Studebaker, Oliver, Minnie-Mo Tractor Anyone?

Farmer Iron

Reviving an extinct farm brand may be an interesting idea, but it is rare.

Published on: February 3, 2012

This week comes news that a group of investors want to revive the Studebaker brand name. Most readers may remember the Studebaker as the maker of fin-laden cars in the 1950s (who didn't) or the boring Lark. Or maybe you saw the Avanti.

Today, the Studebaker Motor Company looks more like an investor's front for Chinese car and motorcycle makers - and that may be the long-term goal. And it's amazing to me that these brands keep coming back.

Sure, I think fondly of the Studebaker Hawk my parents owned, this high-powered two-door was quite a ride that in its black livery looked more like the Bat Mobile than a normal street car. I've got a picture on this page - taken from oldcarandtruckpictures.com/Studebaker/Hawk.html - to remind you of this two-door wonder. It was an interesting car and ours even had a Packard engine (I won't go there).

A HAWK: The Studebaker had a nice run in the 1950s, but went out of business in 1966. Yet some still want to bring the brand back. But is it a name that would sell?
A HAWK: The Studebaker had a nice run in the 1950s, but went out of business in 1966. Yet some still want to bring the brand back. But is it a name that would sell?

But this 'revival' of brands is always interesting to me. We are nostalgic about what is lost and we like to see familiar names on things. Chrysler is even bringing back the Dodge Dart this year - trust me it's nothing like that squared off box of a car powered by a slant six that was so popular in the past, but the name is garnering some attention.

Made me wonder about all those long-gone brands that are so popular at the tractor restoration shows and such famous names as Oliver, Hart-Parr, Minneapolis-Moline. Or we could go farther back to Waterloo Boy and a host of others. Of course those names are gone, merged or bankrupted in a fast-changing business that really does take no prisoners (International?).

It's been 27 years since an International Harvester tractor rolled off of a line yet today the IH is still part of the Case IH tractor brand. In fact, if I just call it Case, I used to get chastised by their PR folks - in a very friendly way. So in my mind it'll always be Case iH.

But those older brands do have some power over us. For awhile Case IH stopped using Steiger for its big tractors, after purchasing the brand so long ago. Yet after a few short years, the Steiger name started appearing on those articulate-four-wheel drive machines again. Steiger is associated with big-muscle horsepower. And there's no way Buhler Industries is going to let that Versatile name disappear from its Winnipeg-build machines.

In ag, where the history stays with us for so long (we still talk about the markets of the 1980s when we know the market we're in today is nothing like it), we want to rest on something familiar. For companies like Deere, which hasn't had a name change those veteran model numbers have some power. Yet I don't see Deere naming it's next tractor the 4020.

We do move on. And due to the vagaries of ag economics we don't have investors lining up to revive those older brands. It's hard to do. While McCormick is seeing some success with its efforts in the market, that type of 'revival' is rare in our business.

If you have time to comment, let me know if there's a brand or product name you'd like to see come back. For me and cars, names like Barracuda or even Studebaker do have some meaning. What would you like to see?