagon-making business. And, by 1904 the Studebakers were making cars.
In 1930, Willys-Overland optimistically commissioned the design of a new car, but soon facing financial ruin, they couldn't fund the car. So, the two independent engineers who'd designed it went on the road to sell their design. All it took was a trip to South Bend, a prototype demo, and Studebaker bought it on the spot. The Rockne's two year run consisted of the '65' and '75' Series.
This car, a '65,' was based on the designs of those two engineers. It was named after framed Notre Dame coach, Knute Rockne, a genuine All-American legend as were his Fighting Irish whom he'd coached for 13 peerless seasons right there in South Bend. The Rockne debuted in late 1931 but Knute Rockne never saw it. He died in a plane crash the previous March.
The current owner's grandfather had been a Studebaker Vice President in the 1930s. He'd bought his daughter a 1932 Rockne for college. Over the years she often commented how nice it would be to find a car just like that college car. After years of search, he found this one in 2012. It is one of only seven roadsters from 1932 known to still exist.
2 Door Sedan
On May first, 1928, Knute Kenneth Rockne became the most famous part-time employee on the Studebaker payroll. On that date, he began an association wîth Studebaker that would last until his premature death near Bazaar, Kansas in March of 1931.
Rockne's success on the Gridiron was legendary. From his inaugural season in 1918 until his last in 1930. Rockne led his team to victory in nearly 90-percent of their contests, including three undefeated seasons.
In the late 1920s, former Notre Dame football standout Paul Castner was employed at Studebaker as The Sales Manager of the Commercial Division. At this time, Rockne was rapidly gaining recognition as one of the nation's foremost motivational speakers. Castner was well aware of Rockne's prowess as an orator, and urged Studebaker Vice-President Paul Hoffman to put Rockne's skill to use for Studebaker.
Rockne's first speech was to the National Automobile Chamber of Commerce at the Commodore Hotel in New York City. With literally no preparation, Rockne spoke for forty-five minutes in his trademarked high-energy fashion. When he concluded his remarks, the audience, that included Henry Ford of Ford Motor Company, and Alfred Sloan of General Motors leapt to its feet cheering and clapping.
On March 31, 1931, Rockne and eight passengers boarded a flight from Kansas City to Los Angeles. Shortly after takeoff, the plane encounter rough weather and crashed in a field near Bazaar, Kansas, killing everyone aboard. Telegrams expressing condolences were received from President Herbert Hoover, General Douglas MacArthur, Babe Ruth, and King Haaken of Norway as a nation mourned the passing of a sports legend.The Car
The Rockne automobile was created by Ralph Vail and Roy Cole, two independent automotive engineers headquartered in Detroit, Michigan. The pair had been contracted to create a new low-priced car for the Willys-Overland Corporation of Toledo, Ohio. Two prototypes were built and shown in early 1931, but Willys-Overland elected not to proceed wîth the project. Vail and Cole smartly sought and received approval to keep all the rights to the automobiles as well as the two prototypes. Each man took one car and promptly went on vacation.
Ralph Vail headed to his farm near Michigan City, Indiana. His journey from Toledo took him right through South Bend on a Saturday afternoon. With nothing to lose, Vail visited the Studebaker Administration building and arranged a meeting wîth Studebaker President Albert Erskine that very day. Erskine was impressed wîth Vail and his automobile, and before the sun had set hired both Vail and Cole and scheduled their new car for production.
Rockne Motors Corporation was created as a wholly owned subsidiary of Studebaker in 1931. Production took place in Detroit at Studebaker's Picquette Avenue plant, which still stands today. Knute Rockne was to have been an officer of Rockne Motors. But accounts differ as to what role he would have taken.
All of Studebaker's remaining resources were put into the production and promotion of the Rockne. In 1933, Studebaker entered receivership, a form of corporate bankruptcy. They emerged from receivership in late 1933, but the Rockne did not return to Studebaker showrooms. In the end, just 25,000 Rocknes were produced in 1932 and 1933.Source - Studebaker Museum