Cohort Classic: 1957 or 1958 Studebaker Transtar 1 Ton 9′ Bed Pickup – Tough Right To The Bitter End

Studebaker Transtar PU sideposted at the Cohort by Matthew with 2 Ts

(first posted 6/14/2016)    You like serious, hard-core, high and rough-riding, hard-working, extra-long bed pickups but with just a wee bit of flamboyance, in the form of two tone paint? Here’s your truck: a 1957 or 1958 Studebaker Transtar 1 tonner, with a 9′ bed, a V8 under the hood, and a stance that might make you think it’s a jacked up 4×4, although it’s not. But it would probably take a a serious obstacle to stop this thing, with that grumbling Stude V8 working through that stump-puller first gear, turning those big wheels.

This truck is representative of the sad final years of Studebaker truck production. The company had once been a successful truck builder, but like its car business, it went into a rapid tailspin starting in the early fifties. And unlike the brief spurt of success that Sudebaker had with its 1959 Lark, there was no reprieve on the way down with its trucks. This truck may look unstoppable, but within a few years the Studebaker truck lines came to grinding halt.

Studebaker Transtar PU fq

The Studebaker 2R (E Series after 1955) trucks date back to 1949, when they were the most modern-looking pickup of them all (designed by Bob Bourke of Raymond Loewy Associates), with their low cabs, no running boards, and the sleekest beds in the business, which were double-sided too. Unfortunately, Studebaker withheld their new OHV V8 until 1955. They could have been the market leader with the only OHV V8 pickups in the market. Why?

After President Paul G. Hoffman left, Studebaker’s trucks and commercial vehicle lines were almost totally neglected, and received essentially no more development money; not even enough to install the V8. That quickly turned out to be a big mistake, as sales plummeted, by a whopping 66% from 1948 to 1953. Management got the message, and started doling out modest sums for some freshening. In 1954, a one-piece windshield was bestowedon them, and in 1955, a larger rear window.Not that it helped; sales plummeted further to a pathetic 10,817 trucks, a 1.1% share. That was down 81% in only three years.

Needless to say, by 1957, the trucks were looking woefully out of date, like the rest of the Studebaker family. So they got a rather garish fiberglass “grille”, in an attempt to look a bit more with it. The ultra-cheap Scotsman model had to do with the old steel front end.

The Transtar label was added in 1956, presumably in another vain attempt to add a bit of flair to these trucks. It went away again in 1959, and then reappeared on Studebakers large trucks for their last few years (1960-1964).

Studebaker big truck

Speaking of, that’s what some of those big Transtars looked like. They were available as semi-tractors, and they even came with diesels, a Detroit Diesel 4-53 four cylinder. These came out in May 1961, directly as a result of Sherwood Egbart’s trying desperately to inject some live into all of the moribund divisions of Studebaker. The big Diesel (that was its name, not Transtar, which was used on the gas trucks) is the counterpart to the Avanti, and was about equally successful. Studebaker lost money on every one of these big trucks during their run.

Studebaker 1963 diesel 1.5 ton truck

Egbert was just ahead of his time; not only was he sure that there was a market for medium-big diesels, he even was convinced of smaller diesels, and had Studebaker build 1 and 1.5 ton trucks (this stake bed being a rare survivor) with the 97 hp three-cylinder DD 3-53 engine. Yes, about thirty years ahead of its time. Imagine the featured pickup with a DD 3-53 under the hood.

The only reason Studebaker could justify to keep building its money-losing trucks for so long was because the division had a number of fairly lucrative military contracts that kept the lines going and the lights on. The last commercial truck rolled off the lines on December 27, 1963, a Mobile Home Transporter that had a sliding, adjustable frame to keep overall length within limits when towing a mobile home. US Post Office Zip Vans were kept going on the lines until that contract ran out in early 1964.

Studebaker Transtar PU rq

This fine big pickup, with its “V” emblem on the side of the hood, came with the 170 hp 259 CID “Power Star” V8, although it’s possible that it has the 289 CID “Torque Star” V8, as Studebaker was quite willing to accommodate requests like that. The 289 was listed for the larger trucks.

Needless to say, this is a also rare survivor, which has been treated to at least a paint job, and most likely more. It was found and .


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