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Growing 'sign' made Studebaker's presence known
South Bend Tribune - South Bend, Ind.
Author: Quinn, Richard
Date: Sep 10, 2000
Start Page: 1
Section: Business
Abstract (Document Summary)

The story of the now famous sign begins in 1926 when Studebaker purchased an 840-acre property 13 miles west of South Bend on Indiana 2. Within two years, a 2.96-mile test-track had been built, as well as two brick garages, which were used by mechanics of the engineering department to work on vehicles being tested. Eventually, over 9 miles of additional roads were built on the property, which came to be known as the Studebaker Proving Ground. The first cars to be tested on the track were the 1927 model EU Dictators and EW Commanders.

It is widely believed that James M. Cleary, a sales manager for Studebaker in the late 1920s, was on a flight from Washington D.C., to Chicago in 1938. As the plane flew over the Studebaker Proving Ground west of South Bend, a fellow passenger asked the hostess to explain that racetrack out in the country with no grandstand. When the plane's hostess was unable to identify the track, it gave Cleary an idea. He called George Keller, vice president of Studebaker, the next morning and suggested that the proving ground could be identified from the air by planting trees that spelled the word "Studebaker." According to Cleary's memo, Keller was enthusiastic about the idea and the trees were planted that same year.

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