Beek en Donk, 4 April 2021;

90 years ago, Knute Rockne died in a plane crash. He was considered one of America’s best coaches in college football that ever lived. After his death, Car manufacturer Studebaker honor him by giving their subsidiary brand his Name; The Rockne Motor Corporation. Recently RVL Mobility B.V. imported one of the few 1933 Rockne six “10” ever made, from the United States. With that we were given the opportunity to cover a story to take you down a memory lane. We are also happy and thankful for all the details provided by our buddies of the Antique Studebaker Club. 

Text: Roley Richardson, Benjamin Wefer

Picture: Benjamin Wefer, Roley Richardson

Back in those days Studebaker was a well-known auto manufacturer. They had stylish luxurious cars that were reliable. Studebaker lived the American dream. They had big cars with big engines, beautifully crafted and well built in the United States. You would have been proud when owning one or even if you worked at a Studebaker factory.  


Studebaker wanted to replace the discontinued “27-“30 Studebaker’s line of smaller cars and bought a car concept idea from Vail-Cole engineering. That concept car, with its new 6-cylinder engine would later become the 1932 Rockne Six “65” (the 1932 Rockne Six “65’ will become the Rockne Six “10” in 1933).  At this stage Studebaker design and develop team wasn’t involved in any part of this new concept and Studebaker management decided that a new brand needs to be created. 

 Somewhere in 1928Knute Kenneth Rockne – a Norwegian-American football coach from the University of Notre Dame- had been additionally employed in Studebaker’s marketing efforts. Rockne also agreed to be more extensive in those endeavors. Unfortunately, Rockne died in an airplane crash on 31st march 1933. Studebaker then launched a subsidiary brand called Rockne Motor Corporation to honor Knute Rockne and to commemorate his business affiliation with Studebaker. 

As the Studebaker slogan once said: “Studebaker does not sell you a car that will be out of date tomorrow. Studebaker protects your investments. “The Rockne was no exception; a solid investment for the average Joe. This is now proof that they knew what they were talking about. This 1933 Rockne six “10” is beautiful classic car that will soon celebrate its 90th birthday. 


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When the Rockne was launched, even with a low purchasing price somewhere between $735– $850, the timing was just horrifying. In the midst of the Great Depression only a limited amount of Rockne was built. According to the records in the Studebaker Archives 38 thousand were produced from December 1931 to July 1933. Only thirteen thousand 1933 Rockne “10” were produced (This including panel delivery trucks which had the same chassis). In 1933 a number of Rockne Six “10” were made in Detroit and on Easter weekend they transfer the production to South Bend when it was resumed immediately again.  


Regardless of the Depression they did not compromise on the car. The Rockne could not roll out of the factory without an inline six-cylinder engine, chromed door handles, chromed front grill and radiator cap with beautiful “R” as ornament, a wooden dashboard and 17-inch 32 wire spoke wheels.  

 Later when the radiator filler cap went under the bonnet the original cap became what we now refer to as a hood ornament. The story goes that around World War II a ’33 Rockne in Norway was required to replace the radiator cap for a flat one. They wanted to enhance protection to the pedestrian in case of a collision.  

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The hood is 50-50 split. When you lift the bonnet to the side an Inline 6 flat head (L) engine is revealed. The newly developed 6-cylinder engine was a 190 cubic inch cast iron block that produced 70 Hp and 144 ft.lbs of torque at 3200 rpm. It’s a water cooled, naturally aspirated engine on a single barrel carburetor. This was just enough to push that massive 3000 lbs. weighing Detroit steel forward to a top speed between 60 to 70 mph. Up front it had a mechanical radiator fan to suck fresh air through the semi heart shaped grill to cool the engine. The Rockne had a Warner Gear H-pattern 3 speed gearbox. Upper left corner was for reverse. To the left and rear you put it in low gear. When pushed to the right and forward you’d go to intermediate gear and when pushed to the right and to the rear you engage the High gear. 


The Rockne made entering the car quite easy with its coach doors. The doors open wide allowing easy access and exposing a clean camel luxury interior. The Rockne features these soft cushioned sofa” seats that were button stitched. There is no hump in the middle making this a nice place for your misses to spend time on. These seats in combination with the leaf spring suspension was the recipe to ensure a soft ride back in 1933!  


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Characteristics of a dashboards in the 1930’s era were wooden trims. The Rockne was no exception. The dash panel is metal with wood overlay anis almost vertically positioned with the instruments panel symmetrically placed in the middle. On the far right you have the choke knob. You had to pull it out when cranking the engine. And as the engines warms up, you’d to gradually push it back inwards. On the left side of the dash panel, you will find the spark control button. When the car was pulling on slow engine speeds you could retard the timing by pulling on this control button. Also, you could see on the dash panel your oil pressure, battery ammeter, speedometer, engine temp, gasoline indicator and driving range. 

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Back in those days air conditioning was not standard on cars. On a warm day you could tilt the windshield to get some fresh air. To do so you need to adjust the lever on the left side of the windshield. Notice the single side mirror positioned up high. In the Rockne you had pretty good visibility because you sit quite high in the car. The rear window is a bit small but then again there are no head rests to block your view.


This 1933 Rockne six ‘10’ absolutely stood the test of time. It probably spent most of her time in the United States. It was spotted in the area of Arizona for a couple of decades until recently being ship overseas to the Netherlands. It has obviously been restored over the years and probably due to limited original parts available for this car, it has been restored with a few non genuine parts. Nevertheless, we are sure that owning this historic piece of art makes you stand out from the crowd. 

 We would like to thank RVL Mobility B.V for enriching the Dutch car arsenal with this classic car and for giving us the opportunity for this story. Also, a thank you to the members of the Antique Studebaker Club who helped us with all the information. The Antique Studebaker Club is an international club specializing in Studebaker-related vehicles from 1852 through WWII.