I’ve got a soft spot for these Studebaker pickups, despite the fact that one tried to kill me once. They were the most advanced pickup design-wise in 1949, with Studebaker taking the bold step of widening the cargo box a bit and eliminating the running board for the bed, which made it look pretty sleek for the times.
I wrote about it before, but the Mennonite family with whom I used to spend parts of each summer had a Studebaker truck just like this. It had been a tow truck in its first life, with some kind of modest wrecker lift installed in the bed, so it was pretty tired, and old by about 1963, when this incident happened.
I always rode in the bed when Mr. Yoder had to go somewhere in the truck, standing up right behind the cab on the driver’s side, with the wind in my face. On day, we came to a T intersection on the gravel road, with two curved sections , and I assumed we were going straight, since there was no discernible decrease in speed. But Mr. Yoder threw the Studebaker into the curved right turn, at a pretty good clip, and I started flying out of the bed, with nothing to grip on the Stude’s smooth roof. As I came down and around the side of the cab, my left arm caught hold of the big West Coast style mirror that had been mounted for the truck’s work as a wrecker. If it hadn’t had that big mirror, I would have flown out of the bed for sure.
I hung there, alongside the drivers open window, inches away from Mr. Yoder’s face, which hnow had a sheepish grin. The truck slowed down on the uphill just past the curve, and Mr. Yoder pulled over. A man of very few words, he simply said: The brakes are out.
And not just suddenly; they’d been out for days, but that wasn’t really that much of an issue driving the mostly deserted and flat gravel rural roads of Iowa back then, to a neighbor’s place to get something. Or maybe into town for a new master cylinder.
Ford Steering column and wheel
The following year, Studebaker’s very tired flathead six was in declining health, and Mr. Yoder babied it along, as the family finances were tight, as usual. One morning, Mrs. Yoder needed the truck to pick up something large. I’d never seen her drive the truck; she always drove the family sedans. But I watched her walk over to where it sat, near the barn, get in, and start it up with a heavy foot. The motor clattered and lunched, and a huge cloud of thick smoke soon ensued so that the whole front of the barn was barely visible. Mr. Yoder was not pleased.
He and I went looking for a replacement truck, and drove a couple of used ones, including a ’56 Ford with a 292 V8 that felt like a rocket to us both. Mr Yoder declined, and eventually found an old early ’50s Chevy sedan and cut off the back of it and built a home-made bed.
I loved riding in the back of that old Studebaker; one of my favorite things out there along with driving the tractor. farm life can be a bit confining, and going into town or someone else’s place was always a welcome diversion. But it’s always preferable if the brakes are actually working.
I recall my sister falling out the passenger door when mom made a left hand turn. She wasn’t a hot rodder but the passenger door lock was bad. No seat belts or safety seats. Probably 1949 or so. Things have sure changed.
My Yoder wasn’t exactly original but he sure wasn’t a conformist either. Good yarn.
I feel for you, Lee. That so-nearly happened to me in my teens, when I got a ride home from school with a newly-licensed friend in his old family Valiant. I know I shut the door properly, but the car had other ideas.
Handsome trucks! I wonder if there is more Ford here than just the steering column, as I see what looks like a Ford automatic shifter coming up out of the floor. I know that some people pop old truck bodies down on a more modern chassis, but I have no idea what kind of Ford rig might fit under one of these.
Studebaker must have been quite a place in 1949.
Agreed. That’s actually one of the better looking Studebakers I’ve seen. Not in the same league as the ’53 Loewy coupe, but still pretty nice. Studebaker definitely had their moments. The only problem was they were a bit too few and far between.
I wonder if this one is on a full-size, BOF Ford chassis. It’s a nice touch that the owner kept the stock Ford steering wheel and shifter, and didn’t slap on one of those hokey Grant specials that normally reside in these old rods when the original steering wheel inevitably degrades beyond usability.
Even the patina of the matte-blue, semi-gloss paint is appropriate. I know the guy is trying to save money but it could use a better looking set of wheels and tires, though, instead of the small whitewalls and Big Lots wheel covers.
It’s hard to tell with ’70s Fords and their “one ring to rule them all” steering-wheel policy that used the same one in everything from a Pinto to an F350 to a Continental. This is the early version, too, the later dropped-spoke one had more variations of color/woodgrain or no/badging.
Sounds like a good idea for a Rachel Yoder book. My daughter used to read them.
Always trouble somewhere…
Looks like the whole chassis has been replaced as those wheels ain’t even close to
anything Studebaker, the standard size being a 16-inch wheel, and those look to be
14 or 15 inch wheels…
The factory never offered power steering on the trucks, so if you want that kind of upgrade, you have had to change out everything from the steering column to the rims, usually with another make’s truck components, not Studebaker. I see that’s a very non-Studebaker brake pedal, too, tho’ it still seems to be a pumping down thru the floorboards. If it’s a V8 change over, I hope they put in a split system with more modern brakes!
Studebaker first put an automatic in their trucks in 1956. It didn’t have a ‘P’ position! Just NDLR. You really had to have a working emergency brake system to park one on a hill!
Those look like hubcaps from an early ’90s Chrysler minivan. Google image search tells me they are 14″, so you are probably correct.
My Dad had a Jeep with those hubcaps. A Cherokee from 86-87 if I recall.
Nice ol Stude not many around over here though in this area way way back Studebakers were extremely poular, Plenty of large old BOF cars got the Yoder ute treatment here, it was a cheap easy way to get a flatdeck ute when new vehicles were impossible to obtain.
Love Studebaker pickups. I can’t believe they couldn’t put slightly more appropriate wheels/hubcaps on it though. Those remind me of an 80s VW Polo.
I wonder if it has a 289-302 C4 powering it. The column, wheel and floor shifter seem to point to this power train. Nice looking truck, haven’t see a Studebaker truck in I don’t know how long. Speaking of falling out of vehicles, I once had a passenger fall out of the back of my ’66 Bus camper. People were always just shutting the double side doors without lifting up the handles afterwards to latch them shut. I always would tell people to do this, and normally would double check and lock it myself if people were in the back. Guess I didn’t this time. I was raining like crazy late at night and the bridge we were to use was closed due to high water and a detour sign was in place. I made a sharp left at about 20MPH and heard a “whomp” and saw the door appear in the passenger window. I slammed on the brakes and my friend was still sitting Indian crossed legged, sliding on his butt past the front of the VW. His eyes were open as wide as silver dollars. He slid to a stop, got up, put his hands on his butt and got back in. After we all stopped laughing (except for him), I double checked that the door handles were up and the door was locked.
Yeah, if I had to venture a guess, I’d say it’s riding on a ’69-’70 basic trim Galaxie chassis (maybe a wagon to match the Stude’s wheelbase) that had a 302 and C4, with the only thing not used from the donor car being a shifter out of a Mustang II or Pinto (and those lame-ass wheel covers). I wouldn’t be surprised if the whitewalls were originally on the Galaxie, as well. You’d have thought he’d at least had them reversed so the whitewalls were on the inside.
Still, I always like these rods where the builder tries to use everything they can from the donor car to keep the cost to a minimum. That’s really the true essence of hot rodding.
Sad the way Studebaker let the truck line run down.
When it came out, the R series had a larger share of the truck market than Studebaker had of the passenger car market.
Near death, only 16,000 build in 54, before they finally started putting the V8 in the trucks. They wanted to drop the old Commander 6, but supposedly some diehard customers loved it’s low end torque, so Studebaker kept offering it, along side the V8. After a brief spurt of interest thanks to the V8, sales continued to fall through the life of the E series to less than 7,000/yr.
Another bump in sales when they bodged the front half of a Lark body on the chassis. The first really new truck styling since the debut of the R series. Some also had boxes made with second hand Dodge tooling.
Then South Bend closed and they were done. When Nate Altman bought the tooling for the Avanti, he also bought the truck tooling with a thought of restoring production, but that never happened.
Nice original 55 E series that was offered for sale a few years ago.
They were also ahead of their time with their all steel bed.
But I have to admit I like steps sides with an actual step to get into the bed. At least the bed sides are angles to be easy on the elbows.
My friend has one of these with a Cadillac 500 in it and a jaguar front end. I understand the frame rails line right up.
I like the 1955 Studebaker E series trucks. I find the grille made it more attractive than earlier Studebaker trucks.