A Brief History of Studebaker Trucks:
An Analysis of Production Records
By Skip Lackie
This history of Studebaker trucks is an attempt to bring together in one document a reasonably comprehensive chronology of Studebaker truck developments and production. It will focus on such information as model and series numbers, engines and tonnages in each model, major developments and improvements, company developments that affected truck production and design, unique identification features, and production quantities. It specifically will not address such details as colors, optional equipment, or authenticity concerns. Studebaker offered around a dozen different truck models each year during most of the post-War period, and also offered an ever-changing range of different transmissions, axle ratios, tire sizes, and wheelbases in most of them. The list of available optional equipment, sparse before the War, became very extensive during the long production of 2R-series trucks, and stayed that way thereafter. Many of these options were available for several years, but some transitioned back and forth between being standard equipment and optional at extra cost. Color combinations often were revised every year. Keeping track of exactly what could be ordered on a given model of Studebaker truck is beyond the scope of this history.
Fortunately, however, this type of information has been described in considerable detail by historian Fred Fox, who authored a series of articles that describe each Studebaker truck model and series in the Studebaker Drivers Club’s monthly magazine Turning Wheels. Those wishing information on one particular year or model of Studebaker truck should purchase the particular copy of TW that describes their vehicle of interest. Many of these back issues are still available from the club. More information about SDC can be found at: http://www.studebakerdriversclub.com/
This history of Studebaker trucks is written in a (more or less) narrative style. What that means is that in order to save space, truck features that were continued from one year to the next may not be discussed in the chapter covering the later year. Those interested in information about a single model year may have to review the contents of the previous chapter (or two).
Most of the information and data included herein came from Studebaker factory publications: sales literature, parts books, price lists, specification books, service bulletins, service letters, and sales letters. Most of the production data came from a copy of the Studebaker Corporation’s original production records made by the late Asa Hall during the 1960s. Other sources were used in those cases where no factory data from this document were available. Many of the details about pre-War Studebaker trucks were provided by historian Richard T. Quinn (personal communication, 2012). Specific information items and data drawn from a single source are referenced.
Appendix A lists Studebaker truck models, available engines, and wheelbases by model year. CLICK HERE
Photographs of many Studebaker trucks are archived at this site: http://www.studebakerparts.com/studebakerparts/store/s/agora.cgi?cart_id=&page=trucks.html Contributions to this site are encouraged by the owner, studebakerparts.com, as an aid to others attempting to restore a Studebaker truck. Photos are especially requested of original or authentically restored trucks, including pictures of underhood and interior areas.
The Studebaker Truck Talk Web site: http://www.network54.com/Forum/23885/ contains links to many Studebaker truck photographs. It must be noted, however, that many of the trucks pictured have been heavily modified by owners in the years since they were built.
Chapter 1: Early Years
The Studebaker Corporation was a United States wagon and automobile manufacturer based in South Bend, Indiana. Founded in 1852 and incorporated in 1868 under the name of the Studebaker Brothers Manufacturing Company, the company was originally a producer of wagons for farmers, miners, and the military and became a significant manufacturer of motor vehicles for about 60 years. During the 1940s and 1950s, it was also a major manufacturer of light- and medium-duty trucks in North America. Studebaker entered the automotive business in 1902 with electric vehicles and in 1904 with gasoline vehicles, all sold under the name "Studebaker Automobile Company". Until 1911, its automotive division operated in partnership with the E-M-F Company (Everitt-Metzger-Flanders) and the Garford Company. The first gasoline cars to be fully manufactured by Studebaker were marketed in August 1912.
Studebaker’s first gasoline-powered commercial vehicle was a delivery car built on the Flanders “20” chassis. During the period 1914-15, the company produced a series of panel and open express trucks and jitney busses based on its then-current passenger car models. Larger one-ton models appeared in 1916, and were available as an express truck, stake truck, and 16-passenger bus. Studebaker dropped their commercial vehicle line after 1917, and did not re-enter the truck market for a decade. Noted Studebaker historian Fred Fox has stated that: “Studebaker lost one of its greatest opportunities when it did not boldly jump into the commercial vehicle field right after WWI.”1 Studebaker had long had a reputation for building high-quality commercial (albeit horse-drawn) vehicles for many years, and as a result, had long-standing relationships with both businesses and farmers – exactly the kind of people who were buying their first trucks in the late teens and early twenties.
Beginning in 1926, the company began to offer long-wheelbase versions of several of its passenger car chassis for use as busses. A small number of these were used as the foundation for fire trucks built by outside firms. In 1927, Studebaker began production of a full line of light delivery cars, ambulances, hearses, and busses based on their current line of passenger cars, but did not offer any heavier-duty vehicles. After 1929, Studebaker busses were based on the President Eight chassis, which continued in limited production into 1931. (These would be the last eight-cylinder Studebaker commercial vehicles until 1954.) The lack of a full line of commercial vehicles was finally filled by the introduction in 1929 of the GN series of trucks, which used the 68-horsepower Dictator six engine. They ranged in capacity from ¾-ton to 2 tons and in wheelbase from 115 to 146 inches.
Chapter 2: The 1930-34 S Series Trucks
Studebaker purchased a controlling interest in the Pierce-Arrow Company in 1928. Pierce-Arrow was best known as a manufacturer of luxury automobiles, but also produced small numbers of relatively expensive trucks. In late 1930, Studebaker announced production of its first “real” Studebaker trucks, the 1931 S-series, with capacities of 1½ to 3 tons, plus a Dictator passenger-car-based, ½-ton model S-1. The larger trucks were powered by the Studebaker 205-cubic inch (230.2 ci in 1932 and 33), 70-hp Studebaker Six engine. The S-1 used the 114-inch Dictator chassis with a 221-ci Dictator engine. Larger S-series truck wheelbases ranged from 130 to 160 inches. A new subsidiary, the SPA (Studebaker Pierce-Arrow) Truck Corporation was established to consolidate all truck production under one unit.
By 1932, the Depression was in full swing, and Studebaker was in financial trouble. A complex series of transactions was developed to raise cash. These involved Studebaker merging with the White Motor Company, a major manufacturer of medium- and heavy-duty trucks. This merger was blocked by some of White’s stockholders, and Studebaker was eventually forced into receivership in 1933. White took over Pierce-Arrow’s truck division; Pierce-Arrow itself went out of business in 1938. A total of 7538 S-series trucks were built between August 1930 and March 1934. The majority were built in South Bend, but a small number were also assembled at the Studebaker plant in Walkersville, Ontario in 1931 and 1932.
Chapter 3: The 1934-36 T and W Series Trucks
The new Studebaker T-series trucks were first introduced as 1934 models – “Stamina for Profit, Style for Prestige”2. They were modern, attractive commercial vehicles, with graceful skirted front fenders, a new hood, and a sloping grille covering the radiator. They were offered with a new, more streamlined DeLuxe Cab with a sloping, two-piece windshield and a contrasting color band that swept across the hood and onto the doors. The square 1932-34 cab was still available as the Conventional Cab as a lower-cost option. Nominal tonnages ranged from 1½ to 4 tons, and the trucks were assembled in both South Bend and Walkersville beginning in March 1934. (The T-series marked the beginning of truck model numbering system that Studebaker would employ until it went out of the truck business – a letter indicating series, followed by one or two digits indicating increasing tonnage capacity. Additional digits after a dash indicated wheelbase. Series letters and numbers were often only vaguely related to model year. See Appendix A for a complete listing of truck model numbers. The new T2, T4, T6, and T8 models continued to be powered by the 230.2 ci, 75-hp Studebaker Six, but the 3-ton model W8 used a larger Waukesha 6-cylinder power plant. The F-head, 358-ci Waukesha was rated at 110 horsepower. Available wheelbases ranged from 130 to 183 inches. A total of 3146 T-series trucks were built in both South Bend and Walkersville in 1934, with another 370 assembled in South Bend in the first few months of 1935. No trucks were built in Walkersville after December 1934.
The T and W series was succeeded by the somewhat more limited 1T and 1W series in March 1935. The slow-selling T4 and T8 were dropped, but a new Waukesha-powered 1W7 was added to the lineup. In a stroke of marketing genius more typical of the 1950s, the 1935 series 1T and 1W series trucks were given model names. The 1T2 (1½-ton) was called the Ace, the 1T6 (2-ton) was called the Boss, the 1W7 (2½-ton) was called the Mogul, and the 1W8 (3-ton) was called the Chief (later Big Chief). Around the middle of the 1935 model year, the model names were included in the winged Studebaker emblems attached to the grille and hood sides. Regrettably, these model names were only used for about two years, as 2T/2W production ended in April 1937.
The 1T2 Ace continued to use the same 75-hp engine as did the T2, but the 1T6 was moved up to a higher compression, 80-hp version of the same engine. The 1W8 Chief continued to use the 110-hp Waukesha, but the 1W7 Mogul got a smaller 282-ci L-head Waukesha that produced 82 horsepower. A total of 4005 1T/1W-series trucks were built between March and November of 1935, all in South Bend.
The 1936 Studebaker trucks got a new bumper, more rounded grille and different hood louvers. In a bold move, the company now offered both conventional and Cab-Forward (as Studebaker called them) models. The conventional trucks were designated as series 2T and 2W, and were called the Standard Series. The Cab-Forward trucks were designated as the 2M series, but shared most of the same mechanical components as the conventional models. The “M” was originally intended to stand for Metro, short for Metropolitan. The Cab-Forward trucks were intended for use in large metropolitan areas, where maneuvering into alleys and other tight spots was a problem. This concept, while popular today, was a bit ahead of its time in the 1930s.
In any case, Studebaker was soon informed by International-Harvester that they had trademarked the term “Metro” for its line of delivery trucks, forcing Studebaker to drop the Metro name. Nevertheless, the M designation continued to be used by Studebaker for its Cab-Forward trucks. The 217-ci Studebaker Six was now used in the smaller 2T2 and 2M2 Ace models, a new 263-ci Waukesha six was used in the 2W6 and 2M6 Boss trucks, a 282-ci version of the Waukesha six was used in the 2W7 Mogul, and the big Waukesha six continued to be installed in the 2W8 Chief trucks.
In the midst of the Depression, however, there wasn’t much of a demand for new trucks of any kind, so sales were slow. Few Cab-Forward models have survived to the present day, as their cabs were built around wooden framework in a manner similar to Studebaker’s pre-1931 passenger cars.3 A total of 1981 series 2T and 2W trucks were built between December 1935 and April 1937. The Cab-Forward models proved to be somewhat more popular: 2260 2M-series trucks were built between January 1936 and February 1937.
Chapter 4: The 1937-40 J Series Trucks
All 1937 Studebaker trucks were designated as J-series. Production of J-series trucks began in January 1937, actually overlapping 2M/2W production by four months. The Standard Series trucks got a new, more streamlined cab based on the 1937 Studebaker passenger cars, while the Cab-Forward trucks continued to use the 1936 cab. Both got a new grille with three sets of two horizontal cross bars. A total of eight models were offered: J15 and J15M (1½-ton), J20 and J20M (2-ton), J25 and J25M (2½-ton), and J30 and J30M (3-ton). Cab-Forward models were designated by an M suffix on the model number, and those intended for use as busses had a B suffix. The 3-ton J30 was equipped with a much heavier front axle, requiring huge front fenders that extended well beyond the ends of the front bumper. The 217-ci Studebaker 6, now rated at 85 horsepower, continued to be used in the two smallest trucks, but the others all received new 6-cylinder power from Hercules. The J20 and J20M were powered by a 263-ci, 79-hp Hercules JXB, the J25 and J25M by a 320-ci, 86-hp Hercules JXD, and the J30 and J30M by the 383-ci, 98-hp Hercules WXC3. Different wheelbases were available in the different models, and ranged from 101 to 184 inches. A 187-inch bus chassis was also available.
Vehicle serial numbers were on the frame under the left front fender. Cab serial number plates were fastened to the engine side of the cowl on standard models and on the left door sill on cab-forward models. Studebaker-built engine serial numbers were stamped into a boss on the left side of the engine block. Hercules engine serial numbers were on a plate located on the left side of the block.
The big news for 1937 was the J5 Coupe-Express, a ½-ton pickup truck based on the 1937 Dictator passenger car. It would be another 20 years before Ford introduced its Ranchero – a ½-ton pickup based on the 1957 Ford Fairlane passenger car – so Studebaker could be said to have been a pace-setter. Unfortunately, there was only a limited market in 1937 for a light-duty pickup with passenger car amenities – Ford, GM, Chrysler, and International all offered pickups that looked and acted like trucks, and it seems that most truck-buyers preferred those, especially since the Coupe-Express was priced an average of more than 15% more than competing brands.4 Still, the J5 Coupe-Express offered such features as a double-walled pickup box, overdrive transmission, and Hill Holder – items that were well ahead of their time.5
As Fred Fox has written: ”Its [the J5’s] graceful lines appealed more to the estate owner than to the farmer who wanted a ‘tough’ pickup to carry his milk cans.”6 Nevertheless, a total of 3500 J5 Coupes-Express were built between January and July 1937, 3125 in South Bend and another 375 in the Studebaker plant in Vernon, California. This number included an unknown (but very small) number of limited-production woody station wagons.7
In fact, the passenger car-based “Coupe Cab” was shared by both the J5 and the 1937 Standard Series trucks. Nevertheless, it is clear that Studebaker considered the J5 just a different model of their car line. The Coupes-Express are listed as a car model in company production records; they also are not included in either the Studebaker truck parts books or shop manuals of the period – one must look for the J5 in the publications describing passenger cars.
One of the minor footnotes so beloved by old-car collectors that is associated with the use of the Dictator passenger car body as the basis for the 1937 Studebaker truck cabs is the fact that they came with wind wings. In that pre-air-conditioned age, wind wings were a new and very handy feature. No other American trucks had wind wings until after World War II – in fact, as discussed below, wind wings became one of the identification features of the military trucks built by Studebaker during WW II.
In July 1937, Studebaker added the J20D to its model lineup. The J20D was powered by a 260-ci, overhead-valve, 6-cylinder Hercules Model DJXB diesel engine that produced around 75 horsepower (sources vary about the exact number), and featured such heavy-duty features as 5-speed transmission, 2-speed rear axle, and 24-volt electrical system as standard equipment. They were comparatively expensive and very few were sold.
A total of 7686 J-series trucks (not including J5s) were built during its January-December 1937 production run. Sales of the Cab-Forward trucks were disappointing – in all cases, Standard Series models outsold their Cab-Forward counterparts by factors of three to six to one.
1938 Studebaker trucks were designated as the K series. The K5 Coupe-Express was restyled along with the 1938 passenger cars, but the rest of the truck line remained essentially unchanged except for a different grille and some other minor changes. A new model, the K10 Fast-Transport, was introduced for 1938. The Fast-Transport was a 1-ton truck that was available with a wide, steel-floored, flat-sided “Express” pickup body not unlike the Styleside and Fleetside pickup boxes that became available in the 1950s. In January 1938, a Custom Panel body was introduced for the K10 Fast Transport.8 Like other Studebaker truck models, the K10 was also available with a stake body, as a cab and chassis, or as a cowl/chassis unit (the latter designated as the A1 model). The K10 came only on a 130-inch wheelbase. The engine line-up remained unchanged from 1937, except that the displacement of the Studebaker Commander 6 that was installed in K10 and K15 models was increased to 226 ci, yielding 90 hp. Serial number plates were in the same locations as on J-series trucks.
K5 Coupe-Express production coincided with 1938 passenger car production, and ran from October 1937 to July 1938; only 1000 were built. Production of the rest of the K-series truck line began in November 1937, overlapping with J-series production by a few weeks. Most of the K series continued unchanged through 1939 and 1940. The 1939 Coupe-Express was given 1939 passenger car styling and designated L5. A K10 Fast-Transport “Standard Express” became available in 1939. This was fitted with a narrower pickup box with wider external fenders and a wood floor.
L5 Coupe-Express production ran from September 1938 to August 1939. Only 1200 were built, and the Coupe-Express was discontinued after that model year. However, Studebaker continued to apply the name “Coupe-Express” to its ½ ton pickups (at least in advertising materials), even after World War II -- but these vehicles have no resemblance to the 1937-39 passenger car-based vehicles.
K-series production continued throughout all of 1939 and 1940. With war looming, a few more were assembled during January-August 1941. And after the War had started, 159 more were assembled in December 1941 and another 100 in February 1942. Calendar year production of K-series trucks (except Coupes Express) was as follows: 1937: 626; 1938: 3768; 1939: 5128; 1940: 1658; 1941: 497; 1942: 100.
Chapter 5: The Famous M-Series Trucks
In 1941, Studebaker decided to stop trying to compete against the likes of Mack, Diamond-T, and Autocar for the sale of heavy-duty trucks. Instead, the company focused on producing a more complete line of light- and medium-duty trucks that were more likely to find customers through its large network of small, rural dealerships. Attractive and modern, the cab employed some body panels from the 1941 Champion passenger car, as well as its basic dashboard. The hood, fenders (interchangeable front to rear on each side), and grille, however, were unique to the trucks. The M series consisted of the ½-ton M5, 1-ton M15, and 1½-ton M16. It is unclear why the 1½-ton M16 wasn’t designated as the M20 or M25, which would have been more in line with previous practice. Unused model number M10, which might have been a more logical choice for the 1-ton M15, was presumably being reserved for a ¾-ton model that was never produced.
The M5 and M15 were powered by the 170-ci, 80-hp, 6-cylinder engine that had been introduced in the all-new 1939 Champion passenger car. The M16 got the 226-ci Commander 6 that had been in use since 1938. M-series trucks came with either Standard or DeLuxe trim. Standard trucks had painted grilles and black fenders. DeLuxe models got stainless steel grille bars, bright metal side moldings, body-colored fenders, and other niceties. In common with most other American automobiles, the chrome trim was dropped shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. The last 1942 models built had “black-out” trim, with all former bright work painted black. The M5 came with a 113-inch wheelbase, and most came equipped with a 6 ½-foot pickup box. In advertising, these pickups were called Coupe-Express. The M15 was available with wheelbases of 120, 128, and 152 inches, and the M16 could be had with 128, 152, and 195-inch wheelbases. The M15-20 (120-inch wheelbase) was available with an 8-foot pickup body.
Pre-War M-series vehicle serial number plates were mounted on the left front door hinge pillar. A second serial plate was riveted onto the left front frame rail, just in front of the front axle. Unfortunately, many of these have become illegible or gone missing over the years. Engine numbers were stamped on the top left side of the front corner of the engine block. M-series truck cabs also carried a body/cab serial plate showing truck model number, cab model, and a unique cab serial number mounted on the engine side of the cowl. However, cab serial numbers do not track with vehicle serial numbers. Chassis-cowl units were designated as cab model A1, and standard (full) cabs were model C2. Model M5 engine serial numbers had an 1M prefix; M15 engine numbers began with 2M; and M16 and M17 engine numbers started with 3M.
M5 production began in November 1940, while K-series trucks were still in full-scale production. M15 and M16 production began in December 1940. Although the U.S. Government shut down passenger car production shortly after the Pearl Harbor attack, trucks continued in production well into 1942. Many of these trucks were stockpiled and allocated to critical industries during the War. Pre-War M-series truck production was: 1940: 1085; 1941: 9215; 1942: 1515. The M-series trucks (especially the M15) are sometimes criticized for being underpowered, and that the lineup should have included a ¾-ton model. The latter charge may be valid, but as to the former, it must be remembered that both the M5 and the M15 were really intended for farm use. In rural areas of the U.S. in the 1940s, there were very few opportunities to go more than 30 mph – so 80 hp was enough power most of the time. And once gas rationing started, most M5 owners were probably thankful that their thrifty little Champion Six could go a whole week on the four gallons of gas that an A ration stamp provided.
Chapter 6: The World War II US6 Military Trucks
The attack on Pearl Harbor may have been a surprise, but the US had been preparing for possible entry into WW II long before December 7, 1941. In 1940, Studebaker produced about 2000 militarized K25 trucks for export, mostly to France. (Unfortunately, many were later captured by the German Army.) And in common with most other American industries, Studebaker began producing military systems under contract to the U.S. Government in 1941. Its two most famous wartime products were the Weasel tracked vehicle and the US6-model 2½-ton military truck, which went into production in South Bend in June 1941. By the end of that year, 4724 had been built. It was built in both 6x6 and 6x4 forms on 148-inch and 162-inch wheelbases, and shared some running gear components with the similar GMC CCKW 2½-ton, 6x6 military trucks. In order to get the trucks in production as soon as possible, Studebaker used their M-series truck cab (modified for swing-open windshields, but also with the M-series truck’s wind wings) and the same Hercules JXD L-head, 6-cylinder gasoline engines that had been used in the 1937-1940 J25 and K25 trucks. The swing-out windshields mandated windshield wipers mounted above the windshields instead of on the cowl. This modified cab was designated as the model C9 cab. GMC CCKW trucks had somewhat rounded front fenders, while the Studebaker US6 trucks had front fenders that were flat on top with a 90-degree turn downward behind the front tire. The wind wings and the square-ish front fenders are easy identification features of Studebaker-built WW II 2½-ton military trucks.
At the request of the Army, Studebaker also developed an open-cab version of the US6 in 1942, and built 10,006 of them during 1942 and 43. These trucks used a completely different cab design without wind wings. Manufacture of the open-cab trucks was assigned to other companies in March 1943, after which Studebaker built only closed-cab trucks using the M-series model C9 cab.
To simplify maintenance and parts stocking, the U.S. Army tended to assign only one make of heavy-duty truck to each Military Service and/or theater of war. Many of the Studebaker-built US6 trucks were assigned to the Army Corps of Engineers for construction of the Alcan (now Alaska) Highway in 1942. Studebaker ran a number of full-page ads in national magazines showing a US6 leading the first supply convoy to Fairbanks over the Alcan Highway. Under the Lend-Lease program, in 1941 the U.S. Government supplied Allied nations (especially the Soviet Union) with military hardware, and the Studebaker US6 was chosen as the military truck to provide to other nations under this program. Over 100,000 of these trucks were provided to the Soviet Union. These trucks were so durable in War duty that noted military vehicle historian Clell Ballard has stated: “The term ‘Studebaker’ was even incorporated into the Russian language. Near the end of the war, Americans did some research about Russian GIs. The report stated: ‘. . . they referred to all trucks as Studebakers’. In ordinary conversation they sometimes used ‘Studebaker’ as the equivalent of ‘OK’ which reflected their opinion of the Studebaker trucks.”9
According to historian Thomas E. Bonsall,10 “Joseph Stalin was so appreciative of the effectiveness of his Studebaker trucks that he sent the company a letter of thanks.” Bonsall quotes from Nikita Krushchev’s memoirs, in which Krushchev comments on the contributions of the Studebaker US6 trucks:
“Just imagine how we would have advanced from Stalingrad to Berlin without them! Our losses would have been colossal because we would have had no maneuverability.”
Great Britain also received a large number of Studebaker US6 trucks. They were used extensively in the Middle East and in the India-Burma theater of war.
As the War came to a close, the War Department cancelled its contracts for military trucks, and those not already en route to Russia were placed in storage. Many eventually were sold by the Federal Government to local and state governments for use as heavy-duty fire trucks, tow trucks, etc. Studebaker built a total of 197,678 US6 military trucks between June 1941 and August 1945. Reo built another 22,000 US6 trucks using the Studebaker design.
Chapter 7: M-Series Truck Production Resumes
By the time the war in Europe was finally coming to a close in the spring of 1945, there was a critical need for new trucks for both industry and agriculture. As a result, the War Production Board authorized Studebaker and some of the other automobile manufacturers to go back into limited production of some truck models. In the spring of 1945, Studebaker resumed production of M15 1-ton trucks: an M15-20 pickup with a 120-inch wheelbase, and a M15-28 truck with dual rear wheels and 128-inch wheelbase. Because the US6 was still in production, these 1945 M15s were built with the military truck’s model “C9” cab with swing-out windshield, metal interior panels, and painted bumpers (all other 1941-48 M-series trucks were built with a C2 cab with fixed windshield glass and cowl-mounted windshield wipers). A total of exactly 4000 of these 1945-model M15s were built, 3297 in calendar year 1945 and the last 703 in early 1946.
Full production of 1946 M-series trucks began with 367 M5s built in December 1945. The model line-up was the same as in 1941, plus a new M17 2-ton export model. To distinguish the new M15s from the 1945 models with C9 cab, the 1946 models were designated as M15A11. The stainless steel grille trim and some other DeLuxe features were no longer available, but others were made standard equipment. All M5s now had body-colored fenders, while larger models continued to be equipped with black fenders. M-series truck production continued with the same drive trains throughout 1946 and 1947 and into March 1948. A few running changes were made, one of which was the introduction of a massive painted front bumper on the M15-28, M16, and M17 models in 1947. In October 1946, the vehicle serial number plate was moved from the left front door hinge pillar to the seat riser on the driver’s side. Despite their very limited model lineup, the M-series trucks were a huge success, selling 664 units in December 1945, 43,196 in 1946, 67,809 in 1947, and another 19,316 during January – March 1948. Total 1940-48 M-series truck production was 146,655 (Fox12, estimated 145,800 based on other data) more than three times as many civilian trucks as Studebaker had produced in the previous three decades of truck production. Of this total, Studebaker reported that 92,595 were produced for the U.S. domestic market.13
Chapter 8: Studebaker’s Greatest Truck Success: the 2R Series
Studebaker’s success with the 1941-48 M-series trucks set the stage for its most successful trucks: the 1949-53 2R series. The company had actually begun a small effort to design a new postwar truck during the War, but it didn’t become serious until the War was over. For a variety of reasons, this “R-series” design was abandoned, and an alternative was adopted instead. This second truck design had already been designated the 2R series, and it kept that designation when it went into production in April 1948 in the modern, new Chippewa Avenue truck plant in South Bend. This plant had been leased from the U.S. Government during the War to assemble 63,789 Wright R-1820 Cyclone radial engines, most of which were mounted on B-17 Flying Fortress bombers. Studebaker purchased the plant from the Federal Government in February 1948, and immediately moved its truck production line there.
Robert Bourke, a designer with Raymond Loewy Associates at the time, did almost all of the styling of the all-new 2R-series truck14. It was the first American truck without exposed running boards and with a double-sided pickup bed that was smooth on both the inside and outside. The 2R trucks got all-new sheet metal, and shared little except drive-train components and a few trim items with Studebaker cars. Even the dashboard was unique to the new trucks, with spaces for heater controls and the contemporary Studebaker radio. The instrument cluster, however, was based on the one that had been used in M-series trucks. The new cab was again identified as the model C by Studebaker. The model C cab would soldier on, with a few minor modifications, for 15 years.
Introduced in early 1948 as 1949 models, the 2R-series trucks employed most of the model numbering system established with the M-series trucks. It consisted of the following models: ½-ton 2R5, ¾-ton 2R10, 1-ton 2R15, 1½-ton 2R16, and 2-ton 2R17. (The 2-ton 2R17 might have more logically been called the 2R20 or 2R30.) The first three were powered by the 85-hp, 170-ci Champion 6 engine (called “Econ-o-miser” in trucks), while the latter two were equipped with the 94-hp, 226-ci Commander 6, called the “Power-Plus”. The 1949 lineup of Studebaker trucks was attractive, modern, and competitive with the contemporary offerings from Ford, GM, and Chrysler. They were an immediate sales success. During the nine-month April-December 1948 production run, Studebaker made 48,077 “built-up” (B/U, i.e., completely assembled) 1949 2R trucks, and another 588 that were “crated, knocked down” (CKD) for export. Adding these numbers to the 19,316 1948 M-Series trucks that the company had built during the first three months of 1948 produced a record-setting total of 67,981 trucks for calendar year 1948. In his history of the Studebaker Corporation, Bonsall comments15: “The modern and handsome redesign of the R-series models done by Bob Bourke raised this [Studebaker’s share of the truck market] to nearly 5%. In fact, the Studebaker truck line had a higher penetration in its market segment than did Studebaker cars, a happy situation that would continue for several more years.” Although the 2R-series trucks would continue to sell very, very well over the next few years, Studebaker would never again build that many trucks in a single calendar year.
The 1949 2R5 came with a 112-inch wheelbase, the 2R10 came with a 122-inch wheelbase, the 2R15 was available with wheelbases of 121 and 131 inches, and the 2R16 and 2R17 could be had with 131, 155, 171, and 195-inch wheelbases. (As discussed below, Studebaker never again invested the money to completely update their truck chasses, so most of these wheelbases would continue to define their truck line until production ended in 1963.) Most 2R5s were built with a 6½-foot pickup box. Both the 2R10-22 (122-inch wheelbase) and 2R15-21 (121-inch wheelbase) were available with either an 8-foot pickup bed or an 8-foot stake body. The larger trucks could be ordered as either a chassis-cowl (model A1) or chassis-cab (C2), and as either a bare chassis or with a factory-supplied stake body. Factory-provided stake bodies were actually built by Edwards Iron Works of South Bend. Many other companies also offered aftermarket bodies for Studebaker trucks, but these were not available as factory options.
Two identification plates were attached to the seat riser on the driver’s side of each 2R truck. One indicated the vehicle model, wheelbase, and serial number (e.g., R5-123456), and the other displayed such other information as the cab model (A1 or C2), cab serial number, and paint and trim codes. There was no “secret” serial number on the frame. The serial numbers of Hamilton-built trucks began with HR. For reasons that remain a mystery, Studebaker used the capital letter I instead of the numeral 1 on their serial number plates.
A note about serial numbers. Many of the very earliest automobiles did not have serial numbers. But rapid engine-technology development early in the 20th Century quickly made the serialization of engines necessary to allow repairs to be made with the proper replacement parts. In addition, the establishment of automobile registration systems and license plates (the first was in Massachusetts in 1903) soon made it necessary to be able to definitively identify each vehicle. Engine serial numbers became the de facto identification number in many states, and continued to be so used in some states (notably California) into the 1950s -- even on vehicles like Studebakers that had true vehicle serial numbers. This circumstance can cause problems when a new owner attempts to register an old vehicle decades after it was last registered, or if the engine was replaced at some time in the past. (Factory-replacement engines came with a blank serial number boss, and were supposed to be stamped with the original engine’s serial number. But most dealers didn’t bother. And many tired engines were replaced with used engines that already had their own serial numbers.)
Fortunately, the Studebaker National Museum in South Bend (The Studebaker National Museum) can provide a copy of the original production order for most post-War Studebaker vehicles. These list both the vehicle serial number and the engine serial number, and are usually sufficient to convince a motor vehicle department to correct incorrect registration data.
Finally, it should be noted that Studebakers do not technically have Vehicle Identification Numbers (VINs). The standard 17-character VIN system was not established until 1981, although the term “vehicle identification number” was in use before that. Studebakers, like all vehicles built before 1972, were identified by serial numbers.
Cab serial numbers simply indicated the sequential production number of each cab. Vehicle serial numbers were assigned sequentially as vehicles came down the assembly line, but cabs were pulled from stock without regard to their cab number. As a result, cab numbers do not track with vehicle serial numbers. Cab serial numbers were intended to assist dealers in tracking running changes to cabs, and had no other significance. All 2R trucks with a full cab had a model C2 cab with stationary windshield. Engine serial numbers were stamped on a machined pad on the top left front corner of each engine, and were sequentially numbered as follows: 2R5 and 2R10: 1R prefix (H1R in Canada); 2R15: 2R prefix; 2R16 and 2R17: 3R prefix.
For the 1949 model year, the 226-ci Commander 6 engine that had been used in Commander-model cars for a number of years was stroked to produce 245.6 ci and 102 hp, and this larger engine was installed in 2R16 and 2R17 trucks as well, beginning at the end of 1948. The model designations of trucks equipped with this engine was changed to 2R16A and 2R17A and their engine numbers started with 4R. This changeover occurred right around New Year’s Day 1949. The last 2R16 (one single truck) was built in January 1949, and the first 2R17A (also a single truck) was built in December 1948. No 2R16As were built in 1948, and no 2R17s were built in 1949.
In mid-1949, Studebaker began building a small number of ½, ¾, and 1-ton trucks with the Commander 6 engine (presumably the 245.6-ci version), apparently mostly for export. These were assigned new model numbers: the ½-ton 2R6, ¾-ton 2R11, and 1-ton 2R14. (Studebaker would probably later regret having already “used” model numbers 16 and 17 for their bigger trucks, as they would have been useful for identifying their Commander 6 and (later) V8-equipped 1-ton trucks.) A single 2R6 was built in May 1949, with 77 more assembled during the last six months of 1949. 2R11 and 2R14 production did not commence until March and April 1950, respectively. For some reason, the domestic availability of these models was not announced until 1951, though their existence was addressed in Truck Service Letters sent to dealers and state motor vehicle bureaus dated May 1, 1950. Model 2R6, 2R11, and 2R14 engine numbers began with 6R.
Studebaker established January 1, 1950 as the official 1949/50 truck-model-year changeover date, so any 2R-series trucks remaining unsold on that date were supposed to be titled as 1949 models. However, dealers had an obvious motivation to sell them as brand-new 1950 models. This same scenario occurred in several subsequent years, creating a good deal of uncertainty about the model year of many 2R trucks. The Studebaker Truck Price List published by the Studebaker Corporation on October 1, 1949 lists the Factory List Price of a new model 2R5 with a pickup box to be $1262.00. Factory delivered price, including taxes, delivery charges, and dealer preparation, was $1342.28.
Total 2R-series truck production during calendar year 1949 was: South Bend B/U: 60,163; South Bend CKD: 3312; and Hamilton, Ontario: 1498 (2R5 only), for a total of 64,973 trucks. In 1950, the totals were: South Bend B/U: 47,354; South Bend CKD: 2970; and Hamilton 2R5: 1823, for a total of 52,146. For calendar year 1951, these numbers were: South Bend B/U: 35,964; South Bend CKD: 4452; Hamilton 2R5: 1546, for a total of 44,714 units.
The 1951 CKD numbers included 1032 2R28-55 export-only, right-hand-drive trucks believed to have been built for the Indian Army.16 Another 864 CKD 2R28s were built in 1952, and 157 more in 1953 (including one completely assembled truck in December 1953, which may have been a prototype 1954 model). The 2R28 was a 1½-ton truck powered by the new-for-1951 Studebaker 120-hp, 232-ci V8 engine. There were no V8-powered trucks in Studebaker’s domestic catalog in 1951 – and there has always been a question of “why not?”. Studebaker was the first independent (non-Big Three) auto maker to develop its own overhead-valve V8 engine. Had they offered a V8 in their full line of trucks in 1951, they would have been two to four years ahead of their competitors. In his exhaustive history of the 2R trucks,17 Fred Fox quoted from an earlier article he had written for the Studebaker Drivers Club magazine, Turning Wheels:
“After 1948, Studebaker unwisely reduced commercial vehicle research and development expenditures to just above a subsistence level. Why this was done not 100% clear, although this writer has been told by several sources that Studebaker executives during the fifties considered the truck division a poor cousin.”
“Paul G. Hoffman [president of Studebaker], who was the master salesman, departed from Studebaker in 1948. Hoffman strongly believed in commercial vehicle sales. Evidently, there was no one left to continue this support after 1948. Would Hoffman have waited until 1954 before he offered Studebaker’s V8 engine (introduced on Studebaker cars in 1951) in domestic trucks? Not likely. Would he have made the truck division get by with the same basic cab design throughout the fifties? Probably not.”
The last chapter of Thomas Bonsall’s history of Studebaker is entitled “Why Studebaker Failed”. In that chapter, he concludes18:
“Yet, after the highly successful effort made with the 1949 trucks the company seems more or less to have forgotten about them. Thus starved for the investment needed to remain competitive, their sales went into a precipitous decline beginning in 1953. The figures are stark. Studebaker sold 58,985 trucks in 1952 for a 7.2 percent market share. This collapsed to 10,817 trucks in 1955 for a pathetic 1.1 percent share – a drop of 81 percent in volume and nearly 85 percent in market share in three years.”
Studebaker continued to build 2R-series trucks for a full five years with many minor updates and running engineering changes, but no significant styling changes. The dashboard instruments were revised in 1951, the Climatizer (heater) design was changed twice, and the available colors were revised periodically. As noted above, this styling consistency did cause one management challenge: establishing what model year a given truck was supposed to be. At the time, the new-model cars always had some styling cues to help identify the model year, but Studebaker made no attempt to distinguish one 2R model year from another. Car dealers would often try to sell left-over models as current-year vehicles, and the unchanging nature of the 2R trucks made this even easier. Studebaker began addressing this issue at least as early as 1945 by issuing letters every year to both motor vehicle departments and Studebaker dealers establishing a given vehicle serial number and sale date range for each model year. For example, the following is an excerpt from a Studebaker Truck Service Letter dated October 22, 1951:
“You are hereby advised that the following Studebaker trucks are to be designated as 1952 models, and that applications for registrations are to show such vehicles as 1952 models: Studebaker 2R Series model trucks, new and unused, starting with serial numbers . . . [list of serial numbers] . . . delivered to retail purchases on or after November15, 1951.”
Studebaker continued this practice every year until they exited the automobile business, and also included starting serial numbers in the data books and shop manuals sent to dealers.
The 2R truck line remained in production right through December 1953. By that time, the C-cab and front-end designs, so modern and new when they were introduced in mid-1948, were looking dated and uncompetitive. Sales had fallen steadily since their high in 1948. Calendar year 1952 2R production was: South Bend B/U: 35,964; South Bend CKD: 3372 (including the aforementioned 2R28s): 3372; Hamilton 2R5: 963, for a total of 40,299 units. The 1953 figures were: South Bend B/U: 21,437; South Bend CKD: 708; Hamilton 2R5: 772, for a total of 22,917 trucks. 1953 production was depressed somewhat by a strike at Warner Gear in June 1953 (Studebaker used Warner transmissions in both its cars and its trucks.) This was a sales decline of almost exactly two-thirds of their truck business in only five years.
Studebaker reported that a total of 266,662 2R-series trucks were produced for sale, of which 223,067 were intended for domestic sale in the U.S. and 43,995 were for export (including Canada). See footnote 13.
The U.S. Government did provide some additional work, however. The Korean War triggered a requirement for new trucks for the Army and Marine Corps, and Studebaker proposed an all-new 2½-ton 6x6 military truck. Unfortunately, Reo’s bid won the competition. However, Reo was not able to meet the production targets, and sub-contracted with Studebaker to build trucks to Reo’s design. Studebaker ended up building 19,535 M34 and M35 2½-ton, 6x6 military trucks in 1952, and another 9,898 in 1953. These were strictly assembly operations, with no Studebaker-unique content added. They did, however, help to keep the truck production line running.
Chapter 9: Facelift and Transition: the 1954 3R Series Trucks
As noted above, Studebaker’s management team was unwilling to spend any real money to modernize the truck line, but the company was also apparently unwilling to just give up on building trucks. So the company chose the middle ground and did a minor facelift of the original 1948-49 2R truck design. Called the 3R series, it had a new full-width grille, a one-piece curved windshield, an all-new instrument cluster, and a few trim changes. The 3R-series trucks are the only models with both the then-new, curved, one-piece windshield and the earlier, small rear window. The only other items that ended up being unique to the 3R series were the headlight rims, parking light rim and lenses, and the emblem on the hood lip. The big news for 1954 was the addition of two new models, the 1½-ton 3R28 and the 2-ton 3R38. These were powered by the 232.6-ci Studebaker V8 engine, now rated at 127 horsepower – so Studebaker trucks finally had a competitive power plant, albeit only in their larger trucks. All of the other models continued with the same power trains and wheelbases. The 3R28 and 3R38 trucks were available in the same wheelbases as the 3R16 and 3R17: 131, 155, 171, and 195 inches. A new flatbed “platform” body was now available on all models from the factory, and a 6 ½-foot stake body could now be ordered on the 3R5 and 3R6 models. The April 5, 1954 Studebaker Trucks Price List published by the company lists the Factory List Price of a 3R5 with pickup body as $1372, without taxes.
The first six 3R trucks were built at the end of December 1953. Full production started in January 1954. 3R truck serial and cab number plates were mounted on the driver’s side seat riser, just like the 2R series. Six-cylinder engine numbers contined to use the same prefixes as did the 2R trucks. The 232-ci V8 engine numbers were stamped on a machined pad on the top front end of the engine block next to the oil filler tube and began with VT.
The 3R-series trucks remained in full production for only eight months: January to August 1954. 1954 production was much lower than in previous years: South Bend B/U: 6148 (plus the six built in 1953); South Bend CKD: 2796; and Hamilton: 263, for a total of 9213 units (9219 with the six built in 1953). The company reported that only 4160 3R-series trucks were built for domestic sale in the U.S.
The reported production of 3R-series trucks, however, was later increased to 10,418 units by including in the total 1199 CKD model 3R48 trucks produced in late 1954. The 3R48 was a 3-ton, V8, right-hand-drive, 4x4 cab and chassis built for the Indian Army, and was a heavier-duty follow-on to the 2R28s built for that country in 1951-52. In fact, they used the old 2R grille19, dash instruments, and external emblems, probably because Studebaker’s original proposal to the Indian government is likely to have been for more 2R-series trucks. Governments often take a long time to award contracts, by which time the particular model proposed by the company may no longer be in production. This would not be the only time Studebaker had to go back into production of trucks no longer in the catalog because a government took too long to make a contract award. The 3R48s were really 2R trucks in every way except for serial number. Even more curious, they were actually produced during September through November 1954, well after the other end of the Chippewa Avenue plant had converted over to making 1955-model E-series trucks. In fact, Studebaker, which always reported production totals by calendar year (and never made much attempt to do so by model year) reported these CKD 1954 3R48s along with the CKD 1955 E-series trucks being crated up for export at the same time. Total Studebaker truck production during calendar year 1954 (both 3R and E series) was 16,019 units.
It is interesting to note that Studebaker successfully competed for V8-powered, 4-wheel drive trucks in a market halfway around the world, but did not attempt to market such a vehicle domestically until much later.
Chapter 10: A V8-Powered Pickup at Last: the 1955 E Series Trucks
The Studebaker-Packard Corporation was born upon the “consumation of the purchase by Packard Motor Car Company of the business and assets of The Studebaker Corporation on October 1, 1954”.20 The merger never did have much effect on Studebaker’s line of trucks, though many have speculated in the years since then on what effect the installation of the modern 352 or 374-ci Packard V8s might have had on the sales potential of Studebaker’s larger trucks. The transitional 3R series was quickly replaced by another face-lifted design. The 1955 trucks were designated as E series, and differed little in appearance from the 3R trucks. The grille remained the same, but the headlight rims now integrated the parking lights, there was a new, full-width Studebaker emblem on the front lip of the hood, and new hood ornaments (different for 6s and V8s) were now standard equipment. These three items were unique to the 1955 E-series trucks. The back of the cab was revised to accommodate a larger rear window. The big news was the availability of the new-for-1955, 140-hp, 224-ci, Studebaker V8 in the three lower tonnage ranges. The new models were designated as the ½-ton E7, the ¾-ton E12, and the 1-ton E13. Automatic Drive was optionally available on the E7 and E12. The E28 and E38 continued, but got the larger 156-hp, 259-ci V8 used in the new 1955 President passenger cars. In trucks, it was called the Power-Plus V8. Wheelbase availability remained the same, except that a new 212-inch wheelbase replaced the 195-inch frame in the E28 and E38. The 102-hp Commander 6 was not listed as being available in domestic sales literature, but small numbers were built by special order and for export. Truck body availability remained the same. The Dealer’s Confidential Price List published on December 7, 1954 lists the Factory List Price of a model E5 pickup as $1356. A V8-equipped model E7 only cost $100 more.
The old Champion 6-cylinder engine was stroked to produce 185 ci and 92 hp, and was identified by engine numbers beginning with 1E (H1E in Canada). All Commander 6 engine numbers began with 4E. The 224-ci V8s were numbered with a 2E prefix, and the 259-ci engines were numbered with a 5E prefix. This engine numbering system continued until Studebaker ended truck production in 1963.
The E-series trucks went into production in September 1954, and remained in production until September 1955, with a few CKD units crated up in October. 1954 E-series production was: South Bend B/U: 4533; South Bend CKD: 1080; Hamilton: 0. 1955 E-series production was: South Bend B/U: 12,338; South Bend CKD: 2736; Hamilton: 256. Total E-series truck production was thus 20,943, more than twice as many as the 3R series. The company reported that 13,639 E-series trucks were built for U.S. domestic sale. More than half of E-series trucks were equipped with V8s, so it would not be an exaggeration to state that the V8 engine saved the Studebaker truck line from oblivion, at least temporarily.
Total calendar year 1955 truck production (E and 2E series) was 19,745 units, an improvement of 23% over 1954. No trucks were built in Hamilton after 1955. And after a two-year hiatus, Studebaker won another contract for Army trucks; 208 were built in 1955.
Chapter 11: Another Interim Facelift: the 1956 2E Series Trucks
The 1956 Studebaker trucks were designated as the 2E series, and displayed a few updates. The 2R/E-series grille was modified to accommodate larger parking lights. The former parking light location under the headlights was covered by an extended chrome headlight rim. This headlight rim and the parking lights are the only uniquely 2E trim items. More noticeable was the taller, more rounded hood with a large Studebaker emblem cut into it in front, and the fact that the entire Studebaker truck line had a model name: “Transtar”. This was an appropriate name for a line of trucks, and it’s too bad it didn’t help sales that much. International used the Transtar name for one of their heavy truck models several years after Studebaker exited the truck business, and it was even briefly the name of an airline in the 1980s. To go along with the Transtar name, Studebaker truck engines were given new names. The 185-ci Champion 6 was called the Work Star, the 224-ci V8 was called the Route Star, and the 259-ci V8 was given the name Power Star.
A new model “C4” Deluxe cab was available for 1956, as was an optional two-tone paint scheme – but most of the changes were less visible. The electrical system was now 12 volts, and a new Twin Traction limited-slip differential was available in ½-ton models. This was a first in the industry. The pickup boxes were 3 inches wider, and the ½-ton models were now also available with a 122-inch wheelbase and an 8-foot pickup box. A new 9-foot pickup box was available on 1-ton models, which now came on a longer 131-inch wheelbase. The 2E28 was only available on the 131 and 155-inch wheelbases, but the 2E38 could be ordered with wheelbases of 131, 155, 171, and 212 inches (the latter intended for school buses). The only 6-cylinder Studebaker truck that sold well in 1955 was the ½-ton E5, so all of the larger trucks (¾-ton and above) were initially available only with V8s. The 1-ton 2E13 now came with the 156-hp, 259-ci V8 instead of the 224. During the first four months of the 1956 model year (October 1955 - January 1956), the only 6-cylinder trucks built by Studebaker were the ½-ton 2E5s and a few ¾-ton 2E10s built for export. The larger, 102-hp Commander 6 was initially dropped entirely, but was brought back “[i]n response to popular demand”21 in the 2E6, 2E11, and 2E14. Despite its obsolescence (its origins were the 1932 Rockne model 65), the long-stroke Commander 6 was ideally suited to door-to-door delivery operations with a lot of stops and starts – the kind of use that was still common in the mid-1950s. In sales literature, the Commander 6 was called the “Work Star” – the same name bestowed on the Champion 6 engine.
The A1 chassis-cowl was no longer listed as being available, though (given their slow sales) Studebaker surely would have built one for a firm order. The chassis-cab, platform, and stake bodies all remained available in all models with wheelbases of 122 inches or more. Half-ton trucks with the 112-inch wheelbase were only available as a chassis-cab or with a pickup box. The Studebaker Confidential Price List published on November 22, 1955 lists the Factory List Price of a model 2E5 pickup with the 112-inch wheelbase as $1491.58. A V8-equipped model 2E7 pickup listed for $1582.36.
Truck model year changeover was now keyed to the introduction of new car models each fall. 2E-series truck production began in September 1955 (eight trucks) and continued through August 25, 1956 (August 31 for CKD). 2E production was: 1955: South Bend B/U: 3671; South Bend CKD: 744; 1956: South Bend B/U: 6084; South Bend CKD: 4488, for a total of 14,987 units. Some of the increase in the 1956 CKD figure was caused by two factors: (1) the production of 264 model 2E46 3-ton, 4x4 trucks in March and August 1956 for export, presumably for the Indian Army22; and (2) the production of 480 trucks for export to Mexico, (apparently) as CKD instead of B/U units. Studebaker had always accounted for Mexico-bound units in its production totals, but until 1956 had included them in its Plant 3 totals. Plant 3 only produced B/U units. Beginning in 1956, the Mexico shipments were listed as having been produced by Plant 4, which did only CKD trucks. Both were physically located at the Chippewa Avenue facility.
A note about exports: Over the years, Studebaker established relationships with local companies in a number of foreign nations for the assembly of Studebaker cars and trucks. At various times, there were Studebaker assembly plants in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, Israel, the Philippines, India, South Africa, Brazil, Denmark, Sweden, and Egypt. In addition, Studebaker also had company-owned assembly plants in Mexico City (and of course, Canada). Vehicles destined to be shipped to all these assembly plants (except the Canadian plant) were partly assembled (“knocked down”) and crated in South Bend, one vehicle to a crate. Vehicles being shipped to customers located far from an assembly plant were shipped as assembled (“built up”) vehicles. Studebaker’s North American and “everywhere else” export catalogs often differed significantly. As noted above, the company was willing to build significant quantities of unique military trucks for overseas customers, while making no attempt to civilianize them for the North American market. It also often continued to offer models for export that were no longer in the domestic catalog. And in at least a few cases (e.g., the 2R6, 2R11, and 2R14) the company inexplicably withheld from the North American market truck models that: (1) they were already building for export, and (2) were more competitive than their current domestic line-up. And all this at a time when domestic sales were declining. Finally, models built for export were often built with a smaller displacement engine and fewer standard features than North American models. The latter distinctions are too numerous to be mentioned in this history.
Total production for calendar year 1956 (2E/3E) was 14,392 trucks, a drop of 27% from 1955. Not included in that number were another 829 Army trucks.
Chapter 12: The Final Restyling: 1957-58 3E Series Trucks
Studebaker was hemorrhaging money on both its car and truck lines in 1956, and chose to spend what little restyling dollars it had on its cars. Nevertheless, something had to be done to refresh its truck styling for the 1957 3E series, and stylist Robert Doehler of Studebaker’s in-house studio was given the job. Doehler came up with an aggressive-looking, full-width fiberglass grille that attempted (largely successfully) to make Studebaker's outdated cab design look fresh and new. What this new grille did not include was any place to put parking lights, so free-standing round lamps with clear lenses were mounted atop the front fenders, like an extra set of directional signal lamps. Directional signals were still separate, optional equipment in many states and provinces in 1957, though most truck-buyers ordered them. (Effective with the 2E-series, models with pickup beds could be ordered with “class B” directional signals that operated through the parking lights and existing tail/brake lamps; however, many buyers continued to opt for the traditional, separate class A signal lights, both front and rear.) The addition of directional signal lamps to the front fenders made the 3E parking lamps look like an afterthought. Fortunately, this design flaw was corrected (quite nicely) in 1959. The extra set of free-standing lamps on the front fenders is the easiest way to identify most 3E-series trucks.
There was also a new, more integrated two-tone scheme that used the natural breaks between the hood, fenders, and grille, and extended them into the doors and cab via thin stainless moldings. The large front bumper, previously only attached to the bigger models, was now standard equipment on all models as well.
The dashboard was redesigned, and did away with the cut-out panel for a radio. As a result, Studebaker was forced to offer a truck-only radio that had to be hung, aftermarket-like, under the dashboard. This change is difficult to understand, as it was contrary to the trend at the time, which was to make truck interiors more integrated and more car-like. The instrument cluster was new, and followed a common mid-1950s trend: the ammeter and oil pressure gauges were gone and replaced with indicator (“idiot”) lights. One model was added to the lineup for 1957 -- a new heavy-duty 2-ton model designated 3E40. The 3E40 was the sales surprise of the 3E series, almost matching the production of its slightly lighter-duty sister 3E38, and also outselling all other 3E models except ½-ton pickups. Wheelbase availability remained the same, except the 195-inch frame returned on the 3E40.
The 259-ci Power Star V8, now with 170 hp, was now the standard engine on all V8-powered models except the 3E40, which came with the heavy-duty truck version of the 182-hp, 289-ci “Torque Star” V8. A new HD-version of the 259-ci was now optionally available in the ½-ton 3E7, ¾-ton 3E12, and 1-ton 3E13. The HD 259, the standard 289, and the HD 289 were all optionally available in the larger trucks. Studebaker had long had a reputation for being willing to make exceptions from their catalog in order to make a sale, and it is likely that both the standard 289 and the HD 289 were installed in pickups as well. Engine numbers for newly available power plants began with the following prefixes: standard 289: 7E, HD 289: 6E, HD 259: 5E. Heavy-duty engines were further identified by a stamped cloverleaf symbol on the engine number boss. The Champion and Commander 6 engines remained available in the ½, ¾, and 1-ton models. The Studebaker New 1957 Transtar Confidential Price List printed on November 8, 1956 showed a factory list price of $1562 for a 3E5 pickup and $1683 for a 3E7 pickup.
3E series production got off to a slow start. Four 3E trucks (probably publicity photography models) were built in August 1956, but none at all the following month. Total production of 3E trucks during August – December 1956 was only 3208 B/U and 612 CKD (including 120 for Mexico). The last 1957 3E-series truck was built on August 16, 1957. Total production of 1957 3E series trucks was 8690 B/U and 2448 CKD (including 576 for Mexico), for a total of 11,138 units – another drop of 25%. Only 6555 were destined for domestic sale in the U.S. The CKD number also included 900 model 3E48, V8-powered, 3-ton, RHD, 4x4 trucks built for export in two batches, March and May 195723. These were built with the 2R-series grille, rather than the new, comparatively fragile 3E fiberglass grille. The company also built 269 Army trucks in 1957.
Total calendar year 1957 3E truck production fell to 7686 B/U and 2238 CKD, for a total of 9924 units, a loss of 31%. The 1957 production data sheets also show an adjustment of minus 48 units “reported built in 1956, later cancelled”. The 1958 production data sheets also show a minus 48 entry with the note “Argentina cancellation”. These were presumably the Studebaker pickups that were ordered by a Packard dealer in Buenos Aires, but subsequently cancelled because he was not able to obtain a license to import Studebakers.24 They eventually were produced in 1958 as Packard pickups, perhaps the only ones in the world. Since these were CKD units, the word “built” presumably meant that they had been assembled and crated for shipment in response to a firm order. But when the order was cancelled, they had to be subtracted from the “built” category. Otherwise, why Studebaker would record these as being built if they hadn’t actually been built is a mystery.
With little to no money available for facelifts, the 3E Transtars were continued into model year 1958 with no styling changes at all. Nevertheless, several new models were added. After a year’s absence, the ¾-ton, 92-hp, Champion-engined 3E10 returned, but only for export sales. New for 1958 was a low-priced model 3E1 Scotsman pickup with the Champion 6, a modified 2R grille, the old (smaller) 2R/3R bumper, and no chrome trim. The big news for 1958 was the availability of a four-wheel drive option on all V8 and Commander 6-powered ½-ton, ¾-ton, and 1-ton models. The 4WD models were assembled using hardware provided by Northwestern Auto Parts Company (NAPCO), which had built 4WD conversion kits for Chevrolet, GMC, and Studebaker trucks for several years. Series 3E trucks with 4WD came with 4-speed transmissions, 2-speed transfer cases with power take-off capability, and heavy duty brakes and suspension components. Among other modifications, installation of the transfer case required relocation of the fuel tank to the rear of the truck. This in turn necessitated relocating the spare tire to the a special carrier built into the right rear fender. 4WD-equipped trucks were designated with a “D” suffix on their model number, but were not serialized separately. The 4WD conversion added a lot to the cost, however. A price list attached to Studebaker Sales Letter T-5(b) of December 19, 1957 showed a Factory List Price of $2693 for a V8-equipped, 4WD, model 3E7D half-ton pickup. That was $1245 more than the $1448 cost of a Champion 6-equipped model 3E1 Scotsman pickup.
Model availability, serial numbers, engine serial numbers, and wheelbases remained the same as in the 2E series.
Production of 1958 model trucks began on September 6, 1957 and was completed on July 24, 1958. The 3E1 Scotsman was a bit of a bright spot. Although production did not begin until February 1958, 931 Scotsman models were built -- more than any other single model. Still, 1958-model sales were miserable: 5508 B/U, and 1069 CKD (including 408 for Mexico), for a total of 6577 – a drop of almost 50% from the previous year. For calendar year 1958, the numbers were 5611 B/U and 978 CKD (including 432 for Mexico), for a total of 6589 units -- a drop of 34%. Fred Fox25 estimated 1958 3E series total production at 6504 units, 4550 of which were sold in the U.S. The 1958 production records also include a +1 in the CKD total column, followed by this intriguing footnote: “Truck Pilot Job produced in December of 1957”. Was this a prototype 4WD pickup truck, the first Packard pickup, or something else?
Construction of trucks for the U.S. Army picked up. Production under a new contract began on March 5, 1958, and resulted in 4215 Army trucks being built in 1958.
Chapter 13: The 1959 4E Series Trucks
All of Studebaker’s limited restyling money went into their new 1959 Larks, so there was again no money left over for updating the Transtar truck line. The company returned to keying their series numbers to model year, so the 1959 models were designated as the 4E Series. For now-unknown reasons, the Transtar name was dropped for the 4E series trucks and changed to Studebaker Deluxe and Standard. Domestic advertising literature called them the “Haul of Fame” Studebaker trucks. The Deluxe/Standard parking lights were moved from atop the front fenders to the inside of the grille. Except for the use of Studebaker emblems in place of the Transtar emblems, the trucks were otherwise unchanged in appearance from 1957-58. From year to year, Studebaker juggled such details as the color of bumpers, grilles and wheels, but the basic C cab remained the same. Based on its sales success in 1958, the Scotsman line was expanded for 1959 to the Champion-engined 4E1, 259-ci V8-engined 4E2, and Commander 6-engined 4E3 models. All could be ordered with either a 112 or 122-inch wheelbase. Beginning in March 1959, the Twin Traction limited-slip differential became available on ¾-ton models. And in May 1959, many of the Deluxe goodies, including the big fiberglass grille, could be added to a Scotsman as extra-cost options. Models dropped included the ¾-ton model 10 (again) and 2-ton model 17. The 2-ton model 38 was also deleted from the catalog, though ten were built in late 1958 as 3E38s. The Champion 6 and Commander 6 were not available for domestic sale in any ½-ton pickups except Scotsman models. However, small numbers of Deluxe pickups (models 4E5 and 4E6) were made throughout the year for export, both as B/U and CKD units. The 1½-ton 4E16 and 4E28 did not appear in domestic sales literature, though more than a hundred of each were built in 1959 for both export and domestic sales.
Half-ton (4E2, 4E3, 4E7), ¾-ton (4E11, 4E12), and 1-ton (4E13, 4E14) models with either the 289-ci V8 or Commander 6 were available with 4WD and carried a D prefix on their model numbers. The 3E7D and 4E7D model 4WD pickups may be the most desirable Studebaker truck – limited in production, brawny-looking, powerful enough to be capable of being driven in modern traffic, and now highly collectible.
The Champion engine was de-stroked back to 170 ci and 90 hp for 1959. The standard V8 engine for Scotsman 4E2 was the 180-hp 259, but the 4E7, 4E12, 4E13, and 4E28 came with the 210-hp 289 V8 as standard equipment (for some reason, in this year only). The 225-hp, 4-barrel carburetor-equipped 289 was available as optional equipment, and the 259-ci V8 could be substituted for the 289. The 4E40 continued to get the cloverleaf-marked HD 289-ci V8. Available wheelbases remained the same as in the 3E series, except that a 212-inch frame was again available in the 4E40. The A1 cowl and chassis reappeared in the options list, even for the 4E1 Scotsman. The Studebaker Confidential Price List for 1959 Trucks of October 20, 1958 listed the following factory list prices: Model 4E1 Scotsman with pickup box: $1630; model 4E7 Deluxe, V8-powered pickup: $1887; 4WD conversion to model 4E7 pickup: $1030; and model 4E40 with 171-inch wheelbase and 14-foot stake body: $3465.
4E-series production began on September 29, 1958 and continued all the way through October 19, 1959. The 4E1 Scotsman accounted for 35% of the sales of 1959-model B/U trucks, with 2793 of the 7885 completely assembled 4E units built. The three Scotsman models sold 4447 units, more than 50% of total 1959-model production. Interestingly, the heavy-duty 4E40 outsold everything except ½-ton pickups, with 989 units built. CKD units totaled 1500 (including 576 for Mexico), and included 144 1958-model 3E7s. These 3E7s were probably the 1958 Packard pickups discussed above, ordered in 1956, but not actually delivered until 1959. Presumably they were assembled and crated in 1956, set aside or uncrated in 1958 when the order was cancelled, reassembled with new hoods and tailgates marked Packard, and re-crated and shipped in 1959.
The 3E-series Packard pickups present an intriguing mystery. First, although Hall and Langworth26 present a plausible explanation for the existence of such a vehicle, at this late date there is no way to really verify the details of their original production, supposed revisions, and eventual sale. Second is the fact that factory publicity photographs exist of a 1958 ¾-ton, 4WD Packard pickup, model 3E12D-2227,28that is equipped with a special front bumper, tow hooks, and winch. However, the aforementioned 144 ½-ton 3E7s were neither 4WD nor were they ¾-ton 3E12s, so it’s possible that they were not the Packard pickups shipped to Argentina. If they weren’t, then their export customer is unknown. In his history of the 3E-series trucks29, Fred Fox includes production numbers for 3E-series 4WD trucks that were developed by an analysis of individual production orders by another party. This summary shows that 32 model 3E11D and another 32 model 3E12D pickups were built for export, presumably to Argentina. This was an unusually large number of 4WD trucks to be built for export in a single year, and does lend plausibility to the claim that the 3E pickups shipped to Argentina were ¾-ton, 4WD units like the one pictured in the publicity photo. Unfortunately, there’s no way to verify these numbers, as Studebaker’s 1958 3E-series production records do not separately break out 4WD production in that year, and only show nine model 4E11Ds and 21 model 4E12Ds built in 1959. None of these 4WD trucks are identified as being previous-year 3E-series trucks (which the Packard pickups supposedly were). Given the above, it’s entirely possible that the 3E12D Packard pickup shown in the publicity photo was a one-of-kind, B/U unit produced for publicity and photography purposes – and may be the “Truck Pilot Job” produced in December 1957.
Total 4E production (including the ten 3E38s and 144 3E7s built for export during the 4E production run, but not including the 4E-series trucks built after 5E-series production began) was 9385 trucks. Fred Fox30 gives total 4E-series truck production of 8890 units, 7255 of which were intended for domestic sale. Production of 1960-model trucks was delayed until early 1960, so calendar year 1959 numbers were down at 5578 B/U and 1236 CKD (including 504 for Mexico), for a total of 6814 units. Four-wheel drive truck sales were a big disappointment; only 86 4E-series 4WD units were built for the 1959 model year. As noted above, most of these were for export. Production of Army trucks under another U.S. Government contract started on May 25, 1959. A total of 4283 military trucks were built in 1959.
Chapter 14: The Year of the Champ: the 1960 5E Series Trucks
Buoyed by the extraordinary popularity of the 1959 Larks (139,024 built), Studebaker frantically tooled up a restyled line of light-duty trucks for 1960 – its first since mid-1948. The 1959 Lark front end sheet metal and the front half of the 4-door sedan body were grafted onto slightly modified ½-ton and ¾-ton truck chassis and beds to form the basis of a new line of trucks, given the name Champ. The Champ was obviously intended to compete against the Ford Ranchero (introduced in 1957) and Chevrolet El Camino (introduced in 1959). However, both the Ranchero and El Camino were based on their current passenger car platforms, while the Champ had truck underpinnings. There was some irony in this, as Studebaker had tried the Ranchero approach with its Coupe-Express in 1937-39, but hadn’t been able to sell enough of them to make the effort worthwhile. Studebaker often seemed to be 20 years too early.
There was a nationwide steel strike in late 1959, greatly reducing steel supplies. 1959’s dreadful truck sales experience and a desire to use what steel was available to build the fast-selling Larks delayed the production of 1960-model 5E-series trucks, which did not get started until February 1960. The Champs were given the same model numbers as the previous ½-ton and ¾-ton Transtar trucks: ½-tons 5E5, 5E6, and 5E7, and ¾-tons 5E11 and 5E12. The Champion 6 was only available in the ½-ton 5E5. The Scotman models were dropped, so model numbers 1, 2, and 3 disappeared. The new Champ bodies were called T-cabs, and came in both Standard (T4) and Deluxe (T6) trim. Champs were equipped with Lark-like dashboards and interior amenities, but got a Champ-only grille with four horizontal bars.
The Transtar name returned on the 1-ton and larger models, and continued to use the aging C cab and 1957 fiberglass grille. Both Standard (C2) and Deluxe (C4) trim were still available, but the external chrome trim that previously indicated a Deluxe model was now painted white. Most of this chrome trim, including the chrome front bumper, was no longer available, even as extra-cost options. The 1½-ton 5E16 and 5E28 reappeared in the sales catalogs. The 180-hp 259 again became the standard engine in all V8-powered trucks except the 210-hp HD 289 installed in the 5E40. Sadly, four-wheel drive was not available in the Champs, so the only 4WD models actually listed in the catalog were the 1-ton 5E13 and 5E14. Curiously, however, Studebaker Service Bulletin number 352 of February 1960 (copies of which were sent to all Studebaker dealers) was completely devoted to describing the 1960 truck line, and listed as still being available the (1959-model, C-cab) 4E6D, 4E7D, 4E11D, and 4E12D 4WD models.31 Despite its miniscule sales in 1959, the company clearly was unwilling to give up on the 4WD truck market.
Externally, 1960 series 5E Transtars were unchanged from the 4E models except for the return of the Transtar emblems. Inside the cab, the 3E-4E instrument cluster was dropped, and the 1954-56 cluster with full instrumentation was returned. In his history of the 1960 Transtars, Fred Fox32 remarks: “Because of the new ½ and ¾-ton styling, almost 100% of the truck division’s enthusiasm and promotion went into the Champ. The larger models, especially for the domestic market, were almost forgotten.”
Vehicle serial numbers, engine numbers, and wheelbases continued from previous years. However, the 1½-ton 5E16 and 5E28 and the 2-ton 5E40 got new serial plates listing more information. Instead of just showing the model, serial number, wheelbase, and gross vehicle weight, the new serial plates also included codes that identified the front axle, brakes, and rear axle. Champs were available as chassis-cab, 6 ½-foot and 8-foot pickups, and both platform and stake bodies. The A1 chassis-cowl unit was only available on the Transtars. The 1960 Studebaker domestic price list for 1960 trucks shows the factory list price for the cheapest (5E5) Champ pickup to be $1708. The least expensive Transtar was the one-ton model 5E14 with platform body at $2165.
After getting off to a late start, series 5E trucks remained in production only six months, until July 20, 1960. Champs accounted for the overwhelming majority of all 5E trucks built: 5602 out of a total of 6802 (5962 B/U and 840 CKD, including 384 for Mexico). Of the 5602 5E Champs built, 5085 were for the domestic U.S. market. Fox33 states that . . . “only 362 [1960 Transtars] were sold domestically. This meant, especially in the U.S., that every 1960 Transtar truck was a rarity”. As usual, the company’s production records showed a number of oddballs and anomalies that were included in the 5E production totals (even though they didn’t all carry 5E serial numbers). The oddballs were two 1959-model, 4WD, 4E6Ds built in February and March 1960, apparently for export to Spain34. As noted above, these models were not listed in 1960 sales literature as being available. Three more 4WD trucks, two 5E6Ds and one 5E7D, followed later in the year, but were given 5E-series model numbers for unknown reasons. The only other “real” 5E series trucks built with 4WD were three 5E13Ds and four 5ED14s, for a total production of ten 5E-series 4WD trucks. These ten trucks have to be among the rarest of all Studebaker vehicles. Studebaker was clearly not having much of an impact in the world of 4WD trucks.
The most notable anomalies were the quasi-famous U.S. Navy 4x4s. In 1959, Studebaker had bid on a Government contract to build 65 V8-powered, ½-ton pickups with 4WD for the U.S. Navy. Studebaker won the bid, but the contract was not awarded until February 196035, by which time the company was (theoretically) no longer offering a 4WD ½-ton pickup to domestic customers. Ever resourceful (and as they had in previous years), the company went back into production of the previous year’s models. A single V8-powered 4E7D was built in April 1960, followed by 29 units in May, and the final 35 in June 1960. Since these 4WD trucks were built to a 1959 specification, they carried 4E serial numbers, but were included in Studebaker’s 1960 production records. Accordingly, they are included in the 5E production totals above. Total calendar year 1960 Champ and Transtar production was 8008 B/U and 2046 CKD, for a total of 10,054 units. Studebaker’s latest contract for U.S. Army trucks ended in May 1960; 2334 units were built in the first five months of the year.
Chapter 15: The 1961 6E Series Trucks
The 1961 Studebaker trucks were designated as the 6E series, and production began on August 24, 1960, a month after the production of 5E trucks ended. In 1960, Studebaker was one of the last American auto manufacturers still offering L-head engines, so enough money was found to convert the 1939 Champion 170-ci 6-cylinder engine to overhead valves. This increased its output to 110 hp, and allowed the company to finally discontinue production of the 245.6-ci Commander 6, after a production run (in several displacements) of 28 years. Accordingly, the ½-ton model 6, ¾-ton model 11, 1-ton model 14, and 1½-ton model 16 were all dropped from the catalog. The Champion 6-powered ¾-ton model returned as a Champ model 6E10. The big news for the 1961-model Champs was the optional availability of wide new slab-sided Spaceside P2 pickup boxes, which had previously been used on 1959-1960 Dodge Sweptside pickups. Studebaker purchased the dies and tooling for the 6½ and 8-foot P2 boxes from Chrysler, and designed a new front panel and a new tailgate stamped with the Studebaker name to go with them. The narrower 1956-60 P1 boxes remained standard equipment. The cancellation of the Commander 6-engined models meant that the Transtar name was reduced to the V8-powered 1-ton 6E13, 1½-ton 6E28, and 2-ton 6E40. A 9-foot P1-style box was still available on the 6E13. The only 4WD model in the catalog was the 1-ton 6E13D.
Although Studebaker-Packard made a small profit from Lark sales in 1960, sales suffered after the Big Three all introduced competing compact cars for the 1960-model year. A $28 million loss on automotive operations was predicted for 1961.36 The S-P board was divided over whether the company should remain in the automobile business or just downsize to its profit-making, non-automotive subsidiaries. In a last-ditch effort to inject some energy into its car and truck divisions, the board decided to hire Sherwood H. Egbert as its new president. Egbert was a young, dynamic, ex-Marine who “. . . operates on . . . one-gear ratio – full speed ahead.”37 However, the decision to offer Egbert the job was eight in favor, four opposed38,39 – so it was far from unanimous. This contentious atmosphere in the board room would continue to dog the company when it came to making decisions regarding new products or other major investments.
Sherwood Egbert took over as the new president of the Studebaker-Packard Corporation on February 1, 1961, and very quickly tried to inject new life into the truck division. Among his initiatives was the introduction of a new line of diesel trucks in May 1961. Although initially scheduled to be 6E-series trucks, they ultimately were given 1962-model 7E serial numbers. The new line of diesel trucks was powered by the 130-hp, 4-cylinder Detroit Diesel model 4-53 engine. Their mechanical details were announced to dealers in Service Bulletin number 362 of July 1961. Interestingly, the photograph on the cover was of a 1957/58 3E40 tractor that had been retouched to display the word “DIESEL” on the grille. It’s a sad commentary of Studebaker’s financial condition in 1961 that they couldn’t even afford to build a single one of their new 7E-series diesels in time to photograph it for use in their publications.
Built-up 6E-series truck production ended earlier than usual on June 21, 1961, though CKD export production continued until September. Due largely to the somewhat longer ten-month production period, the total built increased slightly to 7641 units (4947 B/U and 2694 CKD, including 234 for Mexico). It included only eleven 4WD model 6E13D 1-ton trucks. Champ models accounted for more than 80% of 6E production, with 6592 units. Exports increased substantially to almost 40% of Champ sales, with 4108 sold domestically in the U.S. and 2484 exported (including to Canada). However, the export numbers were increased by including 1081 CKD model 6E9 export-only lightweight trucks in the Champ totals. The 6E9 used the Lark front sheetmetal and bumper and the Champ T4 cab mounted on the V8 taxi/heavy-duty sedan chassis40. Pickup beds were to be fabricated locally in the country ordering them.
As usual, 1960-61 production included several oddballs and models not in the catalog. Most notable were a single 1962-model 1½-ton 7E35 and 38 2-ton 7E45 diesels, built in June 1961. These 39 7E-series trucks were included in the 6E-series production totals. Several trucks were built that were powered by the Commander 6, even though this engine had been dropped from the catalog in 1960. These included two 1½-ton 5E16s in September 1960, six 1-ton 1960-model 5E14s (including one 4WD 5E14D) in September and October 1960, and two ½-ton 6E6 pickups in January 1961 (presumably the very last Studebaker vehicles built with this venerable engine). The single 5E14D built in September 1960 was on the cover of the August 1999 Turning Wheels, and according to Fred Fox’s history of the 5E-series trucks,41 had 1961 trim and paint codes. This makes sense, given the fact that the 1961 6E-series trucks were already in production when it was built. Fox42 estimated only 1000 6E-series Transtars were built, 511 of which were for domestic sale in the U.S.
Total truck production for calendar year 1961 was dreadful again: 5814 B/U and 1764 CKD (1212 of which were the 6E9s), for a total of 7578 units. No military trucks were built in 1961.
Chapter 16: The Sherwood Egbert Effect: the 1962 7E-Series Trucks
After a six-week plant shutdown, the 1962 model 7E trucks got back into production on August 10, 1961. Both the Champ and Transtar lines continued largely unchanged. The 6½ and 8-foot Spaceside model P2 pickup box used on the Champs became standard equipment, and the narrower P1 box was only available on special order. Champs built with the OHV 6-cylinder engine could now be ordered with automatic transmission.
According to Fred Fox,43 “Studebaker-Packard lost money on every Transtar truck they built in 1961” – so the company again had to find a way to either build enough trucks to make a profit on them, or get out of the truck business. Sherwood Egbert, however, would not consider abandoning the truck line, and instead directed that work get started on developing a new line of trucks. In the meantime, several other changes were made to the Transtars and Diesels (diesel-equipped trucks were just called “Diesel” and did not carry the Transtar name). Most noticeable was the 96”BBC option introduced in April 1962. 96”BBC stood for 96 inches from Bumper to Back of Cab, which allowed a tractor so equipped to pull a 40-foot trailer and still remain under the 50-foot overall limit then in force in many states. The reduced length cab was achieved by shortening the frame, removing the fiberglass grille, and installing a flat front grille panel, shortened hood, and flush-mounted bumper. The 96”BBC was available on both Transtars and Diesels. In an effort to expand the use of Studebaker’s biggest trucks as tractors, full air brakes and a new 143-inch wheelbase were made available on the 7E40 and 7E45 models.
For a number of years, Studebaker had offered a heavy-duty option to its 1½-ton E28 and 2-ton E40 models. This option included frame fishplating, heavy-duty brakes, and other features to upgrade the truck’s maximum gross vehicle weight limits. For 1962, this option was expanded and formalized through a series of sub-models. Henceforth, the gasoline-powered 7E28 would be available as a 7E28A rated at 1½-tons (16,000 lbs GVW) and a 7E28C rated at 2-tons (18,000 lbs GVW). Similarly, the 2-ton gasoline-powered 7E40 and diesel-powered 7E45 could be ordered in two different configurations: an A suffix (19,500 lbs) or E suffix (23,000 lbs).
Local 5 of the United Auto Workers struck Studebaker for 38 days in January and February 1962, so a number of firm orders were lost and production was delayed. Truck production ended on July 13, 1962. Despite the strike, total 7E-series production (not including the 39 trucks counted in 6E production totals) was up 14% to 8703 units (6807 B/U and 1896 CKD). Champ sales again led the way with 6749 units built (5517 for domestic U.S. sale), plus another 576 CKD model 7E9-model trucks for export. 7E13D model 4WD trucks totalled 35 units – still a small number, but a 300% improvement over the previous year. Diesel sales were a disappointment – only 30 7E35s and 311 7E45s were built. Forty-two unsold 7E-series diesels were given new serial numbers and sold as 1963-64 8E-series models.44 Fred Fox gives total Transtar production at 1037, 734 of which were for domestic sale.45
Total truck production for calendar year 1962 was up slightly to 6220 B/U and 1788 CKD, for a total of 8008 units (though many were still unsold after production ended). Studebaker began work on a new contract for 5030 Army trucks in February 1962, and completed it on October 17, 1962. Work on a second Army contract began the next day that called for a production of 2821 trucks by April 1963.46 Total production of Army trucks during 1962 was 6274 units.
Chapter 17: The Finale: the 1963-64 8E-Series Trucks
The 1963-model 8E-series trucks went into production on August 31, 1962, after the truck plant had been shut down for a full six weeks. There were a few changes and improvements in the 8E-series trucks. All V8-powered trucks got a new engine block with a full-flow oil filter. Despite being diagnosed with cancer, Sherwood Egbert continued his frenetic pace at the helm of Studebaker. He was convinced that there was a market for diesels in medium-duty trucks, so Studebaker introduced a new line of diesel-powered 1-ton (8E15) and 1½-ton (8E25) trucks for 1963. They were powered by the 3-cylinder, 97-horsepower, Detroit Diesel model 3-53 engine. Unfortunately, it would be another twenty years before a U.S. market for such trucks developed, and sales of these models were disappointing. As Fred Fox has remarked:47 “As has been said of Studebaker so often, they were just too far ahead of their times, and in this case the saying was absolutely correct.”
There were some other changes. The Transtars and Diesels got new larger parking lights that (in accordance with Federal standards) had amber lenses. These parking lights are the only thing that is unique to the 8E non-96”BBC Transtars. The 8E-series 96”BBC models got a new grille and front panel with amber parking lights. The 8E35 was split into two sub-models: 8E35A (16,000 lbs GVW) and 8E35C (18,000 lbs GVW). One new model was introduced for 1963: the 8E28AX Mobile Home Transporter. This truck had a sliding, adjustable frame to reduce overall length for towing mobile homes, and was a copy of the Whattoff Studebaker Trailer Toters that had been built for several years by Studebaker dealer Whattoff Motor Company of Ames, Iowa. Later in 1963, a diesel-powered Mobile Home Transporter was introduced as model 8E35AX.
The appearance of the 8E Champs remained the same except for amber parking light lenses, but there were some engineering changes. Champs were now equipped with suspended brake and clutch pedals, greatly improved brakes, and new steering and front suspension. Air conditioning was now available on Champs. The narrower 6½ and 8-foot P1 pickup boxes were no longer available on Champs, and although nominally available, the 9-foot P1 pickup box no longer appeared in lists of optional equipment for the 8E13 one-ton truck. The Confidential Price List for 1963 8E-series trucks quotes the following factory list prices: 8E5 Champ with 6 ½-foot pickup box: $1764; 8E13 Transtar chassis-cab unit: $2080 (plus $207 for a 9-foot platform body); 8E45 Diesel chassis-cab unit with 171-inch wheelbase: $5119 (plus $294 for a 14-foot platform).
As sales continued to decline, the company continued to seek government contracts for both cars and trucks. Late in the 1963 model year, Studebaker won a U.S. Marine Corps contract for 35 model 8E40E heavy-duty stake trucks with 171-inch wheelbase. Painted in Marine Corps green and equipped with full air brakes, Clark cast wheels, tow hooks and front bumpers bolted to frame extensions, and other heavy-duty equipment (even air horns), they may be the ultimate Studebaker truck.
With Egbert ill and the banks pushing for better corporate financial performance, the 8E-series trucks were continued into the 1964 model year with no significant changes. Some of the last 1964-model Champs built received a new grille with the word Studebaker on it, but no changes were made to Transtars or Diesels. Egbert went on medical leave and subsequently resigned in November 1963.48 By that time, Studebaker’s automobile division was losing almost $2 million a month,49 and was expected to end the year with only $8 million in cash.50
One of the things that had kept Studebaker in the truck business was that the company had been able to cover many of the labor and facility costs of the truck plant by competing successfully for U.S. Army contracts for heavy-duty military trucks. In November 1963, Studebaker was working on a large Army contract that called for the production of 4192 miliary trucks by June 1964.51 While these trucks contained almost no Studebaker-produced parts, they did keep the truck production line going. In late 1963, it won another Government contract, this time for 4,238 postal delivery vans for the U.S. Post Office. These postal vehicles, designated as model 8E5FC (FC for forward control), were called Zip-Vans in production, and were a very different job than assembling Army trucks. The Zip-Vans were a Studebaker design, and used the Studebaker Champ 6-cylinder engine, automatic transmission, frame, suspension, and steering components, and the Transtar instrument cluster. The bodies were built by Met-Pro of Lansdale, Pennsylvania. Because of the considerable truck division effort in their design and development, it’s probably a safe assumption that the company took considerable satisfaction in winning this particular contract.
Unfortunately, by that time, it was too little, too late. The company had a large inventory of unsold 1964-model cars, and another 3,000 leftover 1963s.52 The banks had already loaned the company $16.5 million53 and would not agree to loan any more to cover the losses of the automotive division without more collateral, something to which the board of directors would not agree. On December 7, 1963, the board decided to close the South Bend plant and build Lark-type passenger cars (only) in the Hamilton plant. That meant the end of Studebaker truck production and the abandonment of plans for a next-generation Avanti and a new line of trucks. The last civilian truck was built on December 27, 1963 -- an 8E28AX Mobile Home Transporter, with serial number E28-9150. Zip Van production continued into early 1964 until the Post Office Department contract was fulfilled. Later in 1964, the Kaiser Jeep Corporation purchased Studebaker’s entire defense products unit,54 including the Chippewa Avenue truck plant and Studebaker’s remaining military truck contracts with the U.S. Army. Total 1963-64 model, 8E-series truck production (including the Zip Vans actually assembled in early 1964) was 13,117 units. Fred Fox55 gives the following production data for the 8E-series trucks: 1963 Transtars: 771 (646 for U.S. domestic sale); 1963 Champs: 5861 (5059 for the U.S. market); 1964 Transtars: 388 (324 for domestic sale); 1964 Champs: 2509 (1857 for domestic sale). Only four 8E13D-model 4WD trucks were built, all in September 1962.
As is well known, when Studebaker closed the South Bend plant, the Newman and Altman families, owners of the both the local South Bend Studebaker dealership and a successful surplus automotive parts business, purchased the rights to continue to build the Avanti, which they did until selling the company in 1983. Less well known is the fact that the Newman and Altman families also purchased the rights to build Studebaker trucks. Regrettably, they remained busy with Avanti II production for as long as they operated the company and never exercised their option to build Studebaker trucks.
1 Fox, Fred K. “Studebaker Commercial Vehicles, A Story of Opportunities Lost”, Turning Wheels, Studebaker Drivers Club, Feb 1982, p 15
2 Studebaker sales brochure “Studebaker Trucks for 1934” (undated)
3 Richard T. Quinn, personal communication, 2012
6 Fox 1982, p 16
7 Richard T. Quinn, personal communication, 2012
9 Fox, Fred K., “The Studebaker US6 . . . America’s Other WWII 2 ½ ton truck. Part IV . . . Use by America’s Allies” Turning Wheels, Studebaker Drivers Club, August 2000, p 27
10 Bonsall, Thomas E., More Than They Promised, The Studebaker Story, Stanford University Press, 2000, p 222
11 However, M15A cab serial plates continued to be stamped “M15”.
12 Fox, Fred; “Studebaker’s M Series Trucks, Success at Last,” Turning Wheels, Studebaker Drivers Club, June 1986, p 14
13 Studebaker produced a number of different summaries of car and truck production for different purposes. Some listed exactly how many vehicles of each model were built each month, while others summarized annual production or the split between those built for export and the U.S. market. These summaries do not always agree, though they’re usually very close. There are several possible explanations for these discrepancies (aside from simple errors). (1) The production of small numbers of prototypes or one-of-a-kind vehicles that were built but never intended to be sold (and thus would be included in monthly production totals, but not in annual domestic/import summaries). For example, the company built several completely assembled one-of-a-kind military trucks intended for export markets, primarily so that they could be photographed and described for promotional and formal proposal purposes. Those actually exported were generally CKD, not B/U. What actually became of these completely assembled prototypes is unknown. See footnote 19. (2) The production for special orders of “previous year” models that were no longer in the catalog (making it uncertain under which year’s totals they should be reported). In at least one case (2E production in late 1955), it appears that one small run of CKD trucks got counted in both the 1955 and 1956 totals. (3) The inclusion in some summaries of passenger car chassis for use as ambulances, hearses, etc. These were considered as commercial cars.
Data identified herein as production for U.S. domestic sale are from a summary that often differs in small ways from the total production data listed elsewhere, so one cannot subtract the domestic market number from the total production number and derive the exact number of trucks intended for export. In the end and given the passage of time, most of these discrepancies are too small to be worth resolving in any case.
15 Bonsall, p 255
16 Fox, Fred K., “Studebaker’s 2R Series Trucks -- 1949-1953”, Turning Wheels, Studebaker Drivers Club, June 1985, p 7
18 Bonsall, p 467
19 A number of Studebaker factory photos exist of what is described as a Model 3R48 Cargo and Personnel Carrier. The truck pictured clearly has a 3R (not 2R) grille, as well as (in some photos) a cargo body. As noted above, Studebaker production records show that the company built one B/U and 36 CKD 2R28 trucks in December 1953, well after 3R-series production had started. These were the last 2R28s built. Was this sole completely assembled 2R28 truck actually a prototype 3R48, and was this truck the 3R48 truck shown in factory photos? The pictured 3R48 is very similar in appearance (except for the grille, the rear window, and the tires/wheels) to the 1956 model 2E46 and 1957-58 model 3E48 that eventually went into production for export. Although there are pictures of engineering prototypes of the export-model 2E46 and 3E48, company production records do not show that any such trucks were produced as B/U (completely assembled) vehicles. So if no B/U 2E46 and 3E48 trucks were built, how did the company take a picture of them? It seems likely that the single B/U 2R28 truck built in December 1953 was the same export military truck (suitably updated) that was later photographed (several times over the years) by the company – as a 3R48, a 2E46, and a 3E48.
20 Studebaker-Packard Corporation Annual Report 1954, p 5
21 Studebaker Sales Letter Number 62 of February 2, 1956
22 Studebaker also proposed building a model 2E46-95 “Studebaker Forward Control Bus with Diesel Engine for India” at around the same time. The proposal shows photos of a completed chassis with drive train, but no body. The engine was an 83-horsepower, 288.6-cu in 6-cylinder Perkins diesel.
23 The Preliminary General Specifications for the 3E48 state that it was to be a 4x2, but photographs of the completed truck clearly show a front differential. See footnote 19.
24 Hall, Asa E, and Langworth, Richard M., The Studebaker Century, A National Heritage, Dragonwyk Publishing, 1983, p 156
25 Fox, Fred K., “Studebaker’s 1957-58 3E Series Transtar Trucks, Part 2,” Turning Wheels, Studebaker Drivers Club, January 1996, p 14
26 Hall and Langworth, p 156
27 Fox, January 1996, p 9
28 Hall and Langworth, p 156
29 Fox, January 1996, p 14
30 Fox, Fred K., “Standard and Deluxe 1959 4E Series Studebaker Trucks”, Turning Wheels, Studebaker Drivers Club, December 1997, p. 16
31 This Service Letter did something else that was unusual: it listed the starting serial numbers of all “1960 Studebaker Trucks,” including the not-yet-built 1959, 4E-series 4WD models that were not listed as being available in sales catalogs. Subtracting these starting serial numbers from those of the corresponding models of 5E-series trucks shows how much serial number “room” the company was reserving for the possible production of 4E-series, C-cab, 4WD trucks in 1960. They were: 4E6D: 199 units; 4E7D: 90 units; 4E11D: 86 units; 4E12D: 104 units. The company usually started each new series with serial numbers that ended in 01, so these serial number gaps are somewhat random – but one wonders why the company only provided for the production of 90 4E7D, ½-ton, V8-powered trucks, especially (as discussed below) since they had already submitted a bid to build 65 such trucks for the U.S. Navy.
32 Fox, Fred K., “1960 5E Transtar Trucks, Lost in the Shadow of the Champ”, Turning Wheels, Studebaker Drivers Club, August 1999, p. 9
33 Ibid, p. 6
34 Fox, December 1997, p. 10
35 Fox, Fred K., “Feature Article Recaps – December 1997 Turning Wheels, 1959 4E Series Trucks”, Turning Wheels, Studebaker Drivers Club, February 1998, p. 13
36 Bonsall, p. 344
37 Langworth, Richard M., Studebaker: The Postwar Years, Motorbooks International, 1979, p 116.
38 Critchlow, Donald T., Studebaker, The Life and Death of an American Corporation, Indiana University Press, 1996, p.174.
39 After Egbert agreed to accept the job if he were formally elected, he was actually elected by a vote of eight in favor, two opposed, with two abstentions.
40 Fox, Fred K., “Studebaker Trucks, A Primer, Part 3”, Turning Wheels, Studebaker Drivers Club, February 1995, p. 22
41 Fox, August 1999, p 12
42 Fox, Fred K., “Studebaker’s Rare 1961 6E Transtar Trucks”, Turning Wheels, Studebaker Drivers Club, March 2002, p. 8
43 Fox, Fred, “Studebaker’s 1962 Series 7E Transtar Trucks . . . Saved by Sherwood Egbert,” Turning Wheels, Studebaker Drivers Club, April 2002, p 6.
44 Ibid, p 8
46 Langworth, The Postwar Years, “Studebaker Trucks: The Postwar Years, Appendix I”, by Fred K. Fox, p.176
48 48 Bonsall, p. 377
49 Critchlow, p. 180
50 Bonsall, p. 377
51 Langworth/Fox, p. 176
52 Foster, Patrick R., Studebaker The Complete History, Motorbooks, 2008, p.161
53 Critchlow. P. 178
54 Langworth/Fox, p. 178
55 Fox, Fred, “Studebaker’s 1963-64 Series 8E Transtar Trucks, The End of the Line, Part 2,” Turning Wheels, Studebaker Drivers Club, August 2002, p 19
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