Elizabethville man has collection of 13 that he still has on the road
ELIZABETHVILLE - "You are looking at 65 years of collecting," Mike Margerum said as he sipped his morning "orange juice" from his porch on a perfect July day.
The collection he refers to is his antique Studebakers and, turns out, his orange juice is a can of Yuengling Premium.
Looking out from the porch, its rafters decorated with old license plates, provides a view of six of Margerum's prized automobiles parked in a paved driveway outside his massive three-bay garage.
Two more can be found in his garage and the other five Studebakers in his collection are stored a few blocks from his home in a garage at Swab Wagon Co., a business started in 1868 by Margerum's great-grandfather, Jonas Swab. A Civil War veteran and blacksmith by trade, Swab built horse-drawn wagons of all varieties for work and personal use, and his company continues today, building truck bodies for fire, rescue, animal control and utility vehicles, still right in the middle of Elizabethville.
'Drivers,' not show cars
It was back in 1916 that Swab Wagon Co. also became a Studebaker dealer, selling the American-made cars and trucks until the manufacturer folded in the mid-1960s.
Margerum, who is retired and "pushing 80 with a short stick," as he said, credits his son, Ben, for being a big factor in keeping his vehicles road worthy.
"When you have this many cars, there is always something to fix" Margerum said.
One striking thing about the collection is the shear size of the early 20th century horseless carriages. His two-seat Studebaker Big Six is nearly the size of a modern mini van.
Margerum stresses that his collection consists of "drivers," not show cars. These are no trailer queens, he said.
And drivers they are. Margerum regularly takes them out with his friends in the Vintage Motor Touring Society, an informal group of owners who take their old iron out for long drives eight times a year.
Margerum's garage, complete with a lift, is a gear head's dream. Above one of the doors is a sign that reads "Edgemont Garage," a name used for a time by Swab for its car dealer and service station. Margerum calls his garage, which he had built approximately four years ago, the "New Edgemont Garage."
Tools, old signs from his family business, pins and plaques from the many car shows and meets he's attended, the sweet smell of motor oil and pin-ups girls adorn the garage.
Nicest Studebaker ever
Margerum considers any vehicle produced post World War II as "modern," meaning he has just two in his collection: a 1960 Studebaker Lark convertible and the odd-ball Chrysler TC by Maserati, which was produced from 1989 to 1991. This doesn't include the Dodge Caravan that serves as his daily driver.
Asked to name his favorite, Margerum is hesitant, but said it's the 1926 Big Six Roadster. It is a relative newbie to his collection, acquired in Idaho about four years ago.
"That is the nicest car Studebaker ever made," he said.
Also of note is a Studebaker M Series truck with a Swab Wagon Co. utility body. Lettering on the doors says "Wiconisco Telephone and Telegraph Co., Elizabethville, PA." The truck looks as if it just rolled out of Swab Wagon Co., ready for work in 1947.
Margerum's first car was a 1940 Studebaker Champion. Although he doesn't have that particular car, he has one just like it.
Every car has a story
Margerum's love of cars has taken him to car shows and meets all over the world, including New Zealand and Australia.
"Without the hobby, I would have never had the opportunity to travel like that," he said.
He very much enjoys showing his collection to anyone who's interested.
"There is not much point in having a collection if no one comes to see it," he said. "Every one of these cars has a story."
If you pay a visit, Margerum will hear you coming when you run over the black hose across his driveway that rings a bell, a common practice at gas stations of the past.
"No one sneaks up on me," he said.
He does ask that you call in advance, 717-362-4021, and when you come, he'll likely even offer you some "orange juice."
For a complete history on the Swab Wagon Company, visit their website at www.swabwagon.com.