‘Remember When, Chattanooga?’ Honk if you recall Studebakers

News-Free Press archive photo by John Goforth via ChattanoogaHistory.com. / In 1960, the Patten Motor Co. dealership on South Broad Street carried Studebaker, Renault and Mercedes-Benz automobiles.

In 1960, Car magazine named Studebaker's Lark sedan its best buy among American automobiles.

The magazine said the Lark "will do anything and go anywhere, at a lower cost." In 1960, a customer could buy a new, two-door Lark for payments of about $43 a month for 36 months, assuming 6% interest on the loan. The Lark also offered great fuel economy for the time, 22 miles per gallon of gas.

Studebaker also sold the Champ pickup truck, which it described as "handsome and husky."

Too bad the driving public didn't buy enough Larks and Champs. By the mid-1960s, Studebaker had ceased production.

Still, in 1960, there were three Studebaker dealerships in Chattanooga, including Patten Motor Co. at 1237 S. Broad St., pictured in the accompanying photo. There were also Studebaker stores at 2435 Rossville Blvd. here and in Rossville, Georgia.


This photo was taken by Chattanooga News-Free Press photographer John Goforth and is now archived at ChattanoogaHistory.com, a website devoted to preserving historic images.

According to newspaper ads and articles, the president of Patten Motor Co. was businessman William T. Patten, who operated several mid-century auto dealerships in the Chattanooga area.

Patten's dealerships carried Packard, Edsel, Rambler and Studebaker automobiles. In an unfortunate run of bad luck for the business, all four of these car manufacturers were out of business by the end of the 1960s.

This Broad Street dealership, however, also carried Renault automobiles. At the time, Renault was the second-leading import in the U.S. after Volkswagen. The dealership also sold Mercedes-Benz cars at a time when there were only a few hundred authorized M-B dealerships in the United States.

In 1960, a Chattanooga News-Free Press reporter was invited to Patten Motors to test drive the sleek Mercedes-Benz 300 SL, a high-performance roadster that sold at the time for a lofty $11,000. (Today, a 1958 300 SL is a classic collector car, with some examples selling at auction for about $1 million in recent years.)

Before getting behind the wheel of the German sports car, the reporter was told by a Mercedes-Benz representative on hand, "The way to drive this baby is to drive it like you're mad at it."

Patten's Broad Street dealership carried Edsel vehicles before acquiring rights to Studebaker, Packard and Mercedes-Benz in 1958. In 1959, the dealership acquired Renault and another French brand, Peugeot, and advertised that its service department included a French mechanic.

Follow the "Remember When, Chattanooga" public group on Facebook.


Launched by history enthusiast Sam Hall in 2014, Chattanooga History.com is maintained to present historical images in the highest resolution available. If you have photo negatives, glass plate negatives or original nondigital prints taken in the Chattanooga area, contact Sam Hall for information on how they may qualify to be digitized and preserved at no charge.

Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6645. Follow him on Twitter @TFPcolumnist.