Collectors from around world headed for Armour

ARMOUR -- To say that Ken Voigt, 61, has a thing for Studebakers would be an understatement. Saturday, Studebaker collectors from around the world will converge -- personally and electronically -- on Voigt's rural Armour home to participate in a ...

ARMOUR -- To say that Ken Voigt, 61, has a thing for Studebakers would be an understatement.

Saturday, Studebaker collectors from around the world will converge -- personally and electronically -- on Voigt's rural Armour home to participate in a veritable buying frenzy of vintage auto parts.

"I've had one call today from a man from England who had some questions," Voigt said Friday, "and auctioneer Yvette VanDerBrink said she's gotten calls from a number of foreign countries."

The auction will be carried on-line live on eBay and icollector and there also will be telephone bidding.

Voigt has been readying his 40-acre property at 39408 280th St. north of Armour for the hordes of auto aficionados expected to descend with flatbeds, pickups and campers to get a shot at a repository of one of the nation's finest collections of vintage Studebaker cars, trucks and parts. The sale has been nationally advertised in Hemmings Motor News and Old Cars Weekly.


The Armour Community Club will handle event concessions and the money earned will support community projects.

About 250, mostly Studebaker, cars and trucks will be sold Saturday. The sole exception being Voigt's son's restored 1935 Dictator coupe, which sits under cover in the family garage, awaiting his return from Iraq. His son is serving with a Pipestone and Luverne, Minn., National Guard unit.

The cars, truck cabs, fenders, hoods and other parts have been rusting in neat rows for years. They will all go this Saturday -- some to deliriously happy collectors, some to scrap iron dealers.

The hot items are Studebaker cars from the 1930s and '40s, and pickups.

Some gems include an all-original 1963 Avanti, with 67,000 original miles, that was purchased in Pensacola, Fla. The streamlined rocket featured a 289-cubic-inch engine and was one of the fastest and most advanced production cars of its day.

"It came with a warning sticker not to roll down the windows doing more than 120 mph or the back window would blow out," said Voigt, who started Studebaker collecting in 1959 and seriously began adding to his collection in the late 1980s and early '90s, after his retirement as an active duty captain with the U.S. Army. He officially retired from reserve duty in 2000 with

Other items up for auction Saturday will be a 1935 tow truck, a 1927 Dictator sedan that was sold new in Mitchell to a Pukwana family, and a restored mint-green 1958, four-wheel-drive truck that was purchased new from a Chamberlain Studebaker dealer.

Collectors aren't particular about the rust. Voigt said the sheet metal and floorboards on most old Studebakers succumbed to rust years ago, but many cabs, doors and fenders in his collection never faced the heavy salt of eastern U.S. roads and are still desirably solid.


Voigt has been a regular at the Studebaker Spring Swap meet in South Bend, Ind., each year. The show draws about 3,000 collectors and 100 vendors annually. He says he's undertaking the great sell-off at the urging of family members who would face the daunting task of liquidating the collection if anything happened to him.

The collection isn't listed in any catalogue. After all, he says, this is a hobby, not a business.

"It's all up here," he said, pointing to his head. He knows where all bodies, fenders and associated parts can be found as well as the unique history of most pieces. He will be present Saturday to answer all buyer questions until the collection is gone.

Will he miss it?

"I suppose," he says, then grudgingly admits, "yeah, it's hard to do."

"I've been keeping pretty busy shipping parts to people over the past five years. I get calls every day from around the world. I've made some good friends."

Voigt says his "semi-business" has been fun. "I've never been stiffed on a purchase and I've never gotten a bad check," he said.

His greatest customers are the 13,000 members of the Studebaker Drivers Club and the Antique Studebaker Club. The latter group specializes in pre-WWII vehicles.


"It used to be you could slap a label on a hood or a fender and ship it off," Voigt said.

But times have changed; shipping costs are up and sharp edges are out.

Voigt said he still plans to attend annual functions like the Studebaker International Meet, which will be this September in Omaha.

Studebaker was the quintessential all-American car that came with a pedigree. Only those older than 50 remember seeing these cars in an automobile showroom.

The Studebaker family made the wagons that brought pioneers west in the late 1800s and just naturally transitioned into the manufacture of horseless carriages in the early 20th century. Studebaker started making electric cars, then shifted to gasoline-powered models.

After several fits and gasps, the company finally succumbed to financial pressures and closed its South Bend, Ind., plant in 1964. Studebakers were produced two additional years in Canada and then the assembly lines stopped and the cars slipped into history -- and the backyards and garages of collectors.

The early sedans had powerful engines and dignified names like the "President," which competed with the luxury Lincolns and Packards of its day, said Voigt. The Dictator and Champion were mid-market rides that went up against Ford and Chevy. The "Dictator" name was dumped, understandably, shortly before WWII.

The sleek, six-cylinder Champion, which was Voigt's first Studebaker, and the more powerful Commander targeted the mid-range market. It had clean, flowing lines that would get a second look even today.


The remains of the windowless and motorless 1953 Studebaker Champion that Voigt drove to Avon High School as a senior in 1963 sits on the end of one avenue of car bodies. He said his father drove Studebakers and he began collecting when he left high school.

The collection just grew.

Some friends have urged him not to sell, but Voigt says it's time.

"Somebody had to clean up that mess out there," he said.

What To Read Next
Get Local