The Zimbabwe Studebakers

Mark van Deventer -  
President Black Hawk Chapter Studebaker Drivers Club 1998 - 2002

I have been a member of the Studebaker Drivers Club since 1975. I was 15 and was the first member from Zimbabwe then called Rhodesia to join SDC. Back in Africa my family has been driving Studes since the 40's, my father Steve courted my mother in a '47 Starlight Coupe in South Africa. After getting married in the early '50's they decided to move to Rhodesia and had to sell the Coupe to finance the move.

The following pictures were taken 1960 - 1964
These are from our holidays around Rhodesia, South Africa and Mozambique

Girls climbing a Baobab Tree

Visiting the Game Park by Lake Mac
(That is me running from the deer!)

Curbside in Louis Trichard South Africa on the way to
East London 1960, Peter with big sister Lynn


Camping in South Africa in 1965


On the way to South Africa
1960 -the "Famous Folding Caravan"


1962 - That's me with the orange shirt


Beira on the coast of Mozambique - 
that is the famous "Estoral Hotel"in the back round


After a multitude of brand X's the next Stude was a brand new '56 Commander Parkview wagon bought off the showroom floor from White Motors in Salisbury (now Harare). Someone else had an option on the wagon that expired at 12 noon, he was late and the deal with my parents was concluded at 12:05. Now with wagon purchased, a new house it was time for a family. The other Stude in the family was a '58 Studebaker Provincial Wagon which my dad helped his sister acquire. There were many trips in the 50's, 60's and 70's when the two families traveled in convoy through Rhodesia, Mozambique and South Africa.

Just across the border from Rhodesia into South Africa
in the town of Mesina

The '56 Commander Wagon towing a 26ft "Caravan"
in May 1996 through the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe

The '58 Provincial Wagon just before leaving for
Chicago in March 2001

Through the years more Studebakers were added, at one time there were 13 in various stages of repair. The '56 wagon was always the favorite and pampered even today. My brother, Peter, was the only kid at school in the mid 70's to drive a '57 Silver hawk (painted to look like a Golden Hawk) In March of 1997 I tried to one-up Peter by acquiring a true '57 Golden Hawk.

In 1983 I came to Chicago on a swimming scholarship to the University of Illinois at Chicago. As a prospective member of the Zimbabwe Olympic swimming team I wanted to benefit from the competition  in the USA before the 1984 Olympics in LA.  Unfortunately the Zimbabwe government decided not to send any swimmers to the '84 Olympic games.  I offered to pay my own way ... but the decision was made so after 20 years of competition the Olympic dream was put to rest.

My dad died in August of 1996 and there are now there is only 1 Studebaker left in the Zimbabwe collection. My brothers '57 Silver Hawk.  In June 2001 my brother Peter shipped the '56 Parkview and the '58 Provincial over to me.  The story about  this follows ..

Have you ever felt that there is always one more mountain to climb? I mean you get to the top of one and then there ahead is one more so that you are not really sure where the journey will end. This has been one of those weeks and it is Studebaker related so I will tell you of my adventure.

My mom has wanted to sell the '58 Provincial station Wagon in Zimbabwe for some time now, I have had buyers interested but the distance is quite off-putting. It is bad enough to buy something off eBay without having seen it but it is something else to buy a car from Africa and expect to be everything that it is cracked up to be. So I mentioned this to my brother and next thing I know there are TWO Studebaker station wagons on their way to me, my brother Peter decided that the '56 would be better off with me here in the USA then in the wilds of Africa.

So I get updates
The cars are in transit to Durban, South Africa.
They have been loaded on to the ship.
Now they are way across the ocean.
The export documents arrive from my mom, she values the cars at $75.00 a piece!
Then nothing, no one knows where they are. For 5 weeks I hear nothing and I miraculously hope that I will come home from work one day and there they will be.
On the 18th I get a call from SAF Marine that the cars have been in Chicago since May 2nd, having been off-loaded in Baltimore on the 29th of April. No one has let me know for 3 weeks that the container has been in the Conrail yard.

It is suggested that I "Get a Customs Agent" to clear them through customs. OK where do I get a Customs Agent "Look in the yellow pages!" I am told. Well after a few calls at random I am getting nowhere, the conversation is something like this

"You are importing 2 WHAT'S and you are getting them from WHERE? Oh man this is going to be tough. Where were these Studa what-evers made." "South Bend Indiana" I reply. "Why were these cars in Africa?". They ask. I respond with "They were imported there in the 50's." "Oh man this is gonna be tough" I am told again. So anyway to make a long story shorter I end up going to customs myself. 5 documents and 45 minutes I am done with zero cash paid! So much for the $800.00 one person wanted to charge me!

Now comes the tricky part, I thought that customs would be tough, the container that the cars are in has been sitting in the rail yard for 3 weeks, that will be $1,000 for storage please. OK now can I come and get them, "No, you have to take the whole container on a truck", "Well I do not have a truck", "So hire a trucker", "What am I going to do with the container?", "Well we do not want it here!" Alright so I figure that the shipper would want it back and I was right, but I did see myself with an addition the garage being made of steel! So now I have found a trucker but I need a loading dock to get them off, oh now I need a transfer agent for $250.00 to drive the Studebakers out of the container to off ramp. "WHAT $250.00 for 2 minutes work", "Well we are a Union shop buddy!"

the wagons left Zimbabwe late in March and now it was fast approaching June. The end of May came and went and still the clock was ticking and the dollars with it. Even by the June meeting at Rolf's house there was still no resolution basically the shipping office in Zimbabwe had not sent the original documents.

On June 8th, , the day of mine and Carrie's 16th Wedding anniversary, the call came through that the cars had been released. I could arrange their pickup at anytime after I pay the storage to Conrail, "What happened to not being liable for the charges since I had paid the freight 3 weeks before?" Well it was determined that it was not Safmarine's fault but the shipper who my brother contracted with. So to avoid any further delay I called Atlanta and gave them my "Magic Card Number", they did not take Zimbabwe Express!! Well mister MasterCard paid and now I had to arrange the trucking company to come and get them.

Thanks to all of you who called and offered some help or advice. My wife's cousin's husband is a truck driver for a small outfit in Elk Grove Village so that seemed like the best solution. I gave them all the details and then at about 11:00am I got a call that the truck was at the yard but I did not tell them that the container was on the ground and needed a chassis that will be another $60 to go and get another truck! OK I have no option but the container will be in Elk Grove at about 2:30 and could I please be there for the unloading, well I had wanted to be there but there was only one problem. I was downtown Chicago with no transport as I take the train to work. Public transportation to Elk Grove was questionable and then on the return trip even more questionable. So I rented a car, a cab would have cost more then a days rental on the car and then I figured the return trip would put me at over $100 for cab fare. A rental made sense, I went to Enterprise right down stairs from my office and asked for the cheapest car that they had, then a PT Cruiser pulled in. For an extra $20 for the weekend I could have the PT Cruiser so I figured that being mine and Carries anniversary it would kind of nice having a "New" car to go out to dinner in rather then the usual Studebaker or van. But I digress, with the PT Cruiser justified I headed off in traffic to Elk Grove Village.

Par for the course the 2:30 arrival time came and went. The truck pulled up an hour late and with anticipation the seal was cracked. The door did not open because there was a silly little piece of wire right at the top so the driver scrambled to the top of the container and cut it. The door opened and there they were . unfortunately not in the state that I remembered. The '56 had huge rust hole in the tailgate and she was very dirty. Well the truck backed up to the dock and with the assistance of a few forklifts the 2 cars were removed. The pressure was on as the regular business was starting to roll into the dock and the meter was running as anything over hour gets a surcharge for extra time. The cars were secured well but did not run as promised. So with me at the wheel and some of the intrigued dock workers pushing the 2 cars made it to the parking lot. At this time a strolled around the old girls wondering what I got myself into, neither had brakes and neither would start. The '56 had way more rust then I ever anticipated and both had the damp/musty old car smell. To say that I was disappointed was an understatement; I had hoped that they would have been drivable.

So the two old girls sat in the parking lot over night, on Saturday I arranged for them to be flat bedded to Deluxe Autowerks where Scott & I would look them over. So another $300 for the flatbed and $230 for the trucking I hope that the only other costs are for the restorations. Scott has taken the '58 in and is in the process of rewiring and tuning the old girl. He will attest to the fact that there has been some "creative maintenance" done since she left the factory. As for the '56 wagon, Bob Kapteyn seems to have all the necessary parts to put her back to her original splendor! After taking the time to look them both over there is hope for them both.

As the mechanical restoration continued I thought that it was time to get the cars licensed here in Illinois, it was one of those things like taxes that you avoid doing because you know that it will cause pain.  I had considered going through a titling service like Titles Unlimited to get the titles and avoid all the questions about the Zimbabwe paperwork, but their price is now up to $140 a title.  So on October 11th 2001 I gathered up all of my paperwork and headed to the DMV in downtown Chicago realizing that it would take some time.  It went surprisingly well there was one lady who knew what to do and after delaying the people behind me for a "few" minutes everything seemed in order, I titled the '49 Business Coupe at the same time.  So after 2 hours I was done with fresh antique plates for the 2 Zimbabwe station wagons and also the '49 Business Coupe, all legal.  Hopefully the state of Illinois will agree and I should get Illinois titles in a few weeks and then at least this part of the journey will be over!

Around 1965 on Holiday in South Africa



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