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Rockne, by Studebaker
Compiled and EDITED
Larry Tholen

 Wichita, Kansas


Rockne Motors Corp.

Brief history:

   1932 and 1933 Rockne vehicles

Rockne Motors Corp. was a wholly-owned Studebaker subsidiary; it and the 1932 and 1933 Rockne automobiles and trucks it produced were named in honor and in memory of Notre Dame football coach Knute Rockne.  Rockne had been employed part-time by Studebaker giving promotional and motivational talks to its dealers; he was killed in a commercial airplane crash in March 1931 just before he was to assume an expanded role in those endeavors.
The 1932
Rockne Six "75" car (114-inch wheelbase, which evolved from the 1931 Studebaker Six Model 54) debuted in December 1931, and was built in South Bend.  The 1932 Rockne Six "65" car production began in February 1932 in Detroit at the plant Studebaker owned from its earlier acquisition of E-M-F.  The "65" was on a 110-inch wheelbase, and was a "new" idea and design brought to Studebaker in 1930 by automotive designers Ralph Vail and Roy Cole when their design was released to them by Willys-Overland, which was financially unable to pursue it.
The Rockne Six "65" evolved to become the 1933
Rockne Six "10".  Minor changes distinguished the ’33 Rockne “10” from the ’32 Rockne "65"— e.g., leading edge of front fenders, 17-inch wheels from 18-inch, 1-inch additional body length.  In addition to Rockne cars in 1933, a Rockne Deluxe Delivery Car (panel delivery truck) based on the Rockne “10” was produced.  Rockne "75" cars did not change in any manner for 1933, and only a few hundred were produced through June 1933. 
Rockne "65" and "10" cars were produced as 2- and 4-door sedans, 2- and 4-passenger coupes, 4-passenger convertible-coupe roadsters, and 2-door convertible sedans.  Rockne "75" cars came only in 4-door sedans, and 2- and 4-passenger coupes (early advertising and press releases indicated a "75" roadster, but there were none).  All Rockne cars could be either “standard” (or "regular") with a rear-mounted spare, or “deluxe” with dual front fender-mounted spares.
Rockne sales were considered "pretty good" for a newly-introduced automobile line, and Rockne cars were good ones, but Studebaker had financial problems unrelated to the Rockne, and entered receivership in March 1933.  Shortly after that, all Rockne “10” production was transferred to South Bend, and Rockne sales and marketing were "merged" into those of Studebaker—and after which Rocknes were considered Studebaker-Rocknes. 
The Studebaker receiver deemed it necessary to reduce overall product lines, and Rocknes, as the newest line, became expendable to achieve that; all Rockne production ceased in July 1933.
All of the
Rockne car models were also produced in Studebaker’s Walkerville, Ontario plant during both model years.  Data taken from original factory sources indicate that total production of Rockne vehicles for the 1932 and 1933 model years was 37,879, which consisted of 16,860 1932 "65" cars, 13,695 1933 "10" cars and trucks (number of trucks is not distinguished, because truck frame/chassis serial numbers are within the same numbering sequence with cars), and 7,324 1932 & 1933 "75" cars.  These production figures include all production in Detroit, South Bend and Walkerville.                      
The “new” six-cylinder engine developed specifically for the
Rockne "65" and "10" remained in production long after Rockne production ended.  It powered Studebaker Dictator and Commander cars during the pre-WWII years and Commander cars and most six-cylinder truck models through 1960.  Its nearly 30-year production run might be an industry record.
To refute a couple of myths:  Knute Rockne was not involved with any aspect of the planning, development or production of Rockne cars—and he did not see one, because he died in March 1931 before the first
Rockne was rolled out in December 1931.

Rockne Registry Update

Rockne owners’ ALERT:  The latest edition of the Rockne Registry was completed and forwarded to Rockne owners in February 2015.  If you did not receive it as an e-mail attachment, your correct e-mail address is not on file with the Registry—please contact Larry Tholen at .  The Registry is available with information sorted in vehicle serial number (VIN equivalent) order, or in order of owners’ locations by US state, Canadian province, Australian state, and other countries; each sort is 8 pages in MS Excel.  If you have or know of a Rockne automobile or “Deluxe Delivery Car” (panel delivery truck) and want to determine if it is listed in the Registry, please contact Larry Tholen.

The intention of the Registry is to “keep track” of as many Rocknes as possible around the world, in whatever condition or status (including “modified”/“customized”/street rods, as well as identifiable Rockne remnants).  By February 2015 there were listed about 220 more-or-less complete (if not necessarily “up & running”) Rocknes, plus a number of identifiable remnants, in 16 countries.  Of nearly 300 “line item” Registry entries—which include remnants—124 relate to Rockne “65” cars, 115 to Rockne “10” cars/trucks, 42 to Rockne “75” cars; 16 other entries are identified only as “1932 Rockne”, or “1933 Rockne”, with other identification not yet provided.

The Registry can be forwarded as an e-mail attachment to Rockne owners (or mailed with a copy & postage charge—contact Larry).  ASC membership is encouraged (a great international club emphasizing Studebaker-related vehicles up through WWII; the excellent bi-monthly Antique Studebaker Review is well worth the modest dues), but is not required for Rockne vehicles and owners to be listed in the Registry—the intention is to “keep track” of all of them; and, as noted above, in whatever condition or status.

The largest number of Rockne vehicles, of course, is in the United States, but one is known in each of Argentina, Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany (Rockne engine in a ’30s race car), India, Netherlands, New Zealand, Philippines, and United Kingdom.  There are four in each of Sweden and Switzerland; eight in South Africa; more than 20 in each of Australia and Norway; and 40 in Canada.  Because Rocknes “turn up” periodically, it is very likely there are others “out there” not yet known to the Registry.

Twelve listed Rocknes are currently displayed in car museums—seven in the US, two in Canada, one each in Australia, Norway, and South Africa; other Rocknes are known to have previously been in museums.

Listed Rockne owners include a Rokne (originally spelling of the Norwegian Rockne family name), a Rockne, and a Rockney.

From the first 1932 Rockne “65” (US-production serial number 00001) through the last 1933 Rockne “10” (serial number 29386), the earliest listed in the Registry is 00679 and the last is 29372.  There are eleven known Canadian-production serial numbers, plus one “probable” (Canadian body tag on car missing SN plate)—ten are “65” cars; two are “10” cars.

For 1932 and 1933 Rockne “75” cars, US-production serial numbers extended from 1500001 through 1507002, and the Registry lists 34 beginning with 1500038 and the last is 1506976, plus three Canadian serial numbers; a half-dozen listed “75” cars are missing serial number plates or the numbers are not yet known to the Registry.

There is one known example of a Rockne 2-door Convertible Sedan (S-body), and it is a 1933 Rockne “10” Deluxe 2-door Convertible Sedan, plus the “probability” of another possibly dismantled one, both in Norway.  A Rockne “65” 4-door convertible sedan in Australia was modified from a 4-door sedan by the automobile body firm which assembled “knocked down” Rocknes imported there for assembly.  There are two known 1933 Rockne Deluxe Delivery Cars (panel delivery truck, P-body) in the US (one is featured in the 1953 movie, “The Glenn Miller Story”); there might be a third dismantled one in Canada.

Two Rockne owners account for three “interestingly” modified cars (that is, other than being modified into street rods or customized)—they have cars that have not remained “all together” as they were intended originally, but nevertheless are still “pure” Rocknes: a roadster with a “65” frame, wheels and engine, fitted with a “10” body and fenders; a Deluxe 4-door Sedan with a “65” body mounted on a “10” chassis and engine; and a roadster having a “65” body, a replacement “65” engine and a “10” frame/chassis.

For further information about Rocknes—particularly if you have one (or more) and are not in contact with the Registry—please contact:


                                 The ROCKNE Registry  
                                                        c/o Larry Tholen
                                                                                                     7611 E. Oneida St.
                                                                                                  Wichita, KS  67206-3822                                                                                           
                                                                                   ‘phone:  316-634-0049 [evenings, weekends]

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