Most famous from her role on “The Andy Griffith Show,” Frances Bavier played Andy’s kind-hearted Aunt Bee. The actress decided to get behind the wheel, after 50 years of not learning how to drive. Her car of choice, Studebakers.
In fact, it was the only vehicle she would drive the rest of her life. Bavier once expressed to another Studebaker owner, who she met from a car club, how emotionally attached she’d become of the automobile manufacturer.
“I’ll shed real tears when this one passes on,” she wrote in 1972, per MeTV.
Built in Ontario, Canada, per Hemmings, the 1966 Studebaker Daytona featured a GM “McKinnon” 283hp engine with Stude 3-speed and an overdrive manual transmission.
Since Studebaker ceased production after their 1966 model, Bavier stored her car away in the garage past retirement. Actually, the very last time she drove it was to the grocery store and back when she lived in North Carolina.
Following her final trip in the beloved vehicle, it remained in her basement for years with expired plates from 1983.
In 1990, Bavier had pass away, and the car sat in her garage for some time. When discovered, the tires were flat and its interior was blanketed with fur from her many cats that slept inside.
Aunt Bee’s Studebaker on ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ Peaks Interest
The old, dusty Studebaker was left to auction with the director of North Carolina Center for Public TV John Dunlop. At first, he thought the car would go for a few hundred dollars. However, Dunlop started to receive bids increasing into the thousands. Once listed, the phone never stopped ringing.
Dunlop told The Chicago Tribune in 1990 how “The Andy Griffith Show” fans desired to sit in Aunt Bee’s ride.
“The world wants Aunt Bee’s Studebaker,” he said. “Her dusty, dented Studebaker Daytona. It’s unbelievable. It just boggles the mind.”
Fred Fox, a car historian, spoke to the Tribune, explaining that late-model Studebakers aren’t worth much, despite being rare. Per MeTV, he was intrigued by this particular model, since 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. “I never heard anybody who used their own car in a television series.”
Bavier was so attached to her Studebaker, she developed a love for the car. Not only was it her first vehicle ever, it signified an important part of her life.
She further revealed her close bond with the specific make to her fellow car club member.
“I’ve driven Studebakers for 40 years, all kinds, all models and no other car,” she said. “Watching the pictures of the closing of the factory, I did indeed weep!”