Nobody predicted the crazy bidding war for Aunt Bee's dusty 1966 Studebaker

Frances Bavier didn't learn to drive until the age of 50. After that, she only drove Studebakers.

Frances Bavier spent the first 50 years of her life as a passenger, riding along in cars she had no clue how to drive. But then, at 50, she decided it was time to learn to drive, and the very first wheel she got behind was a Studebaker.

From that point on, Bavier only drove Studebakers. In 1972, she wrote to a fellow Studebaker owner, who she met after joining a car club, and she expressed this sentiment thinking of the last Studebaker she ever bought, "I'll shed real tears when this one passes on."

Bavier was so fond of that Studebaker — a 1966 model, which happened to be the last year Studebakers were made — she kept it in her garage even after she retired to North Carolina.

The last time Bavier drove the Studebaker, she took it to the grocery store. Then, she let the plates expire in 1983, and it sat in her basement for years.

In 1990, after Bavier passed away, the car was found in her garage, all four tires completely deflated and the interior covered in shed hair from her many cats using it as a place to nap.

When it came time to auction the car, the director of North Carolina Center for Public Television John Dunlop guessed he'd get a couple hundred bucks from it. Instead, he got bids going up a couple thousand, as, from the moment it was listed, the phone never stopped ringing.

It wasn't just TV fans wanting to climb into Aunt Bee's favorite ride.

"The world wants Aunt Bee's Studebaker," Dunlop told The Chicago Tribune in 1990. "Her dusty, dented Studebaker Daytona. It's unbelievable. It just boggles the mind."

A car historian named Fred Fox told the Tribune that late-model Studebakers don't usually go for much, even though they're rare. Fox was interested in seeing this particular Studebaker because it was Bavier’s.

"The thing that interested me so much is that later in the show [Mayberry R.F.D.], she drove a '66 Studebaker, and all indications are that it's the same as her car," Fox said, noting he considered this unusual. "I never heard anybody who used their own car in a television series."

For Bavier, her fondness for Studebakers mirrored the fondness she developed for North Carolina, where she chose to live out the rest of her years. When the Studebaker factories closed for good, she felt the sting personally, as if someone just told her they didn't like her pickles.

"I've driven Studebakers for 40 years — all kinds, all models and no other car," Bavier told her car club friend. "Watching the pictures of the closing of the factory, I did indeed weep!"

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MattAlbrecht 24 months ago
But DON'T tell us what it sold for...Fck no!
Bsa1116 30 months ago
Bidding went crazy because Dr. Robert Cade, inventor of Gatorade and Studebaker collector, got into a bidding war with a local N.C tourists attraction owner. Dr. Cade ultimately dropped out of the bidding when it reached insane money for a “rough” condition Studebaker, saying of the other bidder, “If he wants it that bad, he can have it!”.
PilotTom 36 months ago
We can't watch Andy or Green Acres because our local MeTv station channel 30.2 in Jacksonville Florida will not air either of these great shows nor will they reply to emails as to why not ! Sad , very sad !
pr1 37 months ago
Per the discussion about this story at the Studebaker Driver's Club website, the high bid was $20,000.
TZ_TAGS_59NC 37 months ago
Geez, left us hanging with no winning bid amount!
StrayCat 37 months ago
MY childhood friend's dad had a 1960 Studebaker lark Daytona. When my friend got old enough to drive we took the car out for a ride and my friend discovered you could put the transmission in reverse even while driving fast. Transmission parts all over the road.
JHP 37 months ago
aunt "B" couldn't make pickles but flew a plane and couldnt catch a fish

of course they never had fresh fish for dinner
CindyWeber 37 months ago
I have a 1966 Studebaker Daytona in my garage too.
BobInBG78 CindyWeber 37 months ago
When I was a kid, my Dad had a 1950 Studebaker Champion as his daily driver and weekend boat tower. It was one of those infamous "which way is it going?" cars. The front had big chrome "bullet" so you could tell ..and of course suicide rear doors confused you also. Have loved Steudies ever since!
jglenf 37 months ago
How about posting a picture of the whole car, not just the darn grill. Most of us, even those who know Studebaker well, have probably never seen or have forgotten what a 1966 Studebaker Daytona looks like.
carrman jglenf 37 months ago
How about just looking it up, not that difficult now is it? 🤷
carrman jglenf 37 months ago
Nice to see someone that uses the correct spelling of "Glen"
rgutierrez1968 37 months ago
Aunt Bee’s Ford convertible in the series was actually a 1955 model.
Fuming 37 months ago
Aunt Bea and Studebaker, I think that's a good fit.
Janlynne211 37 months ago
Personally I love Cadillacs! I bought a 2004 in mint condition when it was 6 years old and it still runs. My next one is going to be a Cadillac!
Andybandit 37 months ago
I had no clue Aunt Bee knew how to drive.
TomBurkhart Andybandit 37 months ago
even though she showed up in a pickup truck. I thought she drove it. and when she got that 56 Ford Convt. she scraped the fender with the tree......
TomBurkhart 37 months ago
basement ,then found in garage? so was it a basement garage? They made them here in South Bend, and last in Canada. They also built the Weasel for WW2
MaryMitch TomBurkhart 37 months ago
In NC, where she ended up living, many houses have a garage that goes into the basement level. Comes from living on the side of a hill. My sister actually has a basement/garage combination room; her washer and dryer are down there too.
AnnaRentzVandenhazel 38 months ago
"I never heard anybody who used their own car in a television series."

Maybe Fred Fox didn't, but as it happens, I know George Reeves drove his own vehicle in "Superman". So it's possible Frances drove her own car on the show.
If I'm not mistaken, Don Adams also owned the red car he drove when Get Smart started.
Adanor 38 months ago
William Hopper, who played Paul Drake on Perry Mason, was known on at least one occasion to use his own car on the set. It was at a location that was some distance from the studio and the script called for him to arrive in his car, get out, and go somewhere, like to a front door of a house. Rather than drive to the location and then jump in a studio car, he just used his own.
madvincent Adanor 38 months ago
Was it that 59 corvette
Peter_Falk_Fan 38 months ago
I know how she felt. I was sad when they stopped making Plymouths and Pontiacs.
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