WASHINGTON — If you see nearly two dozen classic cars rolling up and the down the roads of Daviess County and the surrounding areas next week, there’s a good chance you are seeing a Hupmobile. Beginning Sunday, the International Hupmobile Club will begin its annual tour, this time across southwest Indiana.
Hupmobiles were built in Detroit, Mich., from 1909 until 1941 by the Hupp Motor Car Company. Robert Craig Hupp, a former employee of Oldsmobile and Ford, founded the company with his brother Louis in 1908.
The first cars were assembled in 1909 and by 1910, production of the Huppmobile reached around 5,000. After some disagreements with financial backers, Robert Hupp sold his stock in the company and started the RCH Automobile Company that later went on to be known as the Hupp-Yeats Electric Car Company.
On the cutting edge of technology, in 1912 Hupp’s new company became one of the first two automakers to use all steel bodies, the other being BSA, a company based in the United Kingdom.
Even after the departure of its founder, the original Hupp Motor Company thrived and a new plant was purchased in 1924. At the time, the Huppmobile was one of the top automobile companies in the country competing for the top spots along with Ford and Chevrolet. By 1928, over 65,000 Hupmobiles were produced each year. To help with the increase in sales, Hupp purchased the Chandler-Cleveland Motors Corporation to increase the manufacturing facilities but sales did not increase after the additional production lines were made.
Unfortunately, sales of the Huppmobile, which had always sought to, “build a car in the working man’s price range,” were sinking even before the start of the Great Depression.
In an effort to keep up with attracting new customers, the Hupp Motor Company offered many different body styles and with relatively low production volume, no model could be produced in sufficient quantity to keep yielding a profit. By 1936, the company was forced to sell off some of its assets and in 1937 production was suspended. In 1938, a new line was started but Hupp had so few dealerships left sales were very low.
In one last attempt to save the company, the production dies of Gordon Buehrig were purchased from the defunct Cord Automobile Company in 1938.
Cord had come up with the design for a car called the Skylark. Several orders were taken for the cars but production delays caused many of the orders to be canceled. Final production of the Hupmobile Skylark began in 1939.
Only 319 Skylarks were produced before the company suspended production.
“There will be about 20 cars and 80 people in town for the tour,” said Bob Smith, owner of a 1926 Hupmobile and one of the hosts of the gathering along with his wife, Barb.
“Hupp club members attending this years’ meeting are from the west coast to the east coast and even some from Canada,” added Barb Smith. “The tour will be based from the Baymont Inn,” the Smith’s said.
Bob, who is the vice president of the Hupmobile Club, said those coming into town for the gathering will be treated to showings of two private classic car collections as well as trips to the Indiana Military Museum and George Rogers Clark Memorial in Vincennes, a tour of Amish country, and a visit to French Lick.
For the Smiths, becoming Hupmobile enthusiasts was not something they had planned. In 1998, a neighbor of the Smiths asked if Bob could get an old car running. The Smiths said the neighbor had done some work for a man and as part of his payment, he was now the owner of a 1926 Hupmobile.
It wasn’t long before the car was in working order.
“The funny thing was, the owner never wanted to drive it. So we’d all go out for Sunday drives and Bob always drove,” said Barb.
Shortly after the Hupp was in working order, the Smiths started taking it to car shows.
“The first car show we took it to was a disaster. We were all lined up in the local park for a cruise when the Hup’s oil pan developed a leak and dumped all of its oil in the parking lot. We managed to plug the leak and they came up with enough oil for us to drive it home,” said the couple.
About 10 years ago, the neighbor who owned the Hupp decided to sell and gave the Smiths first option to buy.
The couple jumped at the chance and now have the original title to the Hupmobile hanging on their wall. The original owner had purchased the car in Maplewood, Miss., on July 16, 1926. The Smiths said they enjoy taking the Hupp to car shows and the Newport Hillclimb each year and have chauffeured nieces and nephews to prom in the car and even two couples to their wedding reception.