posted 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.
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Needless to say, by 1957, the trucks were looking woefully out of date, like the rest of the Studebaker family.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).
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.
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.
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 .
More: CC 1959 Studebaker 3/4 ton Pickup by Jason Shafer
I’d love to show up at the dump with that beauty.
I’d love to be there when you do.
(Speaking to the Denali/Platinum/Limited/King Ranch etc owners)
“That’s not a truck, Mate. This is a truck.”
What makes luxury trims “not a truck”? The vehicle is mechanically similar to this Transtar–BOF, big V8, can tow quite a bit and haul in the bed as well. A King Ranch/Denali/etc. might not look as nice all scuffed up, but it’s still a truck even with more creature comforts. If someone wants to buy one, I don’t see a reason to judge them.
Count me as a fan of that updated Transtar front end. It did a pretty good job of updating those trucks when they really needed it.
There is a part of me that wonders if Studebaker could have made money on trucks had they been able to invest in a new cab. But then the truck business had to be even tougher than the car business, because they had to contend with International as well as with GM, Ford and Chrysler.
Everything I have learned about these was that they were tough as nails. They also seem to have a pretty decent survival rate. Unlike old cars, many old trucks were used on farms and ranches and were just parked somewhere “out back” when they were no longer fit for duty, just waiting for someone to spend some time and money on them to get them going again.
Also, I imagine that the “250 cid V8” you referenced was a typo and that you meant the 259 V8 which was also found in Stude cars from 1955-64 on.
Yes; typo. Fixed.
I’ve previously written about riding in one of these for several summers at the Yoders, who had a rather tired Studebaker PU that had been a tow truck in its former life, which is a hrad one for a 1/2 ton pickup. The engine (six; I presume the bigger one, but it may well have been the little Champ engine) was clearly getting sickly. Mr. Yoder babied it along, as he was struggling financially at the time. One morning Mrs. Yoder wanted to take it to get something from relatives, and she started it up with a heavy foot, and the engine let loose. There was the most impressive white/gray cloud that totally obscured the big red barn it was sitting in front of. Mr. Y. was not amused…
The other nice things about the Stude trucks was that pretty much any engine from any postwar Studebaker would drop in with not much work. That was the advantage from the company that only offered three basic postwar engines (the Champion little six, the Commander big six and the V8 in multiple displacements).
And these engines were fairly adaptable, it seems.
There is a part of me that wonders if Studebaker could have made money on trucks had they been able to invest in a new cab.
The chassis doesn’t look that obsolete. I recall seeing big three trucks in the early 60s that still had a solid front axle.
I think the 56 sedans were rather handsome. Why not do with a 56 Champion body what they did with the Lark body to make the Champ years later?
Rather than selling the nearly new equipment for peanuts, bring the Packard V8 line down to South Bend, fix the engine’s oil feed problem and put those monsters in the trucks.
Ever notice how the sculpting around the front wheel arch of a 61 Ford pickup
…resembles the sculpting around the front wheel arch of a 56 Studebaker?
…you can thank my dad for the idea. As he muscled our 56 Commander, without power steering, into a parallel parking spot, he would comment “this car always handled like a truck”
A new truck styling series was in the works during the development of the all-new 1957 shared body program for Packard and Studebaker cars. The truck styling resembled the ’57 Ford and International trucks with more rectilinear lines, shear surfacing. It too was a casualty of the financial ‘Waterloo’ of 1956. By the late ’50’s, only truly loyal Studebaker truck owners were trading for new ones.
By the late ’50’s, only truly loyal Studebaker truck owners were trading for new ones.
Studebaker management was more than a bit bipolar, at times making bold moves, and other times being penny wise and pound foolish as they refused to update an aging product line.
Vance was a production guy, and Hoffman was a salesman, but the Board of Directors was dominated by money people, a factor in the company since Fred Fish married one of the Studebaker daughters and brought in people like Goldman and Lehman.
After WWII Vance begged the BoD to invest heavily in new facilities and equipment, but only received peanuts, yet the BoD went along with the radical styling in 47, and 50, and 53, where they even approved the extra cost of the unique low slung coupe and hardtop bodies, in addition to a full line of sedans.
The Board approved the OHV V8, ahead of all the other independents and some of the big three divisions, and invested in the Borg Warner Detroit Gear automatic trans, but let the truck line wither. By some accounts, when the 2R was new, Studebaker had a larger share of the truck market than they did of the car market.
Management made it difficult for people to keep buying their products as the competition made Studebaker’s narrow bodies, heavy steering and underpowered 6 cylinder engines uncompetitive.
*sigh*….I have box envy..(stop it!) A nine foot box…I won’t do without a eight footer, as its really not a truck without one, but they are getting rarer…but a NINE footer! I remember them occasionally on Chevs and Fords, but I’ll be dammed when I last saw one..
The fiberglass nose cap looks a lot better when it’s painted in a contrasting color like white, it actually seems less tacked on, the side view really lets it down in body color .
What a wonderful old pickup. I can almost see it bouncing down a gravel road, its owner taking it on a fishing trip in its semi-retirement.
Good thing there’s not a closeup of the For Sale sign… (c:
My father had a ’62 (I think) that had been set up as a tractor with a 4-53 Detroit. He yanked the 5th wheel off and put a 10′ flatbed on it. Straight five speed New Process transmission with a 2-speed rear axle. It had the fiberglass grill. Just a neat old truck.
My most vivid recollection of it is when, not long after he’d brought it home, he cleaned the air filters with diesel fuel (oil-bath-type, with that huge wad of steel-wool looking stuff on top) and on the next trip down the driveway it sucked in a bunch of that fuel and ran away. In the excitement, he yanked the emergency air shut off knob too hard which, of course, broke the cable and the whole thing came out in his hand. Fortunately, it had air brakes, which were much more powerful than that little Detroit engine, so he got it stopped without incident.
Pretty heady stuff for a 10 year old.
One ought to mention the Israel-only Mercedes-Benz diesel conversions of locally-assembled V8 Transtars. MB engines were not very successful and have been replaced by English Perkins later.
For completeness’ sake, Studebaker Benz (picture by Hanan Sade):
As with Packard, Studie trucks continued in the Soviet parallel universe. The GAZ 51 was made until 1975, and the North Korean version Sungri 58 was probably made until 1979, though it’s always hard to be sure with NK.
Big “Stud-Bucket” fan here, and this is just a beautiful example. I’ve ridden in several post-war Studebaker trucks, including a diesel-powered single-axle tractor on a couple of occasions. A neighbor, back in the 80s, had a barn full of Studebakers of different descriptions near Okeana OH, and kept doing really nice restorations on them…the trucks were all dark green with red wheels and brown vinyl interiors, as I recall. The Avanti was maroon and the Lark convertible was bright red. He had a stakebed body on a Studie truck, the bed and cab were freshly painted, very nicely done. The owner put a lawn tractor in the bed, and apparently didn’t tie it down properly…it rolled forward and crushed the back of the freshly painted cab. He was not amused. Great memories…
What a great find.
Beautiful truck! The two-tone suits it, even with the very utilitarian narrow bed. Looks like it could go through walls and come out unscathed.
So if Transtar was a Stude name, and presumably trademarked, how did International end up with it later? Even when the company was liquidated I presume all their trademarks didn’t suddently evaporate…
I know this is from over 5 yrs ago ….. does anyone know of this truck ever sold? The sellers contact info?
Best all around pickup box in the business, even in later years. Too bad they didn’t continue the Scotsman. Could have even used the Scotsman car as a cab, giving an alternate. Mine was a ’52 Champion 1/2 ton. One thing I didn’t like was that mice got into the dash panel that was uniquely open to the engine compartment and closed to the interior. All three Studebaker engine series were well suited for the gamut of truck use. Big mistake not to make a better effort to stay in business. Seems that Studebaker just didn’t know how to push sales.
I believe I located a for-sale ad for this truck ( http://findclassicars.com/studebaker/17889-1957-studebaker-transtar-1-ton-pickup-truck-with-hoist.html ).
It almost has to be the one, and IDs it as a 1957 with a 4 bbl 259 V8, and with an aftermarket dump mechanism added to the bed in 1958. You never know how old these ads are, but it appeared to have been a 2 owner truck at that time with the second owner doing a major freshening-up.
I’m not sure what was so old fashioned looking about these trucks. I’ve got to believe with a small budget, someone like Brooks Stevens could do a cheap restyle of the cab, retaining the hard points but fitting more crisply sculpted sheetmetal around them, thinning the frames around the door glass, etc. The front of the red diesel truck looks great (and quite modern) the way it is; or any number of new grilles could have been inserted to replace the existing designs. The mechanicals seemed adequately up to date.