Eldon Hostetler, a noted Hudson automobile collector, inventor and philanthropist died Jan, 8 in Middlebury, Ind., at the age of 93.
“Eldon became an icon in American automobile history, a giant to the collector car hobby and a hero to his local community,” said Michael Spezia, long-time friend and executive director of the Gilmore Car Museum of Hickory Corners, Mich. (near Kalamazoo).
Hostetler was born on Christmas day, 1922 in Shipshewana, Ind, the eldest of 13 children, to the late Lizzie and Mahlon Hostetler.
Eldon and his wife Esta Hostetler were well known for their auto collectio, which grew to be recognized as the world’s largest assemblage of Hudson automobiles, and also for their appearance at car shows all cross the nation.
Raised Amish, Eldon purchased a car as a teen and later joined the Mennonite Church. He became an inventor with more than 65 patents issued to him. In 2005, he and Esta donated much of their collection of Hudson autos to the city of Shipshewana, Ind., to create a museum.
In his 2008 autobiography “The Life and Times of Eldon ‘Ziggity’ Hostetler,” Eldon recalled that when he was 18, his Amish grandfather offered to loan him money toward a car. “He then said that if I promised never to tell my mother where I got the money, he would loan me $350 to buy my first car, a 1938 Hudson,” Hostetler wrote. “I was the only person in our community who had a car, and so I hauled a lot of Amish people around.”
Years later through Ziggity Systems Inc. — the company Hostetler established in 1976 — he put his inventor’s hat on and created an innovative way of watering and feeding poultry for large farm operations. The equipment he created and the nearly 65 patents issued to him revolutionized the industry and today are utilized worldwide.
Hostetler purchased his first collector car in 1985 with the encouragement of Esta: a 1952 Hudson club coupe. Many more cars soon followed and within a decade the couple began thinking about building a museum for their expanding hobby.
By 2001, their collection had grown so vast that they needed extra storage space. That’s when they first met Spezia, executive director of the Gilmore Car Museum. The museum created a special exhibit gallery to showcase 22 cars from the Hostetler Collection. After seeing their cars displayed together at the Gilmore and the enjoyment it gave visitors, the Hostetlers decided to create a museum just for their Hudsons.
The Hostetlers gave back to for their life-long community of Shipshewana by donating 18 acres of land and a large portion of their car collection to the city. The Shipshewana Event Center, which houses the museum, opened in 2007. Many of Eldon’s cars have also remained on permanent exhibit at the Gilmore.
“I will be forever grateful for his friendship,” Spezia said. “His loss will not only be felt by me and the Gilmore Car Museum, but by everyone who knew him or simply knew of him. His contributions have changed not only how we view his beloved Hudsons, but how philanthropy can change the world.”