(South Bend, IN) - “Ah, a bear in its natural habitat: a Studebaker.”
For many people of a certain age and imagination, the Studebaker automobile is synonymous with Fozzie Bear’s preferred mode of transportation.
Fozzie’s famous jalopy sits in South Bend’s Studebaker National Museum, which is now raising money to get it restored.
The 1951 Studebaker Commander was featured in the 1979 film, The Muppet Movie.
Andrew Beckman is the Studebaker archivist. He says the museum acquired the car in 2004 after a Studebaker collectors club in southern California helped rescue it from a Hollywood backlot. Interest in it has resurged following a recent television appearance. “The car was just featured on a Disney+ show called Prop Culture,” Beckman said. “That sparked some interest in folks, and we’ve been looking at our long-term goals for the car and decided now is a good time to kick off the project.”
The museum has launched a fundraising campaign to raise $175,000 for the car’s restoration. Beckman says the vehicle has some unique features that will require some specialized work. “It was originally set up to be the one to show the Muppets driving,” said Beckman, “so it actually has controls fitted to the rear trunk area.” Puppeteers operated in the front seat, and a camera was installed in the car’s iconic bullet nose, to allow a driver in the trunk to navigate.
“The car underwent a lot of modifications for filming,” said Beckman. “Since then, unfortunately, it endured a lot of deterioration. There’s nothing that doesn’t need attention on the car.” That includes the special psychedelic paint job that has mostly worn off. Beckman says filmmakers used a temporary poster paint that went on quickly and looked good on camera. The museum intends to restore the vibrant paint scheme with more durable materials.
Beckman said there is no timeline for the project, but they hope to get Fozzy’s hooptie movin’ right along as soon as possible. A GoFundMe page has been set up to take donations.