Ernie Brown missed church this past Sunday, which would seem sort of a big deal since he’s the lead pastor at the Church at the Christian Center in Arab, Alabama, just south of Huntsville in the northern part of the state.
But Pastor Brown was in other states this past weekend. He and his wife Katie spent much of the week in the middle of Ohio, where the Studebaker Drivers Club was staging its 55th annual International Meet and where the Browns were showing their 1962 Studebaker Gran Turismo Hawk.
Before becoming head pastor at the church in Alabama in 1995, Brown preached at a church in Waterford, Michigan, and since Michigan is just north of Ohio, the Browns got up extra early Sunday morning and drove their ’62 Grand Turismo Hawk to Ypsilanti, Michigan, to take part in the 23rd annual Orphan Car Show staged by the Ypsilanti Automotive Heritage Museum.
With two exceptions, the Orphan show is open to cars produced by brands that no longer exist or, in the case of foreign cars, no longer are offered for sale in the United States. The exceptions exist for vehicles produced in Ypsilanti, namely Jeeps before 1988 and the Chevrolet Corvair.
Corvair was the featured marque this year, in honor of the 60th anniversary of the first one off the assembly line and the 50th anniversary since the last one was built.
As one might expect, with featured-marque status, Corvairs comprised the largest class at the show, 35 entries. There were 29 cars from defunct Chrysler brands — Plymouth, DeSoto and Imperial — a very strong Packard entry of 23 vehicles, 23 from GM orphans — Oldsmobile and Pontiac — and 22 Studebakers, as well as Hudson/Essex/Terraplanes, American Motors, Willys-Overlands, Kaiser-Frazers, Nashes, Ford orphans — Edsels and Mercurys and Canadian Monarchs — imports, pre-war independents, post-war independents, trucks and one Brass Era entry, a 1911 Ann Arbor.
At least those were the vehicles entered. The actually turnout was less because of threatening weather than drizzled a little before the show and that turned into a shower late in the morning.
Among those who actually made it to Ypsilanti’s Riverside Park were the Browns and their Studebaker, though there were just four miles from that destination when they heard a very unhappy sound from beneath the car’s hood.
A bracket holding the car’s alternator in place had failed. It wasn’t the first time. It had happened before and the Browns’ son had cobbled together support brackets from a lawn mower and another vehicle in what Pastor Brown termed “a Southern fix.”
That fix held up fine until Sunday morning. A few phone calls were made and Brown was assured that the “fix” would hold for the remaining miles, but to be sure to get repairs made before heading home on Monday morning.
After a couple of conversations with fellow Studebaker owners at the park, those repairs already had been scheduled so the couple could head home with very little delay. By the way, the pastor’s current restoration project is a 1957 Studebaker Transtar pickup truck he has back home in Alabama.
As for the Gran Turismo Hawk, the Browns have owned it for 14 years, have named it “Sistah Lucille,” traveling evangelist for the Studebaker Drivers Club, and note with pride that she has a “Roll Tide” red interior with Coach Bear Bryant houndstooth seat inserts.
The Orphan show has an unusual judging setup. Most of the judges are automotive journalists or folks involved with various Michigan car shows and while they (we) check under the hood and such, decisions are based in each class on the car’s story.
So it should come as no surprise that even in a class with such amazing stories at those shared by various Studebaker owners, the judges’ choice award for Class C: Studebaker went to the Browns and their 1962 Gran Turismo Hawk.