Live Auctions

Rare Roadster: 1932 Studebaker Rockne 65

This is one of the most interesting vehicles that I have seen or researched at any length in a long time. This 1932 Studebaker Rockne 65, or 1932 Rockne 65, has been customized at some point in its history which may have hurt its value given that it’s such a rare car. It’s listed here on craigslist and it can be found in beautiful, dry, warm Tucson, Arizona where I should be right now. The seller is asking $5,900. There were Standard and Deluxe versions and the Deluxe would have had dual spare tires mounted on the front fenders, so this would have to be a Standard, unless when it was customized that feature was removed. Let’s dig into it a bit.

The Rockne, as some of you older folks may have guessed, was named after famous Notre Dame college football coach, Knute Rockne. Coach Rockne was born in Norway and surprisingly, or maybe not surprisingly, there are a few Rockne cars still surviving in Norway. In 1928, Knute Rockne, while holding the head coaching position at the University of Notre Dame, became involved with Studebaker to represent them as a spokesman for $5,000 a year – $75,000 in 2020 dollars. On March 19, 1931, they doubled his salary to $10,000 annually to become Manager for Sales Promotions.

Unfortunately, he was killed in a plane crash on March 31st, just twelve days later. As a beloved national figure, Rockne’s death horrified the nation and was treated almost like a presidential death. The related public outcry following the plane crash resulted in increased airline safety and manufacturing standards which ultimately resulted in making airline travel the safest form of travel from what was one of the most unsafe ways to travel. A living legacy indeed.

The Rockne automobile soldiered on through 1933 but with the bankruptcy of Studebaker, the Rockne failed to come back after 1933. The depression was a tough time, so tough that most of us can’t even begin to fathom just how tough it really was. The Studebaker-built Rockne was never made while Coach Knute Rockne was alive, that’s a long-standing myth. They went into production nine months later in December of 1931 as 1932 models. He did not receive the first car – another myth – and he never saw them or knew about them at all. This particular car is a 1932 Model 65 as evidenced by the ribbed rear apron as seen in the photo above. In 1933, that rear apron would have been smooth. Also in the above photo, you can see that this car has been customized to be an open four-seater with no visible provision for a top. In the early-60s, this would have probably been just an old, used car so the thought of customizing such a rare car probably never crossed the owner’s mind.

The seller says that it has not been in running condition for many years but it’s complete. I might add, except for the missing top. Rockne cars came in two models in 1932. The 110-inch wheelbase model, which I think this car most likely is, was the Rockne 65 Model 30 and the 114-inch wheelbase model was the Rockne 75 Model 41. Barn Finds alum, David Frank, wrote about what was listed by the seller as a 1931 Rockne here and the comments by Brad Johnson have invaluable information related to these cars. There never was a 1931 Rockne as they started production in December of 1931, nine months after Coach Rockne’s passing. Only the Model 65, which in 1933 was renamed the Model 10, was offered with an open-top/convertible body style. The bigger Model 75 came with a closed top only.

When I saw this photo I got excited thinking that there was some sort of Duesenberg-like supercharger or something going on in the engine compartment from the 1960s customization. But alas, it’s just an aftermarket ribbed hose, not a stainless hose going to some fancy, custom supercharger. The engines would have all been Studebaker L-head inline-sixes with the Model 65 having a 190 cubic-inch six with 66 hp and it was reportedly the third to the last new engine designed by Studebaker. This one hasn’t run in years, maybe decades. I’d love to see a close-up photo of the tag in the engine compartment, but there are only six photos in the listing. Have any of you heard of the Studebaker-made Rockne?

Comments

  1. Rex Kahrs Member

    Wow, it sure looks like an MG T-series car, only about 20 years earlier. Now let’s go out there and win one for the Gipper.

    Like 6
  2. PaulG

    Would be cool to perform a sympathetic restoration on, and drive to shows in good weather. I’d stay away from Studebaker exclusive ones for fear of being ostracized!

    Like 2
  3. Gary St.Amour

    Very interesting. My grandfather was a Studebaker VP in the 30’s and I own one of 2 stock Rockne roadsters known to exist in the US and the only deluxe roadster. This one has definitely been customized, there are a lot of unusual parts on it.

    Like 9
  4. bobk

    We should all be in Tucson, AZ, Scotty. Written while on break from removing 3 inches of snow from my deck, LOL.

    Like 2
  5. Ike Onick

    Interesting but let’s not forget the beloved football coach at Bullwinkle’s alma mater Whatsamatta U- Coach Rocky Kanute!

    Like 5
  6. Matt R Member

    A clean and rare car for a lot less than an MG TD. The rear seat mod looks well done to me and that interior doesn’t appear to need much more than a rub with a damp cloth. Fun project that will sell at that price.

    Like 2
  7. Brad Johnson

    I was surprised to see myself cited as a reference.
    Everything I’ve learned about Rocknes I’ve learned from others, as well as owning and driving my own Barn Find ’33 Rockne 10 Standard sedan for the past thirty years, having pulled it out of a shed where it sat for the PRIOR thirty-one years.

    Like 6
  8. Randy Tapp

    An acquaintance told me of a 1932 Rockne 65 that he purchased several years ago. His story was most interesting and I’m looking forward to driving the car this summer. Thanks, Tim!

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